Timing is everything on sunrise hike

Timing is everything on sunrise hike

Timing is everything on sunrise hike
Braving cold temps and an early morning wake-up call, Kevin Parker found solace in the new year atop Eagle Peak.

Columns Hit the TrailCLAYTON, CA—Like throwing a glass into the fireplace as a farewell to 2020, I felt like I needed some type of naturistic cleanse to properly transition into the new year.

What better than a sunrise to produce the kind of positive vibes needed to kick off 2021?

It’s about 90 minutes to Eagle Peak from Clayton, and I knew timing would be paramount in order to arrive as the morning sky prepared for a new day and provided an outstanding light show.

The best way up the mountain is via Mitchell Rock Trail. At 5:30 a.m. on a dark winter morning, I was relegated to a 10-foot diameter of light that was mostly obscured by the fog from by heavy breathing as I pushed my way up past Mitchell Rock. The flickering lights of Clayton far below gave me an early “top of the world” feeling that put a little pep in my step as I headed to Twin Peaks.

The trail from Mitchell Rock to Twin Peaks (elevation 1,733 feet) is some of the most outstanding on Mount Diablo, even in the dark. But as you climb above Twin Peaks in a southerly direction and follow a knife-like ridge on your way to Eagle Peak (2,369 feet), you are rewarded with views in every direction. As a massive backdrop, the summit set the stage as the rising sun electrified the morning sky with shades of yellow, pink and blue.

Cold and windy

Be prepared for cold and wind on a hike with exposed sections of trail. The routing on Eagle Peak Trail from Twin Peaks to Eagle Peak is not easily forgotten with Donner Canyon, North Peak, Olympia Peak and the summit on the left and Mitchell Canyon, Olofson Ridge and Black Point unfolding on the right.

Much to my surprise, I wasn’t the only one climbing the mountain in the dark. I could see more than a few lights on trails in the distance.

I was so nervous about missing the sunrise that I arrived about 20 minutes early. Early bird gets the worm, unless the wind is ripping. It’s very cold and oh yeah, the sun rises behind Mount Diablo before you can see it from Eagle Peak.

I should have brought a thermos of coffee. Instead, I jogged in place until the sky danced in myriad colors before my eyes. Game changer. Soul changer. Goodbye 2020.

And as always, Mount Diablo State Park proved a longtime friend and much-needed confidant.

Once atop Eagle Peak, you have three choices on the way back down. Retrace your steps, take Eagle Peak Trail down into Donner Canyon or continue to Murchio Gap and wind down Back Creek Canyon. I chose Eagle Peak Trail, which is a partial retrace but junctions before you reach Twin Peaks and smartly winds back and forth as you make your way onto Coulter Pine Trail and then Oak Road.

Couple of trip tips: I brought a lot of water and some trail snacks, but with the cold, I drank very little. Layering is key, because being too hot or cold can totally slow you down.

Get out there, so you can hang in there.

Eagle Peak Sunrise Hike

  • Timing is everything on sunrise hikeWhere: Mt. Diablo State Park
  • Trail: Eagle Peak
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,975 feet
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Must Haves: headlamp, layered clothing including wind layer

Contact Kevin Parker with comments or questions by email at LukeHollywood@gmail.com