Explore San Diego - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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no shade
10 hours ago

There’s a lot of misinformation on trail distance in the reviews. The trail is longer than described but not 14-15 miles. I hiked El Cajon Mtn today (second time) and my GPS read 11.8 miles round trip, which is consistent with my last trip up. Also, the total vertical gain is about 3,800 feet due to the trail dropping then gaining again and again. I’m a fan of this mighty little SoCal mountain due to its close proximity to SD and the ability it gives to train for its bigger brothers, or sisters, that lie north in the San Bernadinos and Sierras... minus the effects of altitude.

15 hours ago

Great easy and beautiful hike!

trail running
4 days ago

It’s steeper than the other peaks in Mission Regional, but with a good pace, can use it as running trail for a real good work out

Great hike, beautiful views on the way up and down. Get ready for some steep up and downs the whole way. Took 5 hours round trip, 2:45 up, 2:15 down. 2 liters of water was plenty. Would be brutal during summer, highly recommend during winter months. Peak has nice rocks to have lunch at.

7 days ago

A good hike but crowded

Perfect weather for a hike today! Glad we did it probably won’t do it again. It was on our list and happy we can cross it off. We clocked “round trip” 15 miles from parking lot to summit. Highly recommend bringing your hiking poles, softened the highs and lows of the trial. Went on forever! It was a nice hike and we had optimal weather beautiful cloud coverage with a cool breeze. Nice view, in my opinion not that great of a reward for the work you put into it. Now that was a HIKE! My toes are killing me! Glad I did it... NEXT!

way to crowded! trail is ugly

10 days ago

This trail is definitely no joke. I completed it yesterday by myself. You definitely want 3 or more liters of water and plenty of snacks, drink water before you arrive not coffee like me.. My phone tracked 12.7 miles in and out(I explored a bit at the top adding about .5 miles) it’s not the distance that was difficult for me, but rather the ups and downs on the way back my knees weren’t conditioned for as I haven’t hiked since about 6 months ago up At Yosemite. I completed it in jeans and tennis shoes and small back pack starting with a sweatshirt. A few areas on the way down I was wondering how some hiking boots would have helped soften the blow.

I arrived at 7:30 am and luckily they were opening the parking lot because the sign says 8am to 5pm. It was in the 70s during most of the hike, perfect weather. I can’t imagine doing this hike in the summer, you couldn’t bring enough water. I got back to my vehicle at about 1:10pm after spending maybe a half hour or so at the summit. On the way down I had to stop several times as my knees were cramping up. I didn’t experience any wild animals, just a few passing hikers on the way back down.

I highly recommend for the view and the challenge. Will be doing again in the future.

I’m nearly 65 years old and did this hike at a slow and steady pace with poles. Definitely doable if you hike regularly on hills and have good strong legs. I didn’t find it too bad...I was surprised. If you’re not use to hiking steep hills over long distances this hike will kick your butt at any age. The view at the top is the best...well worth it.

Love this hike. It's definitely a workout with a constant uphill path to the top, but the views are worth it. It's not too long either. The only negative is that it can get a bit crowded.

Bring lots of water. In summer, go early before it gets too hot.

12 days ago

Good hike for beginners.

This was a great hike! We started our hike at 7:45 and were the first ones on the trail and passed a total of 4 groups on our descent. The trail was easy to follow after reading the comments before. There are two different wood signs marked with C.M. if you look for them - this is what helped us stay on the right trail. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is towards the end, there is a steep rocky descent of about 10-15 yards that didn’t feel like it was part of the trail. After backtracking, as well as checking our compass and mileage, we figured it was definitely part of the trail and continued on. I would’ve hated to end our trip at this point. Even though it was a cloudy and cold day, the views at the top were spectacular. Unfortunately because of the wind, our stay at the peak was short lived. Can’t wait to get back to this one in early spring.
Total mileage was definitely closer to 8.5 rather than 6.5.

Used to hike with my mother best times of my life

Awesome trail. Very Pretty. Lots of nature . HARD . It gives you cramps in your legs. VERY HARD at the end before you got up at the top. But LOVED it !!!!!

Finished this trail today - start at Golfcrest road, at the start of the Cowles mountain trail, and then came down along the Cowles service road. Would rate the upward hike as easy-mod. Great views along the way up. The summit is worth spending some time at. Pictures may be better when it is sunnier, today it was quite cloudy so good hiking conditions, not the best photo opp. The service road trail is for biking as well. Wider, less uneven, but a little slippery going down. My knees felt the pressure towards the end of having to avoid slips. Once we got down, we walked along the paved road back to our car parked at Golfcrest, took about 20 mins for that. Overall, 2 hours of solid hiking, definitely worth a hike. Recommend going early and using 4 sets of eyes to look for parking spots!

The vistas were quite nice of the canyons and the riverbed. The walk up the north loop was steep but nicely switchbaacked. The riverbeds for dry. I agree that it is a moderate hike

Super easy nice hike. Not sure what is up with the comments about it not being a loop. Crossover at the waterfall, then back at the sign that says park crossing... easy day.

Going up was challenging but still OK. The 7 mile trip from the summit to the parking, man that was hard. Other than that it’s pretty much doable if you have experience trekking. Be safe out there!

15 days ago

It was pretty good hike not hard, there some area where you have to climb or use your hard to climb up some rocky trails but not bad at all. We started at 730am and didn’t see anybody until on our way back.

We did this trail in reverse so we would have the uphill section first. Great New Year’s Day hike! Lots of friendly people along the trail.

It’s is one of best hikes. It has beautiful views and an awesome accomplishment!! It is very hard and I suggest you train yourself well before taking this challenge!!

Solid easy peaceful walk. Lots of lovely oaks, plethora of picnic spots. Great for families. Tons of water after the recent rains. Not particularly my cup of tea but great for what it is!

This is an extremely hard trail...not just hard. There’s more than a few steep inclines and declines. At times it seems like no end! The final ascent is pretty much rock climbing for half a mile. When we went today it was cold and windy especially at the top and my hands nearly froze even with gloves. It also got kinda warm in some spots due to the fact there’s almost no shade. Nice views along the way. Definitely glad I did it, but won’t be rushing to return any time soon. Not recommended unless you enjoy climbing for hours and are an experienced hiker/runner, given this is probably one of the hardest hikes in San Diego. I’m more experienced than most and it took about 4.5hrs for total of about 11.3 miles (not the stated 10.6) at a steady rate of hike and running at some of the declines.

on Cowles Mountain Trail

19 days ago

This trail is known in the area to be a fun social trail to do with family and friends. On a very clear day you can see the full San Diego Coast line. I find my wife and I usually can move up the trail quickly and then carefully run down. There is a backside trail that is similar with less foot traffic (note it is not the truck trail). This is a popular trail so you have to slow down. If you are looking for a hard core work out and some solidarity then go away from the city.

Cool trail

Took the dogs with us on this hike. Although it was a little narrow in parts, we all enjoyed the walk and the beautiful scenery. Lots of other furry friends on the trail today!

It is an incredible experience. Well worth it. I have mixed feelings about posting this info but think I should. I did have an experience with a large cat growling and hissing at me very close to the trail. I saw him through the brush. Obviously, I plan to not hike alone again as this is my 4th encounter with a cougar. Each time is think “ what are the odds?? “The previous hiker to pass that spot had a small dog so am wondering if the cougar caught the scent and came close to the trail which I think is rare. Otherwise, it is in my top ten.. and I have hiked in the spectacular Khumbu in Nepal. Love this hike.

21 days ago

Easier than expected. Definitely suggest going clockwise, because otherwise you’d deal with a hard section going up to the South Fortuna summit. This is a pretty easy and pleasant trail!

Short not challenging

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