In my mind, destination hikes are the best variety. Don't get me wrong, I love to hike a loop, or just meander around until I feel like turning back, but hiking with a focus is optimal.
A couple examples of these destination hikes are unique spots like , or . They give you something to look forward to with each step.
Summiting Maguire Peaks is one such hike, as the ending destination is rather spectacular. The trek up the mountain gets quite steep, but the vistas at the top are more than enough reward to make the hike worth it.
To get there, head to Sunol Regional Wilderness -- the destination for some of the best hikes in the east bay. This particular hike isn't started at the normal staging area though. Access to Maguire Peaks is through Welch Creek Road. This is a narrow, winding route off Geary Road, just before the fork which leads to the main staging area of Sunol Regional Wilderness.
A special permit is required to park on Welch Creek Road, as there is only a small parking area by the trail. The permit can be obtained at the entry kiosk into the main staging area of the park, or the visitor’s center. If you don't already have a park map, pick one up when you get a permit.
If you are taking this hike on a weekday, obtaining a permit can be a bit of a problem. The parking kiosk is often unattended, visitor center closed, and tracking down any park employee can be difficult. If this is the case for you, my recommendation is to leave a note under your windshield wiper explaining how no employee was available to dispense a permit.
While this may not be standard operating procedure, this solution will let you enjoy the hike without worrying about your vehicle being parked illegally.
When you turn onto Welch Creek Road, drive up the hill about a mile until you come to a wide shoulder on the left with a gate leading to a trail. Confirm you are in the right spot by making sure the trail marker specifies Lower Maguire Peaks Trail. Park along the side of the road here as this is where you'll be starting out.
The first part of the hike takes you up a moderate incline which shadows a deep creek. This portion is well shaded, and full of botanical life. It's like surfing through the tube of a living green wave.
The path is narrow, and much less traveled than most trails of the East Bay Regional Park system. At times it even disappears as grass begins to engulf the dirt path. Just keep your eye out for rusted metal trail markers which will guide you all the way to Maguire Peaks Loop.
Once onto Maguire Peaks Loop you will be out in the sun, surrounded by mountains and forest. Turn left on the trail, and follow this wider path. From here you should be able to see rock formations above you near the top of the mountain. That is your destination, so get ready to gain elevation quickly.
As you follow Maguire Peaks Loop, it begins to bend around with the mountain, and runs into an unmarked path that leads up the mountain. Follow this trail all the way to the pinnacle of Maguire Peaks. I guarantee you will feel a little burn in your legs as you traverse this last, severely steep leg of the hike. Don't worry as you will be able to rest shortly.
Upon the mountain summit is a flat area which houses a cluster of trees and a few boulders perfect for sitting on. Here you can catch your breath, and enjoy the stunning vistas that surround you.
From this vantage point you can see much of the Bay Area. To the south and east is beautiful open terrain; the rest of Sunol and Ohlone Regional Wilderness. The north offers the gigantic San Antonio Reservoir, and in the far distance you can just make out cites like Pleasanton and Livermore. Looking west will bring the most stunning views; you can clearly see the glistening water of the San Francisco Bay.
This is a great spot to eat lunch, read a book, write, practice yoga, nap, admire the view, or whatever you please. Just be sure to spend some time enjoying the spot you worked so hard to get to.
There is something about climbing a mountain that is ultra-rewarding, and making it up Maguire Peaks is no exception. As you sit atop the summit, looking out at the bay, you can't help but feel good about yourself. I invite you to conquer Maguire Peaks, and experience this feeling.
At a Glance:
Address: Welch Creek Road, within the Sunol Regional Wilderness
Hours: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Best time to visit: On a clear, sunny day for the best views
Cost: No fee for Welch Creek Road Permit
Great for: Hiking
Could be better if: You bring bug repellent, mosquitoes are out in force along this hike.