Explore San Diego Trails to Try - 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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We did an 6am morning hike and it was perfect not too many people going up or coming down.

Was a good hike, surprised how fast it went at a waking pace.

hiking
3 days ago

Nice trail with a gradual climb for about the first half of the hike up then switch backs finish to the peak give a paced workout to the summit. Well groomed trail and fantastic panoramic views at the top with picnic tables and perch points let you celebrate the trek up Iron Mountain. I didn’t bring or need walking sticks as the trail rocks are easily maneuvered.

I hiked this trail on a Sunday. The parking lot at the trail head was full. The only downside about this trail is that almost everybody starts and finishes at the main entrance and there is one path shared for hiking up and down so the traffic got pretty heavy at times and we were paced by the number of people (and their dogs). I like when there is some dispersion of hikers and trail options that let me hike at my own pace. I love people and I love dogs, I’m not complaining about that, I’m just pointing out that there was traffic on the trail. Maybe a weekday hike would be a quicker pace for this trail. 4 stars, I will hike this trail again!

hiking
4 days ago

Trail is EXTREMELY crowded on the weekend (even at 7 AM).
Overlooks urban sprawl.
Peak is dominated by an ugly transmission tower.
I think one star is generous.

Fun hike for any ages.

A really nice, easy urban-ish walk. Takes you through some of San Diego’s old neighborhoods and canyons. Ends with a stroll through Balboa Park. Nice for a hot Santa Ana day with plenty of availability for shade depending on what side of the street you choose to walk on!

Excellent

I am a recreational day hiker and this is one of the prettiest hikes I have ever been on. The views going up the last mile are just outstanding.

Been hiking Cowles since 1986

Went at night, the hike had awesome views of San Diego, including downtown. The trail was wide, in most parts with lots of switchbacks and fun, rocky terrain. Great hike overall!

If you are new to San Diego, it's a great way to get the lay of the land. Expect crowds and in our case, some unusual people hiking with Bluetooth speakers playing rap music for all to hear. Other than that, great views ranging from the ocean, downtown, East County, Mexico, San Jacinto Mountain near Palm Springs and even the San Bernardino mountains way off in the distance. Enjoy!

hiking
13 days ago

My favorite part about this hike is at the top it has a map telling you what landmarks are in each direction and you can see Mexico!

Beautiful views going up! Very crowded, but everyone is very nice and polite! :) There are a few people that forget their dog-potty bags sadly.
The views and trails are worth the crowds, a must do trail!

hiking
23 days ago

I love how the trail offers breaks just at the right time to be able to stay in motion.

Fun afternoon hike

We wanted to get out of downtown to get a short hike and Cowles Mountain did fit the bill. This trail is less than 1/2 hour away from downtown in the approximately 7,000-acre Mission Trails Regional Park. This is an easy to moderate trail and family friendly. The trail is very open with no cloud cover and is pretty dusty. It is also quit busy. As the park is in the rural San Diego area you never quite feel that you are in the wild. Great 360 views from the top. Add a couple of side hikes to increase the miles and visit the very nice visitor center in the park. If we had more time, we would have driven further out of town to experience the SoCal back country, but is was good for what it is billed. A couple of good park rules that I appreciated. No external music is allowed and no radio controlled devices. This means that someone is not allowed to pull out their drone at the top. This seems to be a very annoying trend even on back country hikes.

it was a decent walk.

hiking
1 month ago

Hike was fun and enjoyable. Views of large rocky hills go on for miles on all sides. Signage was good. Went on a sunday afternoon so it was decently crowded but not too bad - still quiet. A lot of turns keep you winding around the hills. Watch your step - almost stepped on a rattlesnake out bathing himself :)

beautiful and clean trail

I will forever have a special place in my heart for this mountain. In April of 2018 I started my new journey to lose weight. I am so proud to say by July 2018 I had lost 40lbs. I hiked and still hike Cowles 2-3 time a week and that was it. This hike is great for beginners and experienced hikers. Don’t give up in the hard areas you can do it! The view is worth it. I like to cut from the front trail to the back trail at the top for a nice steep incline at the top. Have fun!

hiking
1 month ago

14OCT2018- 65 to 68 degree(F) Good hike. A lot of view going up and down.. too cloudy when we got at the top barely see any scenic view.

it was awesome

Awesome hike

Great trail for any age group and fur babies. I'm def not in shape and was fine. Rocky ground so my hiking boots helped immensely! Hiked Saturday around 530 pm and headed down as the sun was setting, perfect weather and time. Less ppl then the last time I went on a Sunday.

hiking
1 month ago

Great Hike! Walked up and ran back down. Great to see a Ranger on the trail. Great views once you reach the top! definitely coming back!

hiking
1 month ago

Uneventful and busy. If you are new to hiking its good though.

trail running
1 month ago

The good- This IS a great trail to hike and especially trail run due to a relatively moderate incline and flat stretches, and a nice 1/2 mile cool down at the end. The views are wonderful in all directions, with a wonderful spotting scope, with a mountain-identifier pointer, completed in 2017 by an Eagle Scout. The view west as you gain the mid mountain saddle is as good as it gets in central SD county; pause and enjoy because you still have half the vertical elevation ahead of you to reach the top.
The not so good- this hike has become so discovered, as so many trails have in the last decade. The long approach stinks like dog beach in OB Pee and poop from too many people not being vigilant about dog waste. I have and love my trail running dog, but c’mon people!
Verdict- go off hours, and preferably when it’s cloudy; there’s little shade,,, still beautiful and accessible.

I’m giving this a 5 because I thought it was really well marked, maintained, and quiet on a Friday morning. I took some of the side trails to keep my and my little one in the shade and keep him entertained with the water flow. This is the perfect little escape in San Diego when Julian, Romona, etc. are too far for a hike.

Great hike with beautiful views!!!

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