Mission Peak

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Mission Peak
Mission Peak Fremont CA.jpg
Highest point
Elevation2,520 ft (768 m) NAVD 88[1]
Coordinates37°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]
Native nameRiisima  (Northern Ohlone)
LocationAlameda County, California, U.S.
Parent rangeDiablo Range
Topo mapUSGS Niles
Easiest routePeak Trail or Hidden Valley Trail

Mission Peak Regional Preserve is a public park east of Fremont, California, operated by the East Bay Regional Park District. It is the northern summit 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 up to two 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 a popular trail 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 common. 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 Hidden Valley Trail which draws the lion's share of visitors and the Peak Meadow Trail both ascend the western face from Stanford Avenue. They have an elevation change of 2,100 ft (640 m), with panoramic views of the Bay Area but are sun exposed with little shade. The Stanford Avenue entrance has water and restrooms.[4] No food, water bottles or supplies are sold at the park.[5] The Park District is directing visitors to the Mission Peak Trail which starts at Ohlone College. This has an elevation change of 2,100 ft (640 m), and is 10% longer than the Hidden Valley Trail. The Peak Trail (Ohlone College) entrance has restrooms and a water fountain.

Paid 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. The Warm Springs BART station (part of the Silicon Valley BART extension), and AC Transit buses offer service to Ohlone College and the intersection of Mission Blvd.[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 is about 170 ft (52 m) higher than Mission Peak, but 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, Fremont, and Newark. On very clear days, the Sierra Nevada range are visible 100 miles (160 km) to the east.

Mission Peak (L), Mount Allison (C) and Monument Peak (R) after an unusual 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. The Eagle Spring Backpack campsite is just east of the summit.

Iconic "Mission Peeker" summit pole[edit]

Sculptor and park ranger Leonard Page along with a crew of six erected the iconic "Mission Peeker" on December 27, 1990.[6] The pole is over six feet (1.8 m) in height, and the foundation is two feet (0.6 m) deep with 120 pounds (54 kg) of concrete.

The sculptor's purpose was to promote environmental awareness. The sticks on the pole represent each pillar of environmental recycling. Sealed inside the steel tube are a crystal with traditional cultural uses, an Ohlone charmstone replica, a bottle of 1990 zinfandel wine whose yeast overshoot represents world population trends, and five time capsules with articles and photographs. The time capsules were intended to be opened in a century or more, after 2090, and focus on rainforest preservation, AIDS, and homelessness. They offer images from popular culture of Bart Simpson, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Gary Larson's Far Side cartoons.[6][7]

The cultural meaning of monuments often change, and the use of this artifact has evolved over a quarter century. Though designed in 1988 as an "interpretive post", with sight tubes pointing to other Bay Area landmarks and cities, the "peeker" function has since been rendered archaic and its environmental message is not widely known.

The marker now functions as a standalone cultural monument, and draws thousands of weekly sightseers and tourists that make it the most photographed artifact in southern Alameda County and the top tourist attraction in Fremont.[3] Snapchat has a geofilter image of the pole representing Fremont.

The pole has become a contested cultural symbol.[3] In 2014, iconoclastic local residents, the Recreation Department of the City of Fremont and the Stewardship Division of EBRPD discussed razing the landmark to dissuade sightseers.[8]

Park access controversy[edit]

Controversy surrounds access to Mission Peak. Parking is congested near the free 40-space Stanford Avenue lot. Most visitors enter there, and the congestion spills over to nearby public streets on weekends. The East Bay Regional Park District cut park service hours (formerly 5 am to 10 pm) by 30% in late 2014, in part to divert visitors away from the Stanford Avenue entrance. The Stanford opening 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.

In 2015 they discussed further restrictions including a per person daily use (entry) fee, parking permits to restrict public street parking while favoring local residents,[9] parking fees to reduce parking congestion, a dog fee to reduce visits by dog owners and demolition of the iconic summit pole.[10][11] EBRPD proposed a larger parking lot at the Stanford entrance in 2012; and, as of 2015, completion was expected in 2018.[3][12]

The city temporarily restricted visitor parking on streets near the Stanford Avenue trail-head in late 2016. Residential permits are required on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays in front of houses, near open fields, and near empty lots.[13] One hundred spaces on Weibel Dr are restricted, not fronting houses. The restrictions are temporary, slated to expire on July 7, 2020.[14][13]

The temporary restriction of park operating hours and street parking, and the parking expansion have generated controversy. The number of visitors dropped significantly prior to 2017, and park activists linked the drop to the parking restrictions and to the cutback of park hours.[15] Standard operating hours were 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and the temporary operating hours are slated to expire in July 2020. More than 1,500 parking tickets were issued in the first year, and the city collected over $100,000 in fines.[15]

In 2016, the park district approved plans to construct 300 new parking spaces near the main entrance.[16] However, residents filed suit against the parking expansion on environmental grounds, after petitioning to restrict parking on public streets. The same law firm filed the 2016 action which closed the Regional Park at Vargas Plateau for nearly a year.[17] The lawsuit, principally aimed at keeping park visitors out of the local residential neighborhood, was settled in late 2018. The settlement removed legal obstacles that had stood in the way of the expansion, which was originally estimated to cost $6.5 million in 2016. The park district had raised about $1.5 million for the parking lot as of 2018.[18]

Hang gliding and paragliding[edit]

Paraglider from Mission Peak, CA.
A paraglider viewed from a Mission Peak Vista, late winter 2017.

Mission Peak Regional Preserve is a popular location for hang gliding and paragliding.

The Wings of Rogallo Northern California Hang Gliding Association Inc. has been licensed by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to administer hang gliding and paragliding at Mission Peak since 1983.[19]

Hikers can observe takeoffs from the launch point 1,950 ft (590 m) above sea level, marked by a large wind sock. Landings occur adjacent to the main hiking trail about one quarter mile (400 m) from the Stanford Avenue entrance, near the proposed site of a parking lot expected in late 2018.[12]

On September 6, 1971, Dave Kilbourne, one of the founders of the Wings of Rogallo, hiked atop Mission Ridge and launched a flex wing hang glider unaided. The flight lasted more than an hour, and he became the first person in the world to do so.


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 contains coast live oak, California bay, California buckeye, blue oak, and western sycamores. Black oak is rare, because most stands have been logged. Bigleaf maples and gray pines are less common, though the old-growth oak forest in the Hidden Valley (see Hiking) known as A.A. Moore Memorial Grove contains all the tree species. Many oaks are 100 to 600 years old, with few younger than 50. Oak saplings have been eaten by cattle and choked by invasives for centuries. The steepest slopes are home to hard, evergreen chaparral, primarily California sagebrush, chamise, and scrub oak.

The grasslands have native and nonnative plants brought by cows, though native wildflowers grow in the spring. The cattle have a feisty reputation.[20] Black-tailed deer are abundant. Pronghorn and tule elk were extirpated in the late 19th century. Tule elk were reintroduced to Alameda County, and now visit occasionally. 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.[21]

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.[22]


Landslide on the side of Mission Peak

Mission Peak has a large (300 m wide by 1200 m long) landslide that started in 1998 due to the El Niño rains. Landslides had recurred here in the geological past.[23] The landslide threatened new housing, and local development regulations were changed to address the geotechnical hazards.[24]

Some sources have incorrectly labeled Mission Peak as an extinct volcano, because of the sharp point of the peak. However, the mountain is a product of natural uplift and erosion, not of volcanic origin. This range is being compressed and uplifted due to the proximity of the Hayward Fault to the west and the Calaveras Fault to the east.[23]


  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 d e Pogash, Carol. "Challenge at Mission Peak: Finding a Place to Park". The New York Times. 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. ^ a b Bowman, Rex (1990-12-28). "'Mission Peeker' looks forward, back". Argus. Fremont, California. p. B-1.
  7. ^ Cutler, Jaqueline (1990-12-28). "Nature's lookout post, Park ranger contributes sculpture". The Tribune. Oakland, California. p. B-1.
  8. ^ "East Bay Regional Park District - City of Fremont Liaison Committee". Retrieved 2015-07-17. item 4: Verbal comments on Hiker Fees and removal of The Mission Peeker
  9. ^ Julian J. Ramos (2015-10-08). "East Bay Regional Park District, Fremont mull parking permit program in Mission Peak area". San Jose Mercury News.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ a b "Planning, Trails, Development & Stewardship Workshop" (PDF). EBRPD. p. 62. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  13. ^ a b "Mission Peak parking permit program stirs mixed feelings". Mercury News. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  14. ^ "Mission Peak Temporary Parking Permit Program". Fremont Police Department. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  15. ^ a b "Fewer people flocking to Mission Peak, park district says". Mercury News. June 29, 2017. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  16. ^ "Stanford Avenue Staging Area Expansion Project". EBRPD. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  17. ^ "Suit filed to stop new parking lot near Mission Peak trailhead". Mercury News. November 24, 2016. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  18. ^ "Park district settles lawsuit over parking lot with neighbors". Mercury News. November 24, 2016. Retrieved July 10, 2018. A settlement that allows the East Bay Regional Park District to continue planning and designing a 300-space parking lot near a popular entrance to Mission Peak Regional Preserve has been reached with park residents who have fought the lot out of fear it’ll draw hordes of visitors to their neighborhood.
  19. ^ "The Wings of Rogallo". Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  20. ^ Morris, Joan (2015-05-22). "How to hike safely among cows in Bay Area open spaces". San Jose Mercury News.
  21. ^ "Avian Mortality". Golden Gate Audubon Society. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  22. ^ "Weather advisory after snow falls throughout Bay Area". San Francisco Chronicle. 7 December 2009.
  23. ^ 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: 15. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
  24. ^ "Mission Peak Landslide". City of Fremont. Retrieved 2009-01-04.

External links[edit]