Earlier this year we decided to go for the infamous Murietta Falls hike in the Ohlone Wilderness, even though it was kinda late in the season for this hike. We went in mid May, and it was already pretty hot on some days in Livermore, we knew that if we waited any longer that the weather would get into the 90s and 100s, and at that point we’d have to wait quite a few months. We had just bought the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler and I was confident that it would keep Chico cool. I carried extra water to spray it down, and there were a couple of streams as well. We drove to Lake Del Valle in Livermore, and paid $6 to park and $2 for our Ohlone Wilderness permit that has an awesome map and is good for a year. You can also get this permit/map at Sunol, or order it online. You need a permit for the trail.
This trail is 12 to 14 miles depending on who you talk to, and is said to be one of the hardest hikes in The Bay Area, with mostly ascent and descent along ridgelines, and “The Big Burn” which is over 1200 vertical feet gain in less than 2 miles with with grades as steep as 40%. But yet, my room mate whom is a Ranger at EBRD said that he saw people coming off that trail all the time, who weren’t in great shape, didn’t carry any water, and that many of those people said they did it in 3 hours. He was always encouraging us! Haha, but yes, but after we were done, he said lots of people had to be rescued too.
I think that there is some mis-communication–there are other trails one can hike there, and one could see people returning from these trails. Also, are people counting the hike up to the actual Ohlone Wilderness Trail which is a steep 1/2 or so, adding 1+ miles to the trip? Or, just the hike to Murietta Falls on the Ohlone Wilderness trail itself? People I know have done it in 4 hours in the early spring and winter. This I knew would not be us, we dilly dally…we go off path to explore…we take many photos.
I knew that we average 2 mph in harder conditions and new trails. Since this trail had a lot of ascent and descent, I estimated 7 hours, thinking that we would prob go fast on the decents, we did it in 8 hours or so, and measured just under 14 miles from the trail you pick up at the parking lot–we walked past Murietta Falls by accident adding about a 1/2 mile. It got quite hot inot the high 70s with many parts of the trail in direct sunlight, and I chose to rest us to be safe,. Chico actually seemed fine as he put the Swamp Cooler on mid day, but I was going through water pretty fast, and didn’t bring a filter. There were some really hot humid pockets too.
We had an unusual thing happen about 2 miles in, and I hoped it wasn’t an omen of bad things to come. I saw what I thought was a log in the middle of the path ahead, and also what appeared to a shiny puddle of water a bit past it. But no! That log was a Turkey Vulture with fresh guts hanging out, and, the water, was the feathers….we had interupted someone’s breakfast. I took some comfort in knowing that the predator hid when we came by, instead of trying to guard it’s tasy treat. The whole carcass was gone on our return trip.
The trail path is for the most part was pretty flat and even, pretty wide except for a couple stretches, and I imagine many people actually run this despite the steep ridgeline climbs…I however was carrying 5 liters of water, and would move slower because of this. I did use trekking poles for the first time ever though, and they were awesome for the descents!
I think the length combined with the Ridgeline climbs and descents definitely make this a hard trail…but it is not as hard as the crazy Las Trampas hike we did that was shorter, but had super steep, storm damaged trails, sometimes running along the edge with sharp drop offs. THAT trail made me buy boots with better traction and my thighs hurt so bad for 4 days I could barely walk. Perhaps the people who do this in 3 or 4 hours push themselves so hard to go fast, that they end up hurting more? I hike a few times a week, I didn’t want to do a hike that would destroy us, so we took our time. I had no blisters, and only a little soreness in my thighs thanx to the trekking poles, and giving myself time for muscles to recover on the trail.
Murietta Falls is about 1.5 miles past Schlieper Rock. We didn’t scramble down to the bottom, I was worried about time and water supply. The waterfall was just a trickle anyway.
We took some photos at the top, though you can’t see any water from here.
This was a really beautiful calming hike, with some tremendous views, and sometimes some stark scenery. I will do this trail again when it is cooler, and when the Murietta Falls are more than a trickle.
This was our longest hike together, though we had done 10 mile and 12 mile hikes before. To get ready for this hike, we stopped doing longer hikes the week beforehand, and we just did trails that I knew had some steep ascents and descents in a short distance.
To get Chico ready for the long hike, I fed him wet dog food the night before and the morning of, and gave him ice cubes as treats to make sure he was hydrated better.
I also bought my first ever water bladder to go in my Osprey Tempest 20. I got a 3 Liter Camelbak. These really all come down to preference. I liked this style as I knew I could fill it and clean it easier ( for me) and actually would clean it. I liked the bite valve too. I chose 3 liters because I knew in warmer months, I would also be carrying Chico’s water. I tend to fill this up and leave it for a week grabbing it whenever we hike. Then I empty it and hang it to dry with the kit.No mold or mildew yet. I didn’t want to rely on a water filter for this trip as I was not sure if there would be any water sources because despite a rainy spring, we still were in a drought.
Other handy things to know about this hike?
There are bathrooms at the parking lot. And there is a pit toilet about 2.5 total miles in at a primitive camp called Boyd Camp on your map.
Dogs are only allowed during the day time unfortunately.