Mission Peak

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Mission Peak
Mission Peak Fremont CA.jpg
Elevation 2,520 ft (770 m) NAVD 88[1]
Location Alameda County, California, U.S.
Range California Coast Range
Coordinates 37°30′45″N 121°52′50″W / 37.5124365°N 121.8805126°W / 37.5124365; -121.8805126Coordinates: 37°30′45″N 121°52′50″W / 37.5124365°N 121.8805126°W / 37.5124365; -121.8805126[2]
Topo map USGS Niles
Easiest route Peak Trail or Hidden Valley Trail

Mission Peak is a public park east of Fremont, California. The East Bay Regional Park District operates the Mission Peak Regional Preserve, located on a ridge that includes Mount Allison and Monument Peak. Mission Peak has symbolic importance, and is depicted on the logo of the City of Fremont.

Hiking and bicycling[edit]

The summit of Mission Peak with the San Francisco Peninsula in the background, the Sutro Tower directly above the iconic summit marker nicknamed "Mission Peeker" and Mount Tamalpais at the upper right
A lunar eclipse (shown in time lapse composite) rises over Mission Peak in Feb. 2008

This park borders and overlooks Silicon Valley, and is popular with local hikers, bicyclists, sightseers from the Bay Area, and tourists from beyond for its vista and strenuous climb. The "Mission Peeker" marker pole at the summit is the most famous and geo-tagged landmark in the City of Fremont: a stream of sightseers takes photographs alongside the landmark. The Stanford Avenue entrance receives several thousand visitors per day on weekends. Visitor numbers surged after 2010, and it is the most popular attraction in Fremont.[3]

A full six-mile (10 km) round-trip ascent on one of the popular trails takes two to five hours for walkers, one to one-and-a-half hours for bicyclists and runners. Difficulty with the midday sun, such as dehydration, is not uncommon. Guidelines recommend carrying two liters of water per person, extra water for dogs, and sun protection. Signs prohibit off-trail shortcuts which can cause erosion, and some shortcuts have barbed wire fencing to reduce trespassing.

Three trails climb the mountain's northern and western faces. The Park District is directing visitors to the Peak Trail which starts at Ohlone College. The Peak Trail has an elevation change of 2,100 ft (640 m), and is 10% longer than the Hidden Valley Trail. The Peak Trail (Ohlone) entrance has restrooms but no water.

Both the Hidden Valley Trail which has an elevation change of 2,100 ft (640 m) and draws the lion's share of visitors, and the Peak Meadow Trail ascend the western face from Stanford Avenue. They have panoramic views of the Bay Area, but are exposed to the midday sun with little shade. The Stanford Avenue entrance has water and restrooms.[4] No food, water bottles or supplies are sold at the park.[5]

Paid (though free on Sunday) parking at Ohlone College is not congested, nor are the miles-long pedestrian trails inside the park proper. Most access the park from one of two nearby freeways, 680 and 880. A BART station was under construction as of 2015 nearby at Warm Springs as part of the Silicon Valley BART extension, and AC Transit buses offer service to Ohlone College and the intersection of Mission Blvd. and Stanford Avenue from Fremont BART.[3]

The two least popular approaches originate from Sunol Regional Wilderness and Ed R. Levin County Park in Milpitas. The Sunol route climbs 2,200 ft (670 m) over five miles (8 km), a gentler grade than Hidden Valley Trail which climbs 2,100 ft (640 m) over three miles (5 km). The Levin County Park route first climbs 2,200 ft (670 m) from the Park HQ to Monument Peak over three miles (5 km), and from there Mission Peak is another three miles (5 km) to the north along a mostly flat trail. This route passes beside Mount Allison, the tallest of the three peaks. Mount Allison, which is about 170 ft (52 m) higher than Mission Peak, is not open to the public. Monument Peak is 2,594 ft (791 m).

Depending on weather conditions, Bay Area peaks including Mount Diablo, Mount Hamilton, and Mount Tamalpais can be seen. Furthermore, the peak provides good views of Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, and Fremont. Under the right conditions, usually a crisp and clear winter day, even the Sierra Nevada range can be seen approximately 100 miles (160 km) to the east. Some of the East Bay Walls are also visible from Mission Peak.[6]

Mission Peak (L), Mount Allison (C) and Monument Peak (R) after a deep snowfall in March 2006.

Mission Peak connects to a network of regional trails and contains part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which is under construction and has gaps to the north of Mission Peak. This trail leads southward and upward along the ridge to Monument Peak and the Ed R. Levin County Park in the hills above Milpitas. Hikers can also access the Ohlone Wilderness trail that descends eastward from near the peak towards Sunol Regional Wilderness. The trail ends at Lake Del Valle south of Livermore, however this trek usually takes two nights of camping as well as permits (available at Sunol Regional Park). It accesses more remote areas of the coastal range. The Eagle Spring Backpack campsite just east of the summit opened in 2014.

Park access controversy[edit]

Controversy surrounds access to Mission Peak. Parking is congested near the free 40-space Stanford Avenue lot. Over 80% of visitors enter there, and the congestion spills over to nearby public streets on weekends. The East Bay Regional Park District cut park service hours by 30% in late 2014, in part to divert visitors away from the Stanford Avenue entrance. The opening time there was delayed to 6:30 am instead of the former 5:00 am, generating a crowd of sunrise viewers who assemble at the gate before it opens on weekends. To further reduce public access to the park, the City of Fremont proposed unspecified hiker fees in 2014, but these have not been adopted by EBRPD. In the spring of 2015 they discussed alternative restrictions including a per person daily use (entry) fee, parking fees to reduce parking congestion, a dog fee to reduce visits by dog owners and demolition of the iconic summit pole to dissuade sightseers.[7] EBRPD proposed a larger parking lot at the Stanford entrance in 2012; and, as of 2015, completion was expected in 2018.[3][8]

Hang gliding and paragliding[edit]

Mission Peak Regional Preserve is a popular location for Hang Gliding and Paragliding.

The Wings of Rogallo Northern California Hang Gliding Association Inc. is licensed by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to administer Hang Gliding and Paragliding activities within the Mission Peak Regional Preserve since 1983.[9]

Hikers can observe take offs from the launch point at about 1,950 ft (590 m) above sea level. The launch point is marked by a large wind sock. Landings occur adjacent to the main hiking trail about one quarter mile (400 m) from the front entrance on Stanford Ave.

On September 6, 1971, Dave Kilbourne, a founding member of the Wings of Rogallo, hiked his wing to the top of Mission Ridge and flew off. He became the first person in the world to launch a flex wing hang glider without assistance and soar for over one hour.


Vegetation at the foothills of Mission Peak

Mission Peak is home to California oak woodland and chaparral. Typical of the interior Coast Ranges, the woodland is mixed, made of coast live oak, California bay, California buckeye, blue oak, and western sycamores. Black oak is rare and scattered around the peak. Most stands have been logged. There are also some bigleaf maples. Gray pines exist in mixed stands of oaks and isolated lone stands on the high slopes. The best example is the old-growth oak forest in the Hidden Valley (see Hiking) known as A.A. Moore Memorial Grove, which contains all the tree species. Many of the oaks are one hundred to six hundred years old, while almost none are younger than fifty. The saplings have been eaten by cattle and choked by invasives since 1797. The steepest slopes are home to hard, evergreen chaparral, primarily California sagebrush, chamise, and scrub oak among many others. Blue oak often grows in the chaparral.

The grasslands are a mix of native and nonnative grasses brought by cows, though native wildflowers grow in the spring. Mission Peak's cattle have a feisty reputation. Black-tailed deer are abundant. Pronghorn were extirpated in the late 19th century and so were tule elk. Tule elk were reintroduced to Alameda County and are occasional visitors. Predators include bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, and very rarely seen mountain lions. Small mammals include the black-tailed jackrabbit, the western gray squirrel, and California ground squirrels.

Visitors should beware that northern Pacific rattlesnakes are very common.

Southern Alameda County has a high density of nesting golden eagles, seen often, along with turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, prairie falcons, and sharp-shinned hawks. They nest in on the slopes of steep valleys, where no trails enter.[10] There is a herd of feral goats on the peak.[11][12]

Light snow falls most winters, and melts quickly. Heavy snow falls once or twice a decade, such as in March 2006 (see picture in the Hiking and bicycling section). On December 7, 2009, the snow level dropped to 1,000 ft (300 m) and snow remained for three days.[13]


Landslide on the side of Mission Peak

Mission Peak has a large (300 m wide by 1200 m long) landslide that started in March, 1998 due to the El Niño rains. Landslides had recurred here in the geological past.[14] The landslide threatened new housing, and local development regulations were changed to address the geotechnical hazards.[15]

Some sources have labeled Mission Peak as an extinct volcano due to its shape and the sharp point of the peak. This, however, is simply the result of natural uplift and erosion; the peak is not volcanic in origin. This range of the hills is being compressed due to the proximity of the Hayward Fault to the west and the Calaveras Fault to the east, which has led to a number of smaller faults and uplift.[14]


  1. ^ "Mission Peak, California". Peakbagger.com. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  2. ^ "Mission Peak". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  3. ^ a b c Pogash, Carol. "Challenge at Mission Peak: Finding a Place to Park". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Ramos, Julian. "Portable toilets installed for hikers at Stanford Avenue staging area in Fremont". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "East Bay Parks map of hiking trails" (PDF). East bay Regional Park District. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  6. ^ "East Bay Walls of CA". 2010-10-04. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Planning, Trails, Development & Stewardship Workshop" (PDF). EBRPD. p. 62. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  9. ^ http://wingsofrogallo.org/index.html
  10. ^ "Avian Mortality". Golden Gate Audubon Society. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  11. ^ "Mission Peak Regional Preserve". East bay Regional Park District. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  12. ^ "Peak Meadow Ranch History". Omega Foundation. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  13. ^ "Weather advisory after snow falls throughout Bay Area". San Francisco Chronicle. 7 December 2009. 
  14. ^ a b Rogers, J. D.; Drumm, P. L. (8 May 1999). "Overview of the 1998 Mission Peak Landslide, Fremont, California". Northern California Geological Society Field Trip Guide (Missouri University of Science and Technology): p. 15. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  15. ^ "Mission Peak Landslide". City of Fremont. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 

External links[edit]