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Hiking up peaks to sweeping views of the Bay Area.

PEAKING OUT ABOVE the bustle of the San Francisco Bay Area is easy at Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Fremont, where you can hike to a pair of nearly 1/2-mile-high summits in the same park.

Recently the East Bay Regional Park District added nearly 400 acres to the preserve, some 30 miles south of Oakland. The 2,982-acre preserve now encompasses namesake Mission Peak (2,517 feet) and taller Monument Peak (2,594 feet) as well as surrounding rangelands, which offer a buffer to encroaching development.

Spring is the best time to check out the summit views: temperatures are cool, and seasonal breezes should help scrub the skies clear.

Neither Mission nor Monument peak is a giant among mountains. And, while these two aren't as lofty as two better-known Bay Area--peaks Mount Hamilton at 4,209 feet and Mount Diablo at 3,849--Monument Peak edges out Mount Tamalpais's East Peak (2,586).

Both Mission and Monument peaks offer hikers spectacular views and a distinct perspective on the South Bay.

The park has two entry points, but the one offering the easier approach to the summits starts behind Ohlone College, off Mission Boulevard. From the trailhead, where you can pick up free maps, it's a 3-mile hike on Peak Trail to Mission Peak's summit. A new 2 1/2-mile spur will soon lead from Peak Trail to Monument Peak.

Once part of the enormous holdings of nearby Mission San Jose, preserve grasslands grazed thousands of cattle and helped make the mission one of the most prosperous in the California chain. Long after mission lands were secularized, private ranchers grazed stock here, and hikers today will still see some cattle roaming the slopes.

The trail initially follows an old ranch road, then becomes a dirt path that steadily ascends (we wore lightweight hiking boots; you could even use sneakers).

Views of the South Bay's salt ponds and burgeoning communities spread before you as you go. The trail threads through a cleft in the slope, then ducks briefly into oak woodland before winding up the back side of the summit. Best views come on the last 1/2 mile of trail, after Peak Trail intersects with Hidden Valley Trail.

From up top, you can look west over San Francisco Bay. Looking east, you'll see the Diablo Range and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. You might also sight golden eagles or red-tailed hawks soaring on thermal updrafts.

APRIL FLOWERS, TRAIL DAYS

Much of the terrain is grassland, where blooming wildflowers put on a spring show. This month, look for baby blue eyes and brodiaea.

Also this month, in time to help celebrate Trail Days on April 24 and 25, park officials hope to have opened and signed the roughly 2 1/2-mile trail linking the two summits. They also plan to dedicate a 10-mile segment of the Ridge Trail to Ed Levin County Park to the south.

The preserve is open from dawn to dusk daily; entry is free. For more information, call (510) 635-0135, ext. 2200. From Interstate 680, take State 238/Mission Boulevard south to Ohlone College and park in lower lot D (on weekdays, bring two quarters for the parking permit machine). To reach the trailhead, walk uphill to the southeast end of campus (near the pool). Carry your own water on the trail.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Finnegan, Lora J.
Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:555
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