A few weeks ago we discovered the East Bay Regional Parks District. We had heard about Castle Rock and on our way to hike there saw road signs (like Sunol Wilderness and Mission Peak) along highway 680 that sounded like they would be good hiking areas. We found the EBParks website and even joined their 2011 Trails Challenge, even though we won't be able to complete it by December 1 (next year we'll join earlier). So we hiked the Sunol Wilderness 2 weeks ago and this weekend we tried Mission Peak Summit. The description on the EBParks website sounded cool, and the slideshow of people posing with the strange-looking summit post also looked intriguing.
We searched on EveryTrail and found tommangan's Guide and Trip, and decided that is the route we would take. I downloaded tommangan's gpx file to keep us on track. Then the night before our hike I did some more searching and found the bay area hiker's review of this hike. It was not flattering at all. It sounds like she had a miserable experience (but it makes for a good read). I started looking for alternative hikes, but we decided we would just try it anyway. On the morning before we left, we called to check trail conditions (510-544-3246) so we'd be sure it wasn't too muddy. We also called to be sure dogs were allowed before bringing one of our dogs with us. Trail conditions were good, so we left on our way.
2 hours later we were at the trail head parking lot. A lot of other trails that we've hiked had descriptions that said “get there early to get a parking space”, but we always seemed to get a spot. Not so this time. The parking lot was full and all the street parking leading down the hill from the lot was full. We turned right on a side street (Vineyard Ave) and it was also pretty full on both sides of the street, but we eventually found a spot.
This was one of the most crowded hikes we've done yet. There was a line at the single bathroom, so I didn't go before or after the hike. There was a stream of people heading up the Hidden Valley Trail. Luckily tommangan's route took us to the right instead to Horse Heaven Trail. This was much less traveled and I started to feel less stressed out. We were greeted almost immediately by a flock of turkeys, which was cool. The rest of the hike to the summit was pretty much uphill all the way. Tough, but a great workout and a great feeling of accomplishment afterwards. You'll also be rewarded with awesome 360 views from the summit.
Even though we originally decided to follow tommangan's route, and we usually prefer loops instead of taking the same trail back, we changed our mind on this one and headed back the way we came. It was just much less crowded, which was better if you're bringing a dog too.
Overall a great workout and a great hike, but I prefer more solitude when we hike.
GET THERE EARLY to park AND use the restroom. Probably not the best hike if you prefer solitude.
Mission Peak, Horse Heaven Trail