The Ohlone Wilderness Trail is a 29-mile backpacking trail in East Bay, near San Francisco, California. The trail name is pronounced ‘Ah-Lone-Ee’ (not Ah-Lone, which is how I was throughout it). The route takes you to the top of two peaks, Rose Peak and Mission Peak, and through rolling hills and valleys.
The trail itself is easy to navigate and, although there is no cell service, you’re never too far from civilization. What makes the trail difficult to the elevation gain and distance, especially if you’re doing it over two days.
The views from Mission and Rose Peak are amazing, but besides that, I don’t consider the trail to be particularly beautiful. I don’t say that to discourage anyone – I liked the trail a lot – but to set your expectations accordingly. If you’re working on your hiking fitness to train for bigger backpacking trips, this is an excellent route – lots of elevation gain spread out over a short distance.
Starting Point: Del Valle Regional Park
Ending Point: Stanford Avenue Staging Area (Mission Peak Parking Lot)
Total Distance: 29 miles
Elevation Gain: 7700 ft (other accounts claim 8200 ft, but I measured less)
Duration: 2 days
The trail starts in Del Valle Regional Park, which is a 30 minute drive from Dublin. The train ends at the Stanford Ave Staging Center (also known as the Mission Peak parking lot).
Traditional Territory: The Ohlone Wilderness Trail travels through the traditional territory of the Muwekma, Tamien Nation and Ohlone (after which the trail is named) (source).
Maps & Resources
Map: You can see the official park map here: Ohlone Wilderness Trail Map.
Here is a GPS track for my route when I did the hike.
I didn’t capture the detour I made to climb Rose Peak after I’d set up camp at Maggie’s Half Acre. There’s a great view from the top! Nor do I have the detour to Murietta Falls on the map above.
In addition, the route includes going to the top of Mission Peak which technically isn’t park of the Ohlone Wilderness Trail (the trail goes around the peak but not to the actual top). You’re so close to it though – make a detour to the top of the peak!
The AllTrails map only includes the section in between Del Valle Regional Park and Sunol Regional Wilderness. This is not the full trail!
Campsite Reservations and Permits: Permits are required for camping on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. In addition, there is a section of the trail that passes through private property and you’ll need a permit if you’re passing through this section. No one inspected my permit on my specific trip, but it could happen and there is a fine if you don’t have a permit (according to the signs on the trail). You can book your permits by calling: 1-888-EBPARKS, option 2.
Outfitters & Shuttles
Outfitter: I’m not aware of any outfitters near either trailhead, but if you need to rent gear, there are several REI and Sports Basement locations in the Bay Area that rent gear.
Shuttle: There aren’t any shuttles that service the Ohlone Backpacking Trail. As this is a point-to-point hike, transportation is a little tricky.
If there are multiple people in your group, the easiest option is to self-shuttle. Drop one car off at the Stanford Ave Staging Area and then drive to the trailhead at Del Valle Regional Park. You’ll need to pay for overnight parking on both ends, so be mindful of that.
Alternatively, you can take public transportation to Dublin via the BART and then take an Uber to the trailhead. This is what I did – the Uber took 30 minutes and cost $35. On the way out, you can walk from the Stanford Ave Staging Area to the bus stop and take the bus back into the city.
Alternatively, if you have friends willing to drop you off / pick you up, that’s even better!
Here is the trip report about my two-day backpacking trip on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail.
Day 1: Del Valle Regional Park to Maggie’s Half Acre via Murietta Falls (11.5 miles)
Del Valle Regional Park to Murietta Falls (6.4 miles)
Time: 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The trail starts with an aggressive ascent to Boyd Camp. The first 2.4 miles gains more than 1600 ft! The trail is wide, however, and relatively level, so it was easy to hike (just very tiring).
Between miles 2.3 and 3.3, the trail descended to a stream. This part was very narrow and more like felt more like hiking – I liked this section a lot. There were trees on either side and some much-needed shade.
But after the stream, we were back to climbing – between miles 3.3 and 5.5 the trail ascended another 1700 ft with almost no pauses. This was another tiring section. Thankfully, the trail was mostly wide and even, making it easy (but again, tiring) to hike.
Around mile 5.2, there is a turn off of the Ohlone Wilderness Trail to Murietta Falls. This is one of the most popular day hikes from Del Valle, so I made a little detour to check it out. Unfortunately, the stream was pretty died up so the ‘falls’ were only a trickle.
Murietta Falls to Maggie’s Half Acre (5.1 miles)
Time: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
After Murietta Falls there’s minimal elevation gain for the remainder of the day’s hike (at least, compared to what I’d done before). Here I was really able to catch my stride and was hiking quickly, listening to my audiobook.
There were more trees around this part and the trail was a little more narrow than it had been. I didn’t see any other hikers in between the falls and my campsite. After Murietta Falls, the trail doesn’t get much activity apparently.
Sunset at Rose Peak
By far the highlight of the day was hiking to the top of Rose Peak for the sunset. The peak provides a beautiful 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains. I could even see the city lights of East Bay and a little bit of San Francisco Bay.
Campsite: My campsite at Maggie’s Half Acre was okay. It was somewhat sheltered, with burnt trees offering some protection from the wind on the north side. There was an outhouse, garbage bin and a water pump (with water). It was surprisingly quite cold – and the wind that did reach my tent did not help. Bring a warm sleeping bag!
Day 2: Maggie’s Half Acre to Stanford Staging Area via Mission Peak (17.5 miles)
Maggie’s Half Acre to Sunol Wilderness Park Lot (9.5 miles)
Time: 7:30 am – 11:45 am
This section of the trail is characterized by gradual (and sometimes steep) descents, the occasional climb and a whole lot of cows. There were very few trees – just rolling hills for miles.
Periodically, the trail would pass through a gate with barbed wire fences on either side. Remember to close the gate! They control how wildlife moves around.
I was a bit nervous hiking around SO MANY cows (watch the video for evidence), but if you go slowly and stay calm, they’ll leave you alone.
Sunol Wilderness Park Lot to Mission Peak (5.0 miles)
Time: 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm
The section between Sunol Wilderness Park and Mission Peak was perhaps my least favourite part of the trail. It kicks off with a section through the trees, following a fire road. This was tiring but not challenging, and the trees on either side provided shade.
About halfway through this section, it opened up into fields. Here there was no shade and the occasional cow. The trail followed what I imagine to be a road for tractors / farm equipment. It was so bloody hot.
Once I’d reached Eagle Nest Backpackers Camp, there was a sharp ascent to the top of Mission Peak. The final 600 ft was quite rocky. It took some concentration to watch my footing, especially with a backpack on.
Mission Peak, although busy, was great. Despite having stood on Rose Peak the day before (which is 1200 ft taller), standing with the famous sign felt like a great way to wrap up the Ohlone Wilderness Trail.
Mission Peak to Stanford Staging Area (3.1 miles)
Time: 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm
Surprisingly, I found the last section of the trail to be the hardest. It is 5 km from Mission Peak to the Stanford Staging Area (also known as the Mission Peak Parking Lot), but descends 2116 ft during that time.
The trail was mostly wide and flat with open grassy fields on either side. However, the sharp decline took its toll on my almost-blistered feet.
At last, I saw the gate in front of me, signalling the end of the hike and the arrival of vehicles! It took me about 1.5 hours to do this section.
Here is the video I made about the trip. It will show you the campsites and the terrain throughout the Ohlone Wilderness Trail!
This is a hard route: The recommended duration for the Ohlone Wilderness Trail is 3 days, 2 nights. If you’re going to hike it in two days, as I did, be aware that you will have a lot of distance to cover.
Bring sunscreen and a hat: For much of the trail there is little to no shade cover. And even in February, it got really hot in the afternoon.
Fill up water at the campgrounds: All of the campgrounds have water taps for you to refill your water. You still need to purify the water though – the taps are untreated. It’s important to be aware that, while all of the campgrounds have water taps, not all of the water taps have water all of the time. The first campground I passed didn’t have a working water tap. When you call to make book your permit, you can ask about the state of the water taps.
Beware the cows: Statistically speaking, the cows are totally harmless – in all of my research I couldn’t find a single case where someone was injured by a cow in the Sunol Wilderness. But they are a little nerve-wracking to be around, especially if you’re hiking alone and there are a lot of them blocking a gate… I found giving them space (even if it meant leaving the trail a bit) and speaking calmly to them helped. As I got closer they eventually moved out of the way.
About The Author
Mikaela is the voice behind Voyageur Tripper, an outdoor adventure blog that enables people to improve their skills in the backcountry. She previously worked as a wilderness guide, leading trips in Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut. Mikaela is also the founder and operator of Trip Reports.
Website: Voyageur Tripper
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