Finally knocked this one off my list, after years of eyeing it online, the highest peak in SD. 3 of us made the trek on a Sunday morning in October, arriving a little before 9am. We all read different things about this hike, from how much you pay to what time the guard is there, to the mileage, etc. The guard was there, gave us a day pass and map for $10, I asked him where to park and where the trailhead was. We parked at the Rough Rd Campground(dirt, but should be accessible by car), and the trailhead was visible ahead on the left(there's 2 cones in front of it and a chain blocking the entrance). This hike consists primarily on a dirt fire road. I would not call it strenuous or difficult(I am an avid hiker and trail runner). But the first 2 miles were at a decent/significant incline so it took a bit to adjust to the breathing, however again this is on a dirt road, it's not technical at all. One of the most difficult parts of the trail was not getting sidetracked on one of the side trails that branch off, just stay on the main road leading upwards to the right and take your map the guard gave you. Towards the top I almost thought we weren't going the right way, since it leveled off in some areas and we weren't at an incline here and there. But eventually the Salton Sea came into view behind us, and the old tower ahead. We made the trek over to the boulders at the top where apparently the true summit is. Amazing views and scenery throughout this entire hike, cooler weather(wore shorts and brought a sweater with me). Our total mileage out and back, and starting at the campground was 11.03miles. I also saw all different mileages online.. I'm not sure where the people that get around 6miles total started from. Definitely recommend, and we only saw 2 other groups on the trail while we were out there(took us a little over 4hours, and that included hanging out at the top for a bit and exploring.
If you're looking for a beautiful hike that is challenging, with amazing views at the top - this is for you! The first two miles are extremely vertical and strenuous. We hike every weekend (including San Jacinto and Tahquitz) and we felt this was harder than both. Straight up on the way up, straight down on the way back which was hard on my feet. But - an amazing workout! The forested area was so beautiful! We saw four deer right in the middle of the path. Fall is a great time to hike here with the changing colors! Note: When you get to the old lookout tower - that's not the peak. Though it is a great place to have lunch! The peak is the higher mountain in front of the tower. You have to do some bushwacking to get there - which we thought was odd. I'm guessing a lot of people missed it thinking the tower was the peak. But hidden in the bushes we found some large boulders with a blue line hanging down from the top that you have to climb up to get to the benchmarks. Two of them are on the top of the boulder, and a third is another bolder next to it. Overall the hike was amazing - but I wouldn't call it moderate. I'd call it difficult. It was beautiful, and everything you want in a challenging hike! Almost 11 miles from the campground to the peak and back.
I'm sure that this hike has different seasonal variation, being somewhere that has seasons, and my group happened to pick a beautiful autumn day to go up here. Stopping by at the tribal gatehouse, the attendant gave us a paper map of the whole area, which has many trails and recreation areas, and the day use fee was $10. He gave us clear directions to the trailhead to Rough Road at the campground. As described in other reviews, there were a couple steep miles to grind through and then some well forested gradual up and down slopes to get to the lookout. What made it special on this trip was the autumn colors as many of the oaks were starting to turn color. The views were great. West: Palomar and Warner Springs. Northwest: Cahuilla and Thomas Mountain. North: San Gorgonio and San Jacinto. Northeast: Toro, Santa Rosa. East: Salton Sea. Southeast to South: Laguna, Stonewall, Cuyamaca, and Volcan. Southwest: Mesa Grande, Woodson and Black Mountain. After lunch at the foot of the tower, we took the pig path a few hundred feet north to the summit and scaled a boulder to the platform. There were 3 benchmarks up there and mostly the same stunning view. A hike down soon followed and we left with many delightful pictures and memories.
This is definitely one of the most beautiful hikes in San Diego. Lots of shade. Lots of forest. Easy terrain, but a good cardio workout. Gorgeous scenery and views at the top. Check the Los Coyotes Reservation website for parking details, etc.
Once again the directions to the trailhead supplied by alltrails were way off. We ended up passing the trailhead on a dirt road and getting a flat (something on the road slashed thru the sidewall). The trailhead is on the left once you enter the campground and its called "Rough Road". We just pulled off to the side for parking right in front of the trailhead gate. The first two miles are a little steep, but after that its not so bad. There are some wooded areas that offer full shade (a rarity in SD). A liitle bushwacking may be required to get to the peak, but the view is awesome. All around a great San Diego hike.
This is the tallest mountain in San Diego County. You start the hike from a campground on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. The day permit is around $15 for a couple, roughly on par with what some of the State Parks and National Forests charge. You pay at a building by a stop sign, and then drive for about 2.5 miles more down Camino San Ignacio before you reach the campground.
From the campground, the first two miles are some fairly steep switchbacks on a road wide enough for vehicles. It is completely exposed, and the slope is unrelenting. After those two miles, there are three more miles in forested areas, with well-established signs on the various paths that lead off of the "main" path. The slope tapers off considerably, but is still nearly all uphill. At the top, there are two hills, one with a fire lookout and one without. At the top, the views are amazing, although it was very windy. The hike down was much better, and although the final two miles are very steep, the footing was fine. All told, it was right at 10 miles roundtrip. It took 4 hours total, and there was no one else on the mountain.
Compared to other hikes in the area, I would rate this as good but not great. The trail itself is a dirt road as opposed to a narrow path, which has its pros and cons. The advantage is that you're not going to just happen upon a rattlesnake. The disadvantage is that it's harder to shade, and the two miles at the bottom are awfully exposed. It's nice having the area to yourself, as some trails (Mt Woodson especially) have tons of folks. The hike itself is not quite as strenuous as Mt Woodson, but is more difficult than the Conejos loop trail to the top of Cuyamaca Peak. But if you're training for something, this is a great workout. And the view at the top really is nice, with unimpeded views in 3 directions.