dogs on leash
Extra-strenuous hike goes to Monument Peak, Mission Peak and back over 14 miles in an excellent spring outing. Hiking to Monument Peak from Ed Levin County Park, huffing it over to Mission Peak and returning is a true test of mettle for San Francisco Bay Area trekkers. If you're up for it, this is a great way to summit Mission Peak and skip the crowds--and parking hassles--at the popular Stanford Avenue entrance to Mission Peak Regional Preserve. Instead, take a southern tack from Ed Levin County Park just east of Milpitas. The long, steep hike up from Ed Levin is one of the toughest in the South Bay, but it has some of the best vistas in the region. As you near the Monument Peak summit, watch for the mysterious stone walls: some believe they were built by indigenous peoples who inhabited these hills for centuries before European settlers arrived. Best time to go is in the springtime when the wildflowers are out in force and the hills are a shimmering shade of green. Winter's nice, too, especially after the hills have been dusted with snow. Summer is brutal and fall is bone-dry. On your return from Mission Peak, you can turn right at the Agua Caliente Trail near the transmission tower at Monument Peak; note this is an extremely steep descent in places. Retracing your original route might be preferable if downhills punish your knees.