Hiking on the Ohlone Trail
The Ohlone Trail, if you were to complete the entire trail goes 28 miles from the base of Mission Peak (Fremont) to Del Valle Regional Park (near Livermore). We originally planned to complete the entire trail as a thru hike, however Del Valle's trails were closed due to landslides from all the recent rain, so we opted to try an out and back from Sunol Regional Park instead to have an easier hike. Sunol Regional Park trail head is approximately 6 trail miles from where the Ohlone Trail starts at the base of Mission Peak. We hiked from Sunol Regional Park trail head to Maggie's Half Acre Campsite, approximately 10 miles away.
Dogs are permitted on the Ohlone Trail, but unfortunately not permitted to stay overnight. You MUST reserve your camp site ahead of time, and if it is a last minute reservation you will need to stop by the East Bay Regional Parks office in Oakland to pick up your parking pass, and Ohlone Trail Permits. If you are reserving in advance, have them mail these permits to you. To make a reservation call 1-888-EBPARKS or 1-888-327-2757 and select option 2. You can get your overnight permit, and your Ohlone Trail permit by calling this number. Reservations are only taken over the phone. Visit the East Bay Regional Parks Website for more information:
This overnight trip in the East Bay is a great training hike for those preparing for longer distance trips such as the PCT of JMT, but is moderately strenuous, so may not be a good match for those who are not yet confident with their hiking abilities. This trail is, however, well marked, and your Ohlone Trail permit includes a fantastic map which you will be required to carry with you on trail.
On April 15, 2017 we set out from Sunol Regional Park to hike to the backpacking camp right below Rose Peak called Maggie's Half Acre. This trip is approximately 10 miles of hiking each way, and a net gain of >3,000 feet of elevation, but there are plenty of ups and downs in between.
This was the perfect time of year for this hike. The hills were a lush green and the wildflowers were out in force. The hike itself reminded me very much of the balds we experienced in North Carolina and Tennessee on the Appalachian Trail, except they went on forever, and there were many stunning, solitary ancient oak trees. I love the drama of an oak tree.
For someone wanting a shorter hike they could get reservations for one of the Sunol backpacking campgrounds instead. These campgrounds have a chemically treated toilet (there were toilet paper rolls, but not toilet paper, and I always recommend bringing your own) and a water source, though the water requires filtering, and the water we picked up here still tasted a bit "mucky" after filtering. The water is approximately 0.2 miles off the Ohlone Trail, uphill. I wish I would have known that it was quite a steep trail to get to the water source; I would have left my pack down at the trail junction.
On Saturday it felt like we climbed forever. This was my first backpacking trip since returning from the AT last summer, since I had peroneal tendinitis, and then the rainiest California winter of my lifetime. Also, why are all of the coastal backpacking trails closed for the winter! It really stinks, since the weather, even when rainy, is still nice enough to make me want to hit the trails (legally).
Anyway, I had kind of forgotten that 10 miles, nearly all uphill, is quite a distance for someone who isn't used to hiking all day, every day (what I'm saying is that I'm not in trail shape anymore, and that trail was hard and steep, and exposed). But I had a big grin on my face the whole time.
Plus the views at sunset from Mount Rose were stunning. We could see all the way from San Francisco to San Jose, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. We could see Mt. Tam, Mt Diablo, and many others.
We had reserved Maggie's Half Acre site #1. There are three sites associated with Maggie's Half Acre. We found our site to be fairly protectd from the wind, and featured enough flat(ish) space for two 3 person tents. The night time temperatures got into the mid 30's. I stayed pretty warm in my 30 degree Englightened Equipment Quilt with a Patagonia Merino Air hoody and leggings, but I did have to empty my bladder. Did you know about this trick, if you wake up cold, empty your bladder, your body expends a lot of heat trying to keep your urine at your body temperature. It always works for me, even though I loathe to get out of my sleeping bag and into the cold, windy night to do it...
On Sunday we hiked out. Hiking downhill went much, much faster than uphill the day before, but it was very windy, and rainy. The grassy plains and rolling hills were beautiful in the rain though, and we knew we were only a few hours away from a warm car, and hot food.
All in all, this was a fantastic trip. Beautiful wildflowers, exceptional oak trees, stunning views. I would call the Ohlone Trail a crown jewel of the Bay Area hiking scene, and will definitely be coming back, and probably attempting a thru-hike someday, though I will probably always select this trail in the spring, when the hills are green and covered in flowers, and the water sources can be relied on.