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Alternate Peaks for the NorCal Challenge

Black Mountain topo map

2020: What a decade!

It feels that way, sometimes. Between the pandemic and the wildfires, this year's NorCal challenge has been extra challenging. Two of the original peaks in the challenge — Mount Sizer and Rose Peak — remain closed due to wildfire damage.

We quickly offered two alternate peaks, Mission Peak and Berryessa Peak, but then Berryessa was also closed due to wildfire damage.

Black Mountain badge

Thankfully our ambassadors Karl and Tara have a wealth of Bay Area hiking knowledge. And so we announce our newest alternate: Black Mountain.

Black Mountain is a great vantage point, both to see Silicon Valley, as well as the Pacific Ocean on a clear day! It's quite popular with hikers and mountain bikers, and has a handful of approaches. Some can be quite crowded, with parking difficulties on weekends. Some can be quite peaceful, with a bit of advance planning!

The most popular approach is from Rancho San Antonio Preserve (22500 Cristo Rey Dr, Cupertino, CA). It's about 12 miles and 3200 feet, round trip. Be aware that the parking lot fills-up quickly, particularly on pleasant weekend days.

Map: https://www.openspace.org/sites/default/files/map_RSA.pdf 
Overview: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/black-mountain-via-pge-quarry-and-black-mountain-trail


An alternate approach, with a very limited parking lot, is from the Rhus Ridge Trail. The hike is about 9 miles, and 2500 feet, round trip. The parking lot holds only about 8 cars, with no nearby street parking.

Overview: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/black-mountain-via-rhus-ridge


There is an unmarked approach, which intersects the middle of the Chamise Trail. Park in the residential neighborhood, on Laura Court or Stonebrook Drive, a little south of Foothill College. Look for the gate at the east end of the road, near the small lake. This approach starts very steep, but soon flattens-out. Total mileage and elevation gain is about 10 miles and 3000 feet.


The easiest approach is to park on upper Page Mill Road, along the road. Take the Montebello Road Trail east, past the Black Mountain Trail Camp, to the summit. This is about a 6 mile roundtrip and 1000 feet elevation gain.

Map: https://www.openspace.org/sites/default/files/map_MB.pdf 
Overview: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/monte-bello-black-mountain-loop


Additionally, there is permit-only parking near the top of Montebello Road, at “Waterwheel Parking”. This approach is about 5 miles and 1000 feet of elevation gain.

Map: https://www.openspace.org/sites/default/files/map_MB.pdf 
Overview (extend the hike ~1 mile to the west, to get to the summit: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/waterwheel-trail  
Apply for a parking pass and gate code a few days in advance at https://www.openspace.org/visit-a-preserve/permits/general-access-permits


As a reminder, the 2020 NorCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge ends on December 31, 2020. You must complete your hikes by then, and you'll have a few extra days in 2021 to log them and earn your finisher patch and certificate.

Thanks to Karl for sharing his trail beta!

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  1. Jeff – thanks for adding Black Mountain to the list of alternatives to complete the NorCal challenge. It’s a great trail and allows for social distancing – hiking.