Explore SDCSC18 - 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.

Awesome, Lots of great views!

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
3 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.

Beautiful hike. Difficult but worth it! Start early park closes gates strictly 5pm

Perfect to test our skills

Excellent

hiking
5 days ago

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!

hiking
15 days ago

I take the shortcut trail going up on the right (west) side, after the housing area and the large water tank. This hike is only about three miles, but is great for getting the legs, heart and lungs pumping because of steep incline.

When you need a trail to get you back into it after a 2 month summer hibernation. Off to Cuyamaca

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.

Really well-maintained trail, nice variety in pathways, and beautiful views. Go AS EARLY as you can get there to enjoy some sense of solitude and beautiful light along the way.

For runners, a great place to practice decision-making for when to walk up steeps and when to run- and as a bonus, BOMBING downhill fun all the way.

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.

Easy hike, not very taxing at all. Stellar views, nice trail, cool trees. 10/10

hiking
27 days ago

This was a great hike. Not too easy, not too hard....just right :-).
A great hike for beginners or intermediate hikers.
This is a great workout hike and could easily be done several times a week.

hiking
27 days ago

This was a great hike. Not too easy, not too hard....just right :-).
A great hike for beginners or intermediate hikers.
This is a great workout hike and could easily be done several times a week.

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

Awesome trail! Gradual incline on the switchbacks. I am fat and hate switchbacks but this was moderate and doable. Some areas are Rocky ankle twisters, also a few rock scrambles. Pay the $10 to park at the campground don't cheat it that money helps maintain the trails. Don't be a ass. Bathrooms at the campground are clean picnic tables for lunch, nice place. Julian up the road is nice stop for an ice cream reward.

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!

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