Mission Peak is a dominating landmark in San Fransisco, especially when you get over to the East Bay side. Of course, any dominating feature on the landscape must be dominated by the local inhabitants and thus, Mission Peak became the popular hiking grounds that it is today. If you decide to head out and do a little conquering yourself, you might wonder how long does it take to hike Mission Peak?
Hiking to Mission Peak’s northern summit, which includes Monument Peak and Mount Allison, takes anywhere between 2 and 5 hours, depending on your level of physical fitness and the conditions of the day you decide to attempt it.
If you decide to run it, which you can certainly do so if you wish, it will take more along the lines of 1.5 hours, maybe an hour if you’re particularly fit and fast. No matter how you decide to tackle Mission Peak, it’s an incredibly popular spot for tourists, the locals as a day out, and as a hiking spot.
How tough is the Mission Peak hike?
Well, that largely depends on you. If you are new to hiking, getting out to exercise for the first time, or choosing it as your go-to exercise regimen for weight loss, then it’s not going to be an easy feat.
The regular trail is a 6-mile hike to reach 2,100 feet in elevation. The most common injuries on the hike are due to dehydration, as your level of exposure to the sun is frequent along the path. This also means that heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps, with heat cramps being the least severe of the three, are also common factors to be aware of.
If you’re starting off from Stanford, you will add a mile to your overland journey but the first 2 and a half miles are relatively easy, as it’s mostly comprised of flat fields with slight elevation. Once you get to Fire Road, however, things begin to pick up a bit, with a more severe level of elevation.
In fact, the Fire road incline is 1,800’, so it will take up the vast majority of your hike up to the peak. The track gets far more narrow and not as well maintained on the final quarter of the journey upwards. Once you reach the top of Mission Peak, you’ll have an outstanding view of the surrounding countryside which most hikers proclaim to be more than a sufficient reward for the journey.
There are also two alternate routes that may be worth considering. They are both lesser-known routes and out of the way of the majority of the foot traffic coming and going through the area.
The first trail starts at the Sunol Regional Wilderness area and is a five-mile hike with a steady climb all the way up to 2,200 feet. The second starting point is more difficult to navigate and begins at Ed R. Levine Country Park. The second route is a steeper climb by virtue of being a shorter route, with only three miles in length to traverse.
If you choose to go the alternate routes, you’ll have a little less exposure to the sun but the climb is more arduous, so be sure to pick your hiking gear accordingly.
Can beginners hike Mission Peak?
Beginners are more than welcome to hike Mission Peak, as it’s nowhere near the expert levels of other peaks, especially within the same state. While Mission Peak is by no means an easy “walk in the park,” it’s not beyond the capabilities of someone that’s new to the hiking experience.
Beginners will find the hike to be a tough one, but so long as you are in decent shape, it should be more than manageable. The greatest concern for beginners is choosing their pack and gear.
The right gear is essential for any beginner, especially someone who hasn’t spent a whole lot of time outdoors. The essentials for Mission Peak, and any beginner’s hiking trip for that matter, should not be overlooked.
- At least two liters of water, 3 in the middle of summer
- A small, ultra-lightweight pack or even a fanny pack is sufficient, especially in cooler weather
- Sun protection, with the addition of a hat (advisable), and cool, loose-fitting clothes
- Smartphone solar charger
- The right shoes for a moderately difficult hike
While you will get warm on the climb, it’s known to get cool at times, especially when the fog moves in, so you should always pack a light sweater, especially for when you are reaching the top, where the wind gusts are more frequent and intense. The summertime is an obvious exception where you should be far more concerned about protecting yourself from potential heat injuries.
Can you hike Mission Peak at night?
You can hike Mission Peak at night and the best way to do it is to be inside the park when it closes. There’s no rule against hiking Mission Peak at night time. The problem is, the gates close at 10 pm and no one is getting in after that.
However, if you are already in the adjacent campground or choose not to go out before the gates close, the place is yours and you’re welcome to hike until your heart is content.
If you’re really feeling up to it, you should pack a small telescope in a pack that’s large enough to hold one or strap it down well. A full-fledged ALICE pack is a nice choice and one of the real ones, not one of those knock-offs that are all over the place on Amazon.
The Celestron 70mm Travel Telescope is an excellent choice as it’s not overly large and you can put it in an ALICE pack, or easily strap it down with the addition of its tripod. Just be careful to seal the opening of the telescope, so that nothing falls down into the large tube, landing on the mirror.
One of the best features of Mission Peak is the exhilarating view from the top and it’s the perfect place to be if you enjoy stargazing. It’s well above the ambient lights of the surrounding areas, giving you a pretty fair look at the sky above.
You should also purchase an astronomy calendar for reference, or look one up online. When you’re at an elevation of 2,200 feet and largely away from artificial light sources, the things that you can see, even with a minimal telescope, are phenomenal and well worth all of the packing.
Can you bike up Mission Peak?
There’s no rule against it and, in fact, mountain bikes are more than welcome for the trip up to Mission Peak. For the trip up the trail on the most commonly used side, a decently experienced person on a solid mountain bike can make the trip in an hour.
The only thing that you need to be concerned about when biking up the trail is running into people. Mission Peak is a popular destination both for locals and tourists. Oftentimes, the site will be full of people moving up and down the trails.
You’re also allowed to have dogs along the trail (so long as they are leashed) and running over Mrs. Gertrude’s Toy Poodle or screeching Pomeranian will get you eaten alive. Not by the dogs, but by Mrs. Gertrude. You will probably run to the dogs for help.
So you will have to exercise some additional precautions when biking Mission Peak, keeping a steady eye out for kids, parents, dogs, and most especially, Toy Poodles.
What else can you do at Mission Peak?
Mission Peak has a lot going on any given day of the week and there are a number of activities you can enjoy, outside of the hiking experience, or even as a complete package while you’re there.
- Paragliding and Hang Gliding
- Backpack Camping (Primitive)
- Flying your drones
- Several trail options
- Interpretive Hiking
It’s a good opportunity to practice several of your favorite hobbies and you can roll it all up into a single weekend. Hit the hiking trail to Mission Peak in the morning on Saturday, enjoy the primitive camping and facilities throughout the evening, and hit up the drone areas, or hang glide before heading home to round out the weekend.
Mission Peak also has “Interpretive Hiking,” which are guided hikes where a story is told, and you get to learn about the area’s history as you hit several points on the trail. Sure, it sounds like something that only tourists would enjoy, however, you would be surprised at what you can get out of it.
For more information on all that the area has to offer, check out their website to help your prepare for the trip.
All things considered
Hiking Mission Peak isn’t going to take you all day and five hours is really the most you can expect out of the journey, however, that leaves plenty of room for you to take advantage of the other trails in the area, along with all of the activities on offer at Mission Peak.