I made a snap judgment Wednesday to check out Mission Peak at sunset, which I had been fixing to get ready to do for ages. Winehiker Russ loves to lead this hike (just under six miles with 2,000 feet of elevation gain), and now I see why. It’s the same ol’ sweaty slog to the top, but the fading light casts a glow on the hill that you never see at any other time of day; it even causes shade in a few places, imagine that. The sunset itself its just OK on a cloudless night — it can be spectacular on partly cloudy days — but the light show gets much better as the sky turns from purple to black. And if you pick a full moon night, you can stroll down without a headlamp.

Yeah, I took pictures:

Cow, fading light

Even the cow pictures come out better this time of the evening.

Glowing in the evening sun

Even with the hills pretty much browned over, the peak looks better in the evening because it’s the only time when the sun illuminates the rocky sections just below the summit.

Rocks tinged in red

Speaking of rocks, these were very photogenic in this light.

Just before sunset

I took this just a few minutes before the sun fell below the horizon. I planned on taking 90 minutes to reach the top exactly at sunset but didn’t calculate the need for picture taking and rest breaks. Even with my timing off by a few minutes, I still had some nice shots.

Taking pictures at the summit

Fellow hikers goof off with their cameras. There were about a dozen people up there.

Moon rise

Full moon rises over the Diablo range.

Summit shadows

More summit shadows.

At the post

Really liked this one.

Lights begin to flicker

Lights of Alameda County looking north toward San Francisco begin to flicker in the fading light.

Alameda county after dark

Shot this with a 15-second time exposure, with the camera resting on a fence post near the cattle guard high on the peak.

Last shot of the night

Another 15-second exposure, facing in the opposite direction, with some Photoshop tweaks to lighten it up a tad.

The walk back is the best part — with the sounds of night creatures raising their usual after-dark ruckus. I even heard a couple coyotes yelping back and forth at each other; a bit scary at first till you realize it’s not somebody screaming bloody murder up the trail.

As is always the case at Mission Peak, you need to be ready for a cold, windy experience at the summit, even in the summertime. It was pleasant Wednesday but it can be all over the map. Just take a jacket along.

More Mission Peak links: