Today that dream came true.
The wall-to-wall concrete of the Bay Area is depressing if you live for the Freedom of the Hills. Hard surfaces, traffic noise, car alarms, industrial smells… As far as you can see from the highest point, the view is of dense housing, angular high-rises and a gridwork of streets, layered with twisting interstates that crawl over and between it all, choked with traffic. The Bay Area is the fifth largest urban area in the United States, home to 7.7 million people. No wonder I flee to the Sierra whenever possible. I can hardly breathe here.
So, today, after living in the East Bay for 20 years in the midst of this urban sprawl, I discovered that dream door: the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. A wilderness gem, it's a 28-mile trail that traverses three East Bay Parks, accessing nearly 10,000 acres of parkland. There are long vistas without any human structures, there are waterfalls, oaks, open green hillsides, pine stands, spring peepers, acorn woodpeckers and an explosion of flowers. Beautiful Rose Peak rises from the middle of it, only 32 feet shy of Mt. Diablo's elevation. And Mission Peak reposes at the eastern end, with spectacular views of the Bay. The trail crosses only one small road at mile 20.
I walked for 19 miles without seeing a single person.
A permit from East Bay Parks is required to hike on the trail. The permit is the trail map, all 28 miles of it, printed on weatherproof paper. In a patchwork of jurisdictions, with grazing trails and multiple use trails going off in different directions, following the actual Ohlone Trail could be tricky. But between trailmarkers and clearly labeled junctions, all referenced on the map, a hiker would have to try really hard to get lost.
Whether I started on the east end, at Del Valle Regional Park or the west end, in Mission Peak Regional Preserve, I would start near sea level and have a long climb right out of the gate. I chose to start on the east end, where my husband dropped me off. I could have taken BART to Dublin/Pleasanton and a $30 Lyft ride to the trailhead. That gave me until the last BART train left Fremont to finish the hike (the BART station is a $7 Lyft ride from the trailhead in Fremont).
Although I brought a water filter, I never used it. I carried two liters of water and had options for refilling from taps at several backpacker camps along the trail, and at the Sunol Regional Wilderness Headquarters at mile 20.
I recommend the Murrieta Falls side trail, a diversion that parallels the main trail past a narrow and beautiful cascade and through a rare-in-the-East-Bay Foothill Pine forest.
I started around 7a and finished with the last of the day’s light at 8p, easily making it to a BART train home. It didn’t escape me that, although I loathe the urbanscape of the Bay Area, it was the very reason doing the trail was so easy. I didn’t need to plant a car at either end. Between Lyft and BART, a hiker could leave the car at home.
Click here for a flyover animation of the hike.
Slideshow of the Ohlone Wilderness Trail: