Mission Peak and Castle Rock provide longer hikes

March 27, 2015 — by Sabrina Chen

Mission Peak

Location: One entrance is at Ohlone College Park, 43600 Mission Blvd. in Fremont. (a 30-minute drive)

Second entrance: Stanford Avenue Park, 1880 Stanford Avenue in Fremont. (also a 30-minute drive)

Length: Six miles total (three miles up to the peak and three miles down the mountain). It usually takes three to four hours to complete the trail.

Best times to go: Early morning or late afternoon/night. The trail has little shade so it is much more comfortable to hike during the cooler parts of the day. Also, the view of the sunrise and sunset from the peak is spectacular.

Review: Be forewarned, this trail is not easy. Unless you want blisters and bloody feet, wear good hiking shoes or sneakers. Also, bring at least two bottles of water per person (when I did the trail, my family had to ration off the last drops of water towards the end of the hike). The ascent is steep no matter which entrance (Ohlone College or Stanford) you take, though the Ohlone College trail is longer and has a more gradual ascent. To be frank, the scenery along the trail is ugly — you’ll climb hill after hill of dead grass accompanied by small flying insects and smelly cows but the scenery at the top makes the climb somewhat worth it. Aside from the famous Instagram-worthy totem pole, you’ll be rewarded with a dramatic backdrop of the South Bay ranging from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Sierra Nevada. You may have trouble finding parking in the Ohlone College parking lot and have to park on the street.


Castle Rock

Location: 15000 Skyline Boulevard in Los Gatos. (25-minute drive). Note that this address takes you to the maintenance entrance of the park; to get to the parking lot for the start of the hike, you must drive about 0.5 miles further along Highway 35.

Length: Saratoga Gap/Ridge Trail Loop: 5.6 miles. It takes about two and a half hours to complete the trail.

Castle Rock: 0.3 miles. It takes less than 30 minutes to complete the trail. I went on both.

Best times to go: Early morning (before 10 a.m.), as the parking lot gets extremely crowded around noon.

Review: This is a perfect trail for families and friends, or if you need some time to connect with nature alone. Most of the hike is in the shade and relatively flat, with the exception of a few steep hills. It is important to wear hiking shoes with a good grip — my sister and I learned our lesson trying to rock climb with tennis shoes.

The trail itself is a bit difficult to follow, but you should keep your eye out for the Saratoga Gap trail markers that eventually lead to the Ridge Trail. The views of the forest scenery are breathtaking, despite the sounds of passing cars on Highway 9 and rifle shots from the nearby shooting range.

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