First of all, it was great. So many vista points, every ten minutes there was a very welcoming boulder to sit on top and enjoy the views below.
It took us 6 hours total. About 3.5 hours up, chill at the summit, and about 2 hours down.
The day was sunny and clear, about 80 degrees. We drank about 1.5 liters each, although we had a lot more.
I wish we had trekking poles, that would make the descent faster and easier (contrary to the reviews I found out that the way back is more of a descent, like 2/3 of it.) I also wish we had eaten well before driving out, since that took us time - we found ourselves out of fuel, so to speak, while we still had 2-3 miles to walk.
The last part, from the junction before the trails to the summits, was the most difficult part. I got an adrenaline rush from seeing the summit "so close" and pushed hard, and the ascent is no piece of cake, you have to maneuver around the boulders and climb up using your arms for support with every push.
There were a couple of empty water bottles and candy wraps along the trail, which was ridiculous to me, have never seen that anywhere else.
The trail, however, is clearly marked and really well taken care of.
If you are into hiking as a process, this is a trail for you. If you are into hiking for the "epic views" and hate the constant ups and downs that are over 45 degree angle - you won't enjoy it that much, will be more of a grind.
Wear sunscreen and shoes with good traction. And bring a snack.
Oh, and absolutely no mountain biking after mile 3, don't know why the trail is marked as such.

Well maintained easy to follow trail

Bring water at LEAST 3 liters we needed it
My legs/knees were killing me on the way down so if you have trekking poles could be very useful

Took us about 6 hours round trip and we started at 8:30am with small breaks on the way up and down

Saw a lot of travelers and trail runners!
Highly recommend a lot of fun just VERY steep and the the stretch before the summit is a lot of rocks and climbing so make sure you strap your water bottle in your pack tight!
I recommend bringing a hat and sunglasses and definitely some sunscreen
I would say it the hardest part is the very steep climb about 1/3 your energy going back is no cake walk

5 days ago

Second time up this bad boy. one of my favorites because of the challenge. it's like Mount Gower on steroids in that there's lots of ups and downs with scrambling at the very end.

Got there at 6:32 a.m. I parked along the road. There will be plenty of other cars doing the same before 8 am.

Took me 2:06 to summit from the car, 1:47 from the official trailhead (the marker that starts at mile 1). Came back down in 1:35 (summit to trailhead) and 1:58 (summit to car). I run and hike regularly and only stopped to drink water 5 times.

I think of this hike as two separate hikes. This trail ascends and descends (although from the bigger picture, it's generally ascending), but you won't really feel that way as you're on this hike. keep in mind that when you're going down, you'll be going up on the way back to your car.

As such, here's my advice:

- 3 liters of water. better to have too much than not enough

- don't hike this one if it's supposed to be a hot day. there's very little shade and the mountain heats up quickly.

- start early. the lower the sun, the better it will be for you. take sunglasses either way because much of the journey will have you facing East and the sun will be in your face for a good portion of the hike to the summit

- wear shoes with traction. there's a lot of steep washed out/ sandy/ rocky terrain. the more grip your shoes have, the better.

- don't use all your energy on the way up to the summit. eat and rehydrate! remember, coming back is just as tough as getting there. make sure you save enough water for the trip back.

Very good and lightly-traveled trail. Started at 8am, and did not see anyone until I got to the top and started having my lunch there. Excellent views! It took 2:45 hr to get to the top (including a side trip to El Capitan) and 2:15 hr to get down.

Enjoy! Totally worth it.

take more more water than you think you will need. It is a "thirsty" trail. Have extra water in your car for when you get back.
Parking lot opens at 8 am, the trail closes at 5pm, or 5:30 pm, depending on where the sign is posted.

Cool trail. Not for everyone, might be difficult for some people.

Coming from out of state, I had no idea what to expect from this trail. On a difficulty level, it did not disappoint! The views were amazing! My only regret, that I did not start earlier. It was February when I hiked/ran this trail. I didn’t get to start until 1:30 in the afternoon. With the gates closing at 5:00, I had to turn around at the 4 mile mark. There are steep ascents. The climbs are on rock with lots of loose sand covering so be careful with footing. I consider myself an experienced trail runner and this trail challenged me all the way. I will be back to conquer this one.

Definitely a challenge!

This is a great Hike with many views. Climbs are steep. Especially before summit

19 days ago

My favorite hike by San Diego by far... I would go every other weekend and power through this trail in 4 hours (total distance is 12 miles, not 11). Take note that this trail has many accents and descents. Your body and legs will never get used to one - account for the return trip because you have to do the opposite. Take plenty of water with you or don't go on a hot day. The last half mile is a loosey-goosey trek to the top. There is not necessarily one right way to go up. This trail is a joy to hike, but not necessarily hard unless it is hotter than 95F.

Wow it was tough
And thank all you guys for the tips
We enjoy it today lots up hill u need to be some kind of experience Hiking
Nice trail well maintained

Hiked this trail a few months ago. Great trail if you’re looking for a challenge. The up and downs make the way back just as difficult as the way up. Awesome views at the top!

This visiting Floridian who doesn't hike much enjoyed this challenging hike. Yesterday when I hiked it was sunny and the temp got up to 80. So, bring lots of water. I took 3 very needed liters.

My hiking boots have very good traction so footing wasn't an issue.

Since I'm probably older than 95% of the hikers, treking poles were extremely beneficial.

On the return, I stopped for a water break at the metal bench. It felt so good. The bench back made for a pleasant stop. Looking out, I thought I had just one ridge line to cross over before getting back to my car. Ha Ha. There were three ridge lines to cross.

P.S. I met a couple of trail runners on the way up and back. Just unbelievable.

Hiked this monster yesterday and this trail got my attention BIG TIME. After reading all the previous reviews we (a crew of three hiking ladies) were quite apprehensive...were we ready...will we make it? etc.
We felt prepared. We even bought ourselves trekking poles which, by the way, saved our bacon and I highly recommend for this trail.

The trail starts off being somewhat tame raising our confidence. In fact, it only gets really gnarly about 1/3 mile from the summit. At this point the trail basically disappears but there are green posts indicating the direction and sorta showing you which bolder you have to scramble over or which boulders you need to somehow squeeze between. Well we made it to the top but that last part was not fun. If and when I ever hike this again, I will pass on this last part of the trail and go check out the south face which is supposed to be just like the one in Yosemite (but smaller).

The way back was almost worst. Since we were tired (6 miles already”) it just seems tough. Every time we came upon yet another uphill portion of the hike, we would think “this must be the last one...” but NO. Even though we made better time going back (4 hours in but we were taking our time, and 3.5 back but we were worried about getting locked into the parking lot) it is just as hard.

So here are some recommendations:
1. Do not go on a hot day.
2. Take more water than you think you will need.
3. Trekking poles really help a lot.
4. Give yourself plenty of time.


1 month ago

If hiking was a course in high school, every other SD hike I've done would be a quiz and El Cajon Mountain would be the final exam.

If you've hiked all over SD, then you'll understand the comparisons below:

1) you get the ups and downs that you find at Mount Gower.

2) the scrambling at the last half mile to the summit is like Lawson Peak and Gower except it's marked WAY better (there are green sticks indicating the "correct" path).

3) the steepness is like Mount Mcginty, but you'll get teased as there are several descents in between the inclines.

4) make sure you have shoes with great traction. the terrain is dry and sandy/gravel-y in a lot of the steep spots.

5) take a lot of water/snacks/Gatorade. this hike doesn't have a ton of shade and you'll be on this mountain for at least 4 hours if not longer.

overall, the hike is mostly a long dirt/ rocky trail that has enough ups and downs to not be boring. the scrambling at the very end was the best part. the end of the trail takes you to the "face" of the mountain.

wouldn't recommend this hike for beginners. i would recommend you start this hike no later than 7 am in cool weather. If you go before dawn, there are spiders around the bushes that might get in your face in the first part of the hike with the switchbacks so just be aware.

Great hike - rugged but, worth the effort!

1 month ago

Definitely not a hike for novices! Poles are a help, especially on the steep sections, both up and down. Those final couple of climbs on the way back to the car seem endless, but a great sense of accomplishment when you finish. Like everyone says, bring plenty of water!!

Started at 6:40 from the road and made it to the summit slightly under 3 hours. Enjoyed the views and ate lunch. Hiked down and over to the El Capitan lookout before heading down. Took 3 hours to get down and in the car by 1:30. Great hike but bring a lot of water. Drank almost 3 liters.

This Hike is said to be the hardest hike in San Diego. Personally it's my favorite because of the different terrain (all San Diego hikes into one place). We had walked the entire trail which had taken us 8 hours to complete including breaks (4 hours up & 3 1/2 hours down). People had posted different distances for this hike ranging between (11.1-12 miles) but on the way up you'll pass two "5 mile markers" then no more number markers at the peak. Parking is open 8am-5pm. You can also park on the main street if you aren't sure how long you'll take. I have an actual video on YouTube showing the different terrain and markers on the way up. There is a sign before you enter that says you need at least like 6 1/2* bottles worth of water (little more than 2L) I forgot but you'll see the sign. Other than that, enjoy your hike and remember there's no Uber to pick you up from up top!

1 month ago

Hiked this yesterday with a group of friends (1/7/18). I would not recommend this for beginners, definitely a challenge. Lots of going up and down, it gets very steep at the top. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Start early to give yourself plenty of time to take breaks if you need them. I don’t think I could hike this during the warmer months. Yesterday was perfect! The breeze at the top felt nice and the view was worth it.

It’s hard for sure, but don’t get discouraged for that, take your time and pace, take a break when tire and admire the views, take your mind off the steep hills and you’ll enjoy it!! I recommend go early before sunrise although the parking is open by 8 but you could park by the street. Bring water, gatorade and some snacks and Enjoy!

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