Okay, so I didn't make it all the way to Rose Peak. It was still an enjoyable hike to Murietta Falls on an unusually clear winter day. I got a late start from the Ohlone Wilderness Trailhead at Del Valle Reservoir on January 31st, 2004. By the end of the day, I'd done the 12.5 mile round trip to Murietta Falls in just under 7 hours.
This trail was generally a lot steeper than I was anticipating. For some reason I had pictures of gently rolling cow pastures in my mind, but there are some pretty serious grades along the route. From the trailhead elevation of 750 feet, it's a 2.4 mile climb up to Rocky Ridge at 2,380 feet, then you lose almost 500 feet as you drop into Williams Gulch. From there, it's back up to about 3,350 feet elevation near Johnny's Pond.
From Johnny's Pond, Murietta Falls is a short side trip off the main Ohlone Wilderness Trail. This waterfall, with a height of about 100 feet, is reportedly the highest waterfall in the San Francisco Bay Area. Murietta Falls was just a large trickle on the day I was there, but it's still a very pleasant location hidden away in a little side canyon.
Another point of interest along the way is Schlieper's Rock, at elevation 3,080 feet. There's a plaque stuck to the rock as a memorial to Fred Schleiper. According to the trail guide, poor old Fred's ashes are scattered all about the rock. The day was so clear that I could see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierras from atop Schlieper's Rock. The skyscrapers of San Francisco were also visible from some points along the trail.
Bottom line - this is a very nice hike for a cool, clear winter day. It's a bit of a stretch for them to call this a "Wilderness", as most of the hike is on dirt roads through lands used for grazing cattle. But it's a good place to get up above the suburban sprawl and get some fresh air and exercise. And some pretty nice views to boot.
Just a side note. If you want to see waterfalls in the SF Bay Area, skip Murietta Falls and head straight to Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Berry Creek Falls, along with Silver Falls and Golden Falls just upstream, is one of the most beautiful places in the Bay area.
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