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
muddy
no shade
scramble
5 days ago

Great winter hike. I did it the day after heavy rains and the wet terrain made this hike very pleasant. I would encourage people do pick a cloudy and humid day to do this trail.

As Advertised. Hard trail lots of up-and-down’s. Also lots of fun, great work out, great news at the top.

hiking
10 days ago

Thank you to those who wrote reviews on this trail - I found them to be very helpful in my preparations. Parking didn’t seem to be an issue - gates open at 8a and close at 5p- which is made clear along the trail. There’s also street parking. There were two locations on the trail where it intersected, assuming you could go either way, I always stayed left and I was fine. Plan accordingly- I tracked my hike at 13 miles. The description of this trail is accurate with ascending and descending. I was amazed at how many ups and downs there were for both going up and returning down. I found hiking poles very helpful for those steep sections of the trail - there are several. There is no shade coverage if you’re planning to hike this trail on a warm day. As you summit, you’ll start to scramble through brush to look for your way. Look up and you’ll see the green poles that will guide you to the summit. From the top, beautiful views. I hiked this trail yesterday after the rain and I could see as far out as downtown’s skyline and the Point Loma cliffs behind. Trail wasn’t muddy and was actually easier to hike in (post rain) considering the angle of descent or ascent of the trail. I finished in five hours. Overall, awesome trail!

hiking
rocky
11 days ago

Awesome trail, beautiful views. Around 11.6 miles round trip from the parking lot. The last 1/2 mile to the summit is the most challenging part of the hike. Follow the green markers as you climb over the rocks. A little tougher with it being up and down out and back as opposed to just up going out and down coming back. Used 2L of water and ate protein bars. Parking lot closed at 5pm sharp so give yourself enough time or park on the side of the street. Took 5 1/2 hours going at an average of 29 min/mile.

Completed the trail with overcast skies and light rain showers a few times. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get back out almost took as much time down as it did up since the trail is full of multiple climbs and descents. I brought 3L and only used 2L of water but it was a very cool day and I started the hike very well hydrated. Lil to no shade if hiking during any warmer times highly recommend bringing extra water.

All inclined up and down up and down. Drained afterwards.

hiking
no shade
rocky
19 days ago

Great trail and a must do for hiking practitioners. Have good condition as it is inclined most of the trail.

hiking
rocky
washed out
24 days ago

The most challenging hike in San Diego. Do not attempt this hike if you are not fit or haven’t hiked for a while. You have been warned. Great panoramic views at the end to reward you after a gruelling hike. Will definitely go again before the summer. Took us 2.5 hours to go up and another 2 hours to go down. Happy hiking!

24 days ago

People are not kidding when they say this is a difficult trail that requires a lot of water; I turned back when I had half a mile left because I was slightly more than halfway through my water, and it was the right decision.
On the way back, I wished I had more water for the whole last 2 miles.
It also has steeper slopes (without stairs) than any other trail I've been on; I ended up with a blister on the back of one heel and narrowly avoiding one on the other because of all the ankle movement. I'd recommend either taping the backs of your heels or putting deoderant on them to avoid blisters.
All of that said, it had some great views and really cool progress signs. It is also incredibly lightly trafficked; I would go about half an hour between seeing other hikers.

This is a very strenuous hike. I would not recommend hiking alone, as someone passed away the day I hiked this trail. The views are amazing and it is very rewarding. I hiked through the Preserve and my GPS registered 14.7 miles. I used 4 liters of water and took 6.3hrs.

hiking
no shade
1 month 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.

hiking
1 month ago

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.

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!

hiking
1 month 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.

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!

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!!

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.

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.

hiking
1 month ago

This seems to be pretty much the same trail as El Cajon Mountain Trail. There's a large parking lot (beware: in the winter the gate closes promptly at 5pm) - the trail begins up the paved road and past some private residences and continues up someone's driveway (kind of weird) but it leads you to the rest of the trail.

We ended up taking a nice loop - up the trail but turning right at a fork when you get to a green sign that says "Parking Lot ->". Will definitely go back to do the full hike!

Great hike. Definitely one of the best in SD. Strenuous but absolutely doable. Did not come across any slippery or risky parts. Bring enough water.

hiking
2 months ago

Surely challenging! Even though it was hard at times, it was worth it in the end. Just make sure to come well prepared.

Very unsafe hike in my personal opinion. I am in overall good athletic shape and work out 4x a week and hike at least once per month. I’ve been wanting to do this mountain for a long time and I just don’t think it was worth it. You couldn’t possibly bring enough water up there and the sun is very hot. The slippery and rocky terrain along with the switchbacks make this hike challenging and risky. I felt that I could not enjoy the scenery, the hike or my surroundings because I was too concerned for my safety.

Well here’s one that separates the wolves from the sheep! Been wanting to do this one for a loooong time, just waiting for the right day. Nice cool temps and overcast skies really took the edge off, and after the recent rains there was no haze and stunning visibility in all directions. I could see a snow capped San Jacinto and San Gorgonio to the north. Totally amazing.

It’s as difficult as everyone says, and it really brutalizes you on the way back. But I’d say anyone could easily do this hike with a little bit of conditioning, rugged footwear, and good timing. The real difficulty level of this trek is predicated on the weather/temperature. I would definitely not mess with this one mid July.

Took me 4.5 hours, managed to get by with 2 liters of agua, though I brought 3. Took a 30 minute break on the summit to get baked and enjoy the panorama. Don’t be afraid of this hike, go do it!

Challenging, but totally manageable. Bring lots of water. I found it to be a quiet and peaceful trail, saw few others, which I love. Great views, worth the effort.

I found the ‘descent’ to be challenging in the 4-3.5 mile return section. Definitely a tough climb but wonderful views and my favorite in the SD area so far.

trail running
2 months ago

Great Hike, challenging Run. I’ve been to the top 3 times, this past weekend I opted to go straight at the 3 way intersection at the upper saddle. This brings you to an amazing lookout atop the face. Much more dramatic than the summit. Trail is washed out and difficult to stay on but there is the occasional rock cairn to show the way.

Great hike! Gets steep between miles 2-4. It can be considered a difficult hike. Bring lots of water! The summit is to the left of the sign and the trail is marked from the sign to the summit. Much harder on the way there than on the way back. Took 4hrs20mins at a moderate pace.

hiking
2 months ago

This hike is everything it’s said to be and more. This is a cardio workout to say the least. Started at 630a and completed the hike by noon. Took a 1 hour much needed break. I easily drank 3 liters of water and it was cold for most of the hike. I saw a few folks starting late...I wouldn’t advise starting the hike after 10am. Enjoy the hike

2 months ago

Great hike, views and time to think. Make sure on a warm day to take plenty of water! I’ve done this hike twice and enjoyed it both times.

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