Explore the most popular trails in El Capitan County Preserve with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

hiking
closed
no shade
2 days ago

Signs at the trailhead say they close it for the month of August for extreme heat, will reopen sept 1. We were dummies and did it anyway. 95 degree day, barely brought enough water even though we thought we’d have plenty. We had a late start to the day and didn’t start until 12:30. There was zero shade on the way up but by the time we were descending there was much more shade. In the summer the gate closed at 7pm. It’s a HARD trail due to the gain, but doable if you’re in good shape. El Cajon summit was pretty spectacular. I’d say bring a pack with snacks, sunscreen, and literally as much water as is possible for you to carry- you’ll be glad you did. At the summit there are trail markers every few meters to make sure you stay on the trail to get to the peak. We had no problem getting the last quarter mile to find it, glad we did!

hiking
no shade
rocky
washed out
5 days ago

Preparing for Whitney in September so did both El Cajon and El Capitan peaks for the second time in three weeks. Great training hike but carry plenty of water and leave early to eat the heat. After around 10:00 am when the sun is high there is almost no shade to take breaks.

hiking
27 days ago

Started at 5 am and made it to the 5 mile marker at 8 am. It took everything I had to get to that point. So I didn’t make it to the top. Waited for my friends to come down. Between 2 & 3 mile marker had a mountain lion growl at me. I talked to rangers and they said yes there is a fat female in the area. I never saw her. It got really warm coming back and went through 3 liters. Next time I will make it up.

I give it 4 stars but dunno if I’d do again. I did both El Capitan and El Cajon today in same hike. I wish I had gone to the end of the southern trail so I didn’t have a reason to go back. I hated the constant up then down. It made it harder to look up every once in awhile and enjoy the majesty of where I was and that’s half the reason i hike. The other half is the challenge and exercise n you will get plenty of that. El Capitan had a great view but Cajon was better. I went through almost 5 liters on a near 90 degree day but I weigh 220 so make sure u r prepared. Trail was easy to follow till ascending Cajon. But there where markers that I just missed. Some people I passed on way up said they started at 4am. Enjoy n go before 10am for sure.

hiking
1 month ago

I give it 4 stars but dunno if I’d do again. I did both El Capitan and El Cajon today in same hike. I wish I had gone to the end of the southern trail so I didn’t have a reason to go back. I hated the constant up then down. It made it harder to look up every once in awhile and enjoy the majesty of where I was and that’s half the reason i hike. The other half is the challenge and exercise n you will get plenty of that. El Capitan had a great view but Cajon was better. I went through almost 5 liters on a near 90 degree day but I weigh 220 so make sure u r prepared. Trail was easy to follow till ascending Cajon. But there where markers that I just missed. Some people I passed on way up said they started at 4am. Enjoy n go before 10am for sure.

Nice trail, good training hike but there are a lot of bugs. Bees and biting flies along most of the trail. I did it on a very hot day but recommend bringing more water than usual.

Took about 5 and a half hours including the rest time at the summit. Amazing views and a really great workout. Wouldn’t recommend for a beginner but it’s a great hike to work your way up to. 5th time doing it and I still feel my legs sore a few days after the hike.

Bring plenty of water and start as early as possible! I started this hike at 7am and I believe starting at this time helped with completing the hike due to the marine layer for a few hours. It was a great workout!

This is a hard hike but totally worth it. Bring plenty of water and make sure your pup stays hydrated. We went through 8 liters of water and would ha e used more if we had it. This is not a trail for beginners. Based on my Fitbit my actual distance was 14 ish miles with 400 flights of climb. It’s uphill both ways. Great hike

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

My mom and I went hiking up the mountain!! It was really great and pretty!! We got very good pictures. Well, for our first time doing it took 5 hours and 22 minutes!! But, it was very steep!!!! Now it is very worth it!!!

Training for Whitney and this didn’t disappoint. Also bonus there are still so many wildflowers! Wasn’t too hot either. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Follow the green markers to stay on the trail the last push to the top of El Cajon. PSA-it’s not ok to leave your trash- toilet paper, water bottles, food scraps and wrappers, doggie water bowls- on the trail. No one should have to clean up after anyone but themselves.

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

Be prepared when you hike this trail... that means you should have 5-6 liters of water... today I had to give the last of my water to someone cramped up and out of water... when it is hot it is far more important to be prepared...

hiking
no shade
rocky
2 months ago

If you are looking for a great workout, head over to El Cajon Mountain! Hills all the way. The trail is dog friendly, just be smart about bringing plenty of water and avoiding high-temperature days. This trail takes a good chunk of the day to complete and is not for beginners. The parking lot closes promptly every evening, so pay attention to the signs posted (times change throughout the year). I believe they close this trail completely in August due to the heat. Parking is free. If you are looking for a shorter trail nearby, Oak Oasis just across Wildcat Canyon Rd is beautiful at sunset and is fairly flat and easy.

Best hike in SD! Loved it!

Beware three (3) vehicles broken windows today Sunday 6/16/19. All three had minor items stolen. One vehicle battery stolen and they cut the cables to get it. They ended up having their vehicle towed. Worst pain appears to be the shattered windows. Vandalism and thievery at the trailhead. Sheriff was called report was made. Be sure not to leave anything in view. or anything in vehicle at all. Although this appears to have been more of a malicious vandalism incident.

hiking
2 months ago

Hot one out there today. Met several folks who had stopped in the shade (precious little of THAT on this trail) for water and rest. The bugs were also a little more numerous today. On the good side, the wildflowers were still blooming quite nicely all along the way.

hiking
over grown
2 months ago

hiking
bugs
no shade
rocky
2 months ago

Great Hike!!! Point of reference, found it harder than Baldy because of the ups and downs in addition to real heat. 2.5-3L of water are a must, you will need it on the back end of the hike when the sun comes up. Start this hike early! 530am or 600am, plan is to avoid the heat! Should take 4hrs to complete at a brisk pace. The parking area opens at 7-830am depending on what website you reference. Park ON wildcat canyon road just before the parking lot. I enjoyed this hile, go for it.

hiking
bugs
no shade
2 months ago

Attempted this hike yesterday. Completely underestimated it. Came with enough water (4 liters) but that was not sufficient. Saw the park rangers rescuing two people. He was kind enough to pass us couple gallons of water. We started 7am and returned by 4pm. If you're going there in summer better be prepared

hiking
2 months ago

Good cadence of climbs and descents. Very hard/long - recommend going early in the morning.

hiking
no shade
rocky
2 months ago

Done this hike 5th time yesterday June 6. Temperature: 83 degrees in the afternoon. Started at 5:30am.. Took me 7 hrs 15 mins from the parking lot to the summit and back. I consumed 3.5 litter of water. Please bring plenty of water, better if you hike on cool day. Beautiful views.

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