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East of San Diego, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park offers respite from the dry Southern California landscape. The park’s 24,700 acres of oak and conifer forests and expansive meadows are broken by running streams. Located in the Peninsular Range of mountains, Cuyamaca Peak, at 6,512 feet, is the second highest point in San Diego County. From the peak, visitors can see Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to the east or the Pacific coastline to the west. Over half of the park's acreage is designated as state wilderness. The two family camps, Paso Picacho and Green Valley, are open and on the reservation system spring through fall. Green Valley sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet and has a creek which runs through the middle of the campground. The day-use area offers sets of cascades and shallow pools, great for water play on hot days. Green Valley has 74 campsites. Paso Picacho, 5 miles north, sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet. The most popular hikes start from this camp, including the 2 mile hike up Stonewall Peak (elevation 5,700 feet), and the 3.5 mile hike up Cuyamaca Peak (elevation 6,512 feet), both which offer breathtaking views of the deserts to the east, the coast to the west, and Lake Cuyamaca at the bottom. Lake Cuyamaca, operated by the Helix Water District, is two miles north of Paso Picacho and offers boating and fishing. Paso Picacho campground has 85 campsites. Day-use visitors may use the picnic areas provided at the campgrounds for $8 per vehicle. The receipt is good for the entire park for the day. The picnic areas offer tables, restrooms, and barbeques. Visitors may also park in legal turnouts along the highway and hike for free. Fire is not allowed anywhere except in the developed picnic areas and campgrounds. The beautiful park offers camping and hiking in an oak woodland forest, with a sprinkling of pines and lovely meadows with creeks. There are over 100 miles of trails which accommodate hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The Day Use Annual Pass is accepted at this park. The park is open from sunrise to sunset. Dogs on a leash are allowed on the Cuyamaca Peak Fire Road. Dogs are allowed in picnic areas and in the campgrounds (except the primitive trail camps), but they are not allowed on trails or in park buildings.

Perhaps my favorite hike in San Diego. Challenging, especially the steep grade of the service road, and great views from the summit. Grab a map from the ranger if you’re not very familiar with this area, I had a little trouble finding my way around the loop to the summit the first time I did this hike.

This hike was okay. The views from the peak were nice but the trail itself wasn't very pretty. Lots of overgrowth. Steady climb the whole way, nothing very steep and few flat parts. Thought we would escape the heat but it wasn't the case. Very little shade but nice breeze towards the top. Not a hike we would do again and again.

hard walk, dont try this trail un the Summer, no river, no waterfall

hiking
13 days ago

nice easy hike. At the end of the hike there's huge rocks and boulders you can navigate through to take in the beautiful views that stonewall peak has to offer.

hiking
25 days ago

I went on an extremely hot day and didn't get started until 10 AM, which was not wise. There's pretty good morning shade on the way up, though. I didn't see any rattlers but a group coming down on my way up mentioned that they did.

Trail is very well maintained and easy to follow for the most part, although there are a couple of options for the last 0.2 mi before reaching the stairs to the top. Five stars are for the summit, which is excellent for the effort. The back half of the loop did not impress me as much. Lots of shrubs, fewer views, lots of dead stuff from the Cedar Fire, and the last mile is pretty close to the road. This part looks like lots of other parts of Cuyamaca Rancho SP, in other words. Parts of the trail are a little rougher than the trail up, but still pretty easy.

hiking
28 days ago

Very easy trial. Small incline at the beginning-maybe a tenth of a mile and that’s about it. Lots of switchbacks and the views all the way to the top were amazing. Loved the stairs leading to the summit. However huge infestation of termites at the summit. So definitely didn’t hang out at the summit for too long. They flew and landed all over my friend. The views at the summit are definitely worth it. It was beautiful. We went early enough we didn’t see any snakes at all but we were definitely definitely wary and watching out for them. Definitely do this hike. You won’t be disappointed.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice trail uphill, then levels off to grassy meadows. Saw wild turkeys and many other birds. Many burned out trees.

Good trail did the complete Harvey Moore trail , the back side was not fun (overgrown and doesn’t look like it has seen much traffic lately) mileage was my GPS clocked the whole thing at 11.3

Great little hike. Plenty of shade in the am hours. At the peak monument there is a huge infestation of termites, pretty gross!

Beautiful trail, recommend following the guidance here up Azalea to the right then down the paved road on the way back (not fun for the feet though).

Note: the entrance to Conejos is very difficult to spot, the trail sign is hidden if you’re travelling from Azalea. Also, bring lots of water and sunscreen. Park patches, cool gifts, and wildlife display at Cuyamaca Rancho visitor’s center before you get to the campground- worth a stop Sat and Sun 1000 to 1600. Recommended soundtrack for the drive: Tin Hat Trio: The Rodeo Eroded.

Great hike! Moderate difficulty, well-maintained path and lovely views from the top.

One of my favorite hikes! Trail is well maintained scenery is beautiful and breathtaking views throughout the hike.

Lovely trail. Wear long pants, lots of poison oak out there. Bring lots of water especially if it’s hot, most parts no shade.

Breath taking trail. The trail has a very sad slow rate of forest regeneration, which prompted a reforestation project to replant using donations. It breaks my heart when I saw such magnificent pines burnt to the core. Quick history: The fire took place in 2003, when a lost hunter lit a signal fire hoping to be found. That signal burned out of control and became the biggest wildfire in California's history, burning more than 300,000 acres, killed 15 people and burned 2400 homes.

Great trail I love it

The last part of the trail really difficult. I recommend it just for Strong Guys;)

hiking
2 months ago

Pretty cool and easy hike if you want to take your kiddos. The down side about this hike is that you can’t take your dog. Also, watch your step because I came across with two rattle snakes on my way up.

Beautiful hike. But... tons of horse manure and as mentioned in other reviews ticks aplenty.

great hike, even with my 4 and 6yo. switchbacks make the ascent easy and the views are spectacular. watch out for rattlers!

Excellent trail, love the view

Parking fee is $10

The directions from here mapped me to the adjacent road into a small residential area. Multiple attempts to map takes me all different places. Look for the school on Viejas rd. On the map its labeled on Merigan Fire Rd. That's where the parking lot and trail head is.

The fire road has some nice inclines and practically no shade, might be bad to come here in the dead heat of summer. Sweetwater trail is narrow and not extremely well maintained, it is itchy to hike in shorts for this portion. Took a right on falls fire road towards green valley falls for the awesome swim spot. Road only adds 2 miles to the loop
Totally worth it!

Nice memorial day hike!

on Oakzanita Peak Trail

hiking
2 months ago

Overall the trail was nice and just about moderate.
However, today (May 28 2018) there were millions of bugs around. Great views from the peak!
Took me about 2 hours out & back.

FYI. As of today 5/27, getting to the trailhead on the opposite side of the 79 required splashing through a flooded creek bed. Wasn’t in the mood to slosh through knee high stagnant water and squish 7 miles out in wet socks so I parked 2 miles north and picked up the West trail when it connected with the fire road.

hiking
2 months ago

Used this trail to head up to the airplane monument. Only ran into one other person the entire route. Super peaceful.

Great Easy-Medium hike for most. Completed the 5.4 mile trek this morning starting at 0600-ish. Did not see a soul on full hike. About Hike: $10.00 parking, self pay & park if you go early. Initial incline at start is a good breather, short lived, then easy-peasy switchbacks to peak. Love the view, trail is great, but narrow, will not go during peak hiking crowds, I amagine the stop and go, give way, and Good mornings..will become tiresome possibly. Intend to hike next time pre sunrise with head lamp to scare myself with the epic creepy dead trees and (I bet) shadows...Boo! Back side mountain return is a must for joggers to not worry about front-end congestion. Although drive not fun to get there, well worth the hike..Will go again and again

Great forest hike. Nice weather with a cool breeze! Park at the campground and pay the $10 parking fee. The azalea glen trail is south of the parking lot. Flat and gradual incline at the beginning. Steep as you reach the peak.

I really loved this hike and had no idea it was across the street from Paso Picacho! It’s definitely a new favorite in the area. Lots of blooms and taller vegetation even though this hasn’t been the wettest spring. My only WARNING is that I do not think this hike is entirely kid friendly. The hike itself is doable and well kept, but the top even with the rails would have made me very nervous if I had brought my wild 6 year old with me. There are huge gaps between the rocks and rails and if you have a clumsy or defiant or careless child (which describes many children), they could easily fall from a great height. I don’t consider myself a helicopter parent and have no problem with taking some risks with children, but take a good look at the pictures of the top before you take your kids. I would, however, take my cautious 9 year old who I’m sure would absolutely love it. The top is quite breathtaking and I plan to go back often! But consider carefully what your children are capable of before you bring them!

trail running
3 months ago

Did the first 2.5 miles out and back for a trail run and it was amazing. The wildlife was great with tons of lizards and hares that ran in front of you down the trail. Weather was perfect but I could see this being very hot during the middle of summer.

Love it!! Perfect for a birthday hike with friends!!

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