Magazine article Sunset

Hiking the Ohlone Wilderness Trail

Magazine article Sunset

Hiking the Ohlone Wilderness Trail

Article excerpt

Make sure you're in shape before attempting this trek beyond the East Bay and into Old California

FROM ONE WINDSWEPT RIDGE on Ohlone Wilderness Trail, you can see poppies, Johnny-jump-ups, and owl's clover basking in the sun while red-tailed hawks and golden eagles ride thermals overhead and coyotes yip in the hills.

Or maybe not. But the odds of such encounters are better here than just about anywhere else in the Bay Area. The 29-mile trail cuts across south Alameda County and leads hikers, equestrians, and backpackers through remote country, traversing Mission Peak Regional Preserve, portions of the San Francisco watershed, Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness, and Del Valle Regional Park.

Now is the best time to hike the trail, when the hills are green, Murietta Fall is falling, and temperatures are rising just enough to pop open the wildflowers

Aside from supporting wildflowers, raptors, and coyotes, the mountains and canyons here are home to bobcats, deer, mountain lions, and rule elk, which can be seen occasionally near public roads in the spring and fall. In fact, the trail takes travelers back to the time of old, unspoiled California, as it wind through fields of hardy native grasses, past live and blue oaks, and near flowers such as shooting stars and yellow rabbit brush.

The path to this paradise, however, is not for the faint of heart--or legs. The trail climbs from an elevation of 390 feet at Sunol to a thigh-busting 3,817 feet at Rose Peak, which is only 32 feet lower than Mount Diablo. Although you can gain access to the trail in Fremont near Mission Peak or at Lake Del Valle near Livermore, we suggest you begin your hike at the trailhead off Geary Road in Sunol and head east. From here, the climb is relatively gradual, albeit largely unshaded in the beginning, and offers the reward of Lake Del Valle at the end. If you're smart, you'll use the old trick of hiking with a friend and leaving a car at each end of the trail.

Before you set out, slap a bandage on your heels, wear double socks to ward off blisters, and tighten up those bootlaces. Carry at least a liter of water to last you between water stations, and give yourself plenty of daylight. Traversing the 20-mile section of the trail from Sunol (or even hiking to Rose Peak and back) in a single day is an exhausting effort and not recommended. …

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