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Length 10.5 miles
Time 3 hours
Total Climb 2350 feet
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Mission Peak

Mission Peak is a popular climbing destination near Fremont, though it's safe to say that it's popular more with hikers than it is with bikers. Still, there's nothing to stop you from biking up to it if you're looking for something different or you need a ride in this vicinity. The rocky peak is atop a short cliff sitting on a sharp rise right above residential neighborhoods.

This ride climbs to Mission Peak "the easy way", that is, instead of taking the notoriously steep Hidden Valley Trail to the peak from Stanford Avenue, it approaches it via Peak Trail from the Ohlone College campus. Don't let that make you think this is an easy climb, though. It's a difficult climb! While this may be the easier way up, it's only relative. Most portions of the climbing route hover around a 10% to 14% grade, with no shortage of brief 20% bursts along the way.

Parking in the Ohlone College campus parking lots requires a fee, subject to a few exceptions and limitations. The fee was $1 per hour or $4 for the whole day as of 2016. Refer to the campus and parking map of the college for the details. There are payment stations in some of the lots that accept cash and cards, which is where you're expected to pay. If you'd rather save a few bucks, street-side parking on some of the streets directly across Mission Boulevard from the Ohlone College campus should be easy too.

All the trails on this ride are fire roads, except for a brief section of Peak Trail "behind" the ridge that is singletrack. This singletrack is usually wide and quite steep, but its shady half is still tight and pretty enjoyable on your way up; and the whole thing is a treat in the downhill direction, naturally.

Being (almost) an all-fire-road ride, this ride is not one to be sought after for pure biking pleasure. It's more about the views and an excuse to visit the peak. Since it's fairly high yet still pretty close to urban areas (measured in a straight line), the peak gives a much more up-close and top-down aerial view of the nearby residential areas than most mountain peaks that I'm used to.

While I typically recommend the part of the year when the grass is green as the ideal time for most East Bay rides, I wouldn't place any such condition on this ride. The main attraction of the ride are the views that you get along the way and at the peak, and the enjoyment of those is not subject to the greenness of the grass very much. So, I'd recommend this ride regardless of the time of the year. You should be aware, though, that the peak is usually very windy and chilly even on otherwise sunny and balmy days. So, take into account the fact that, during cold or rainy weather, it will be doubly so. (You really shouldn't be up on one of the higher peaks in the area on a rainy day anyway.)

You actually don't reach the summit on your bike during this ride. There is no biking trail that does. You'll have to leave your bike at the closest point of the ride to the peak, and then hike the rest of the way up to the summit. If you are riding with other people, you could chain your bikes together at the top of Eagle Trail for some measure of security, or lock it onto another nearby signpost that announces that bikes aren't allowed on the rest of the trail to the peak. Also note that the stats listed on this page for the ride do not include this hiking portion, but the elevation profile and the route map do. The hike will add 0.7 miles and just under 250 feet of elevation gain to the ride's totals.

There's also a hang glider and paraglider launch spot near the peak. You'll see a spur on the route plot that visits this spot. If you have some time and gliders actually happen to be present on that particular day, you could kill some time here watching them set up and fly.

While returning from the top, once you make it back to the restroom on the "shoulder" of the peak, you'll be faced with two options that I find of roughly equal desirability. One is to go back down the same way you came, making this into an out-and-back ride. This would reduce the ride length to about eight miles, allow you to try some of the mildly rocky stretches of the climb also in the more fun downhill direction, as well as enabling you to ride that brief singletrack portion of Peak Trail for a second time. Your second option is to do as the route shown on this page does and descend down the "front" of the mountain to Stanford Avenue. This means you'll see different scenery on your way down as well as trying out the much steeper Hidden Valley Trail at least in the downhill direction. The second option does mean you'll be doing the slightly longer version of the ride and that you'll need to thread your way through hoards of hikers as you descend (on a typical weekend anyway).

This ride route heads down Hidden Valley Trail all the way back to suburban streets. The crowds on this trail can be as dense as the shoppers in a mall on popular days. The descent is very steep. The trail's end-to-end average grade is a little steeper than -12%, but that's misleading due to a couple of nearly flat stretches that are in the mix. Most of the descent takes place on grades steeper than -15%. One half-mile stretch near the trail's bottom end manages to exceed -16% in overall average grade, and that's not the only segment that does (though it might be the longest one). The trail was very wide and overused the last time I did this ride. The surface is mostly smooth but expect plenty of minor to moderate water ruts on years when the trail hasn't seen a resurfacing. There are also a handful of unexpectedly rocky patches, which constitute a fun surprise that helps remind you that you are on a mountain bike. And it probably goes without saying that the views are excellent on the way down. Most of your descent until you reach paved streets will be taking place against the uninterrupted panorama of the bay and the nearby neighborhoods.

Doing the ride as shown on this page also means that your return will involve 2.5 miles of pedaling in traffic. However, even if you're averse to the risks of that, these are some of the calmest and safest suburban roads you can find for riding on. Stanford Avenue has very slow traffic (mostly thanks to its prominent speed bumps) and Mission Boulevard is a spacious multi-lane boulevard with a dedicated biking lane that's wide and smooth.

© Ergin Guney


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