The mission peak trail is by no means located in mountain area, or is having any feel close to natural places. It is a small hill, but the hike is steep and takes you to a height of more than 2000 ft, in 3 miles of ascent. You will be able to guess that it is a steep climb and most of it is a continuous uphill path. This is the reason it is more popular workout for fitness freaks and remains crowded throughout the year. The trail has a lot of markers, so chances of getting lost are very slim.
I parked at the Stanford Avenue lot, which is pretty small, considering the number of visitors that it can get on a weekend. I had driven from Folsom, which is approximately 140 miles and it take a little over 2 hrs. When I reached at 3pm, the place was already over-crowded and there was no more space in the parking lots. Anyhow, following other people, I parked alongside a curb, did some stretching, and started towards the trailhead. I had brought 1 bottle of Gatorade, and reluctantly took 500ml of water, as I saw a warning sign board at the entrance, asking hikers to take twice as much water, since it is not available during the entire hike. Also had a few protein bars and an apple with me, because the total hike duration was supposed to be at least 4hrs. Another tough aspect of the hike, is that there is only 1 toilet, apart from the starting point, which is approximately 0.5 miles away from the top.
It was cloudy to start with and after I had put on my jacket, it was comfortable and pleasant. I started the hike and it appeared to be a beautiful valley with lush green fields on both sides of the trail.
It did not look steep, so I continued walking at a steady pace, but soon after it started getting more and more uphill. Along the course it started gaining height, my pace decreased and I could see the city outlines and wider valleys.
The sun still was inside the clouds, and the chilly wind forced me to keep my jacket on, even though I was beginning to sweat. Short breaks had to be frequent now, more to catch up with my breath while I had utilized that time to take a few snaps. The trail was more on the dusty side, I did not have much trouble to climb up, but had a gut feeling, walking downhill is going to be a challenge, as my feet was in my usual sneakers. The sun was beginning to peak in between the clouds and it began to warm up. It also contributed to drown the gloomy weather, in its brightness, while making the lush green fields shine, in front of the blue sky. I had to take off my jackets to make myself a little comfortable in the increasing warmth. On the other hand, it added a weight to my bag, which I was carrying along in the hike.
The place was way too much crowded for my liking. Mostly people came for fitness purpose and some of them were walking effortlessly, which seemed like more of a routine training session for them. Neither they taking a moment to appreciate the valleys or the views of the Fremont city, which were becoming more prominent with height. I kept myself distracted from these people, so as not to get discouraged by my lack of fitness as well as my appreciation of nature.
For instance, I saw two fellows jogging up the path in a slow pace. No need to mention that they had great fitness levels, which was evident from their body structure. Some of the other people were in awe after seeing their stamina. A few people tried to maintain similar pace with them, and were successful only for a few yards. But the most irritating people were those, who brought portable stereos with them and were continuously playing loud funky music, without even caring for other people’s irritation. Well, there is a thing called headphones, isn’t it?
There were some animals in the valleys, mostly cows, grazing peacefully. Rarely a few of them came near the trail, but did not hurt or were aggressive towards people. They might have been used to people for a long time now, and, apart from a few pranksters, were pretty certain that others would not cause any harm to them. Continuing my walk, I was getting closer to the top.
Finally I had reached the summit of Mission Peak, after 1hrs 45 mins of walking. It was a kind of small achievement and felt good to have made this hike in average time. As I had not done much hiking in the recent past, it made me question, on a few moments while going uphill, my choice to resume hiking activities, with this particular trail. Final part of the trail was narrow, in some parts, there were not even enough room for two people, to walk side by side. The people who had made it to the top, were too busy to find a resting spot for themselves, and it took a while for them to notice the entire Fremont city, mixed with San Francisco bay in a somewhat hazy background.
180 degrees to the city of Fremont, were more valleys and greenery, creating a contrast between the man made artificial buildings, and the remains of natural landscapes.
I had the snacks I took with me, sat in the sun enjoying the view on both sides of the peak. There were birds, flying around, in hope of gathering bits and pieces of food. It was cold and within a few minutes of sitting there and my hands started to feel numb. Had to take out the jacket to save me from what I should say close to being frozen. And I should tell you friends, it’s not an exaggeration!!
To be honest, I didn’t feel the views were that spectacular, especially accounting for the effort to reach the summit. They weren’t bad either, a nice little relaxing spot, providing an illustrious outlook on the different landscapes. I felt that the views would become better as the sun settles in the horrizon. I had to drive back 2 hours, and probably, because of that reason, gave up the idea of staying till sunset. It was just 4.30 pm and sunset would have not been earlier than 7pm.
Deciding that, I started walking back. There was another trail which had a different direction, and less crowded (according to some websites). Saw three men going down that route. I did not have any proper maps with me, and believed I would be better off in taking the same route back to the starting point.
The walk downhill was even more challenging than I had anticipated. Loose gravel, steady gradient and of hiking shoes made life difficult for me, primarily on the narrow stretch. I had to concentrate a lot, while landing on one step and maintaining my balance on the other. Slipped at the very beginning, but luckily a quick reaction saved me from falling. Gradually, I began to have a feel of the downhill track. A person, who seemed to be in a better fitness state, lost his footing and fell down. Although he did not get hurt, I had to be extra careful in that spot.
Later on, even though the trail eased out, a little less concentration would make me skid. I found this common amongst most of the people, who had underestimated the steepness or took this too casually.
You can assume that it is not that difficult as it sounds. It will depend on how much trekking experience you have and how well you can maintain your balance during walking downhill.
I continued my journey with just a few breaks, as I did not have any shortage of breath while coming down. In the middle of this I was able to observe a few people, who were in midway of their ascent, with tired faces and empty lungs, wanting the hike to end at that moment itself. I too felt like that while going up, and was sure, once they finish their upward journey, they will say with an element of surprise.
‘That was not too hard!!’
The valleys looked even more beautiful now, with the sun getting lower on the horizon. There was a turkey, which came out to the trail, from a group a three, and looked like almost posing for a photograph.
Another thing which was quite amazing for me, was a paraglider. I did not see a paraglider from such a close range earlier. There is a Paragliding station nearby, and this person landed near the trail, after he had finished with his flying activities. More than me, a bunch of children were particularly interested for a closer observations of the glider itself. Their enthusiasm to pose with the glider, and happiness while their parents took their pictures, spontaneously brought a smile to my tired face. I was even tempted to take a photograph myself, but was keen on retuning to my car.
The downhill hike was close to 2 hrs. I did not use up all my Gatorade and water, and overall was pleased with myself being able to complete the full hike within an average duration.
Please do further research, if you plan to go on this hike. This account is my own experience and there can be additional information, which I might have missed, to add in this article. There are a lot of internet sites, which has more details about this place. You can check one of them below:
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/mission-peak- loop-from- stanford-avenue- staging-area