Did the nighthawk trail to the summit. Lots of parking at hilltop community park. Trail starts off steep, and then there are patches of steep portions throughout. Ground is mostly small rocks- somewhat difficult to walk on, but wide. Minimal to no shade. Not crowded at all (Monday 10am). Good views, but surely not the best of San Diego. Kind of a disappointing summit. Took less than 2 hours round trip for approximately 4 miles
I wanted to do a little pre-work hike and settled on (little) Black Mountain as it was near my house and I knew I could knock it quickly. Being Mid-November, the weather was cooperative cool throughout the trek.
My start point was the top of Sundevil way; the street ends with a wooden fence, but the pavement continues another 1/8th of a mile or so to the trailhead. Starting at this point can be confusing if your not used to the trail. I veered left to join the nighthawk trail, whose starting point is officially Hilltop park a few hundred yards away.
Nighthawk trail is wide rocky and provides very little shade. It joins little Black mountain loop after a span, and eventually leads to a a very large and deep set dirt road that circles the mountain to its peak.
I came across 3 other hikers and a trail runner, but for the most part, found myself alone, a state I generally prefer. At the top of the mountain are some graffitied concrete blocks and an array of rusted satellite dishes and microwave emitters.
Much to my dismay, I was unable to find the USGS survey marker for the mountain. I searched the summit high and low, but eventually availed myself with some very scenic photos instead. I'm determined to find that marker and plan to visit the NGS website and research a little more until I can track it down.
I chose to come down the mountain via the Glider port side. A Fat and chunky trail, deeply etched by recent water erosion lowered me to the gliderport level, but, rather than continue, I decided to extend a a little further and connecred with Miners loop, trail that eventually brought me to the Black Mountain Open Space Park parking lot. Miners loop is narrow and rocky. Hugging the fledgling foothills of Black mountain the loop is full of tall chaparral that consistently shade explorers every 10 yards or so. There are also some markers with plant identifications and side trails for viewpoints dotting the trail.
Finally, toward the end of my hike, where Miners Loop begins there is a cordoned off region that can be used to get to Black Mountain mine. It's an old arsenic mine that still has a few small caves a giant concrete flute on its side.
Although all the trails are beginner-friendly, I do recommend you watch your step as many of the trails, no matter how wide, can be rocky, affording the uninitiated a sprained ankle or worse. This trail offers picturesque views of San Diego all the way to the ocean and beyond. I recommend it as a day or workout hike.
Nice hike with a few steep inclines that are rocky. Not too crowded on weekends and there is free parking and a restroom at hilltop park. The last 1/2 mile is a gravel fire road unless you take the miners loop trail around the north side to glider port. Be prepared for a steep climb if you take the northside. The view is nice if it is clear and you can run into a few snakes once the sun comes out. Trails are well marked with a few options for side tracks.
I did this hike with my family this June. we do the loop mentioned in this thread and it seemed a good choice as it took us through different terrain and offered nice views. the summit had multiple cell towers and microwave dishes. I could see the powai mountains from the top as well. we did the hike in 2.5 hours and we started 6 pm. My mom had difficulty with all the loose stone on the trail mainly while coming down. We saw some rabbits. Better to carry sufficient water for summer months.
I hate that the top is full cell phone towers, etc. But this is a nice quick hike or run that will challenge someone not used to hiking and get the blood flowing for those that do hike (especially if you run it and avoid the road). Other nice part is that you can add additional loops and time to your hike or run if you like. Wear some sun screen.