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Cowles Mountain from Big Rock Trail

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Mission Trails Regional Park

Cowles Mountain from Big Rock Trail is a 4.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Santee, California that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from October until June. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 4.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1,204 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

views

wildlife

rocky

scramble

Please note that there have been closures reported for this trail. Please check in advance before hiking.

hiking
no shade
3 days ago

hiking
over grown
rocky
5 days ago

The is the best way to go up Cowles. It’s less crowded then the frontal switchback route in the front of Cowles. At first you feel that your just walking behind homes and it’s doesn’t feel like much of an adventure. But be patient and keep going. You will start ascending and notice the populated noisy world disappear behind walls of brush and rock. Bring water and your hiking stick.

Very challenging home gets pretty tough at the end but well worth the challenge. Come early to avoid crowds

running
15 days ago

This is a challenging uphill run, if that's what you're after. I tried to maintain a marathon pace but had to stop twice for about 30 seconds each time. The trail is not very technical but is definitely slippery on the way down. You will likely have to walk some bits when the ground loosens up and the descent is steep. Overall it's a lot of fun though. I recommend it for trail runners who are looking to get some serious uphill work in. The incline is steep enough that it's possible to run without stopping. If you're not up to it now, it's a good challenge to work towards.

Trail is now open. Great spot for walking or running. Not very crowded at all.

walking
over grown
rocky
18 days ago

Enjoyable for a quick butt kicker

hiking
3 months ago

Gorgeous day for a hike - quality time outdoors. Big Rock Trail YES! Sun was out, temperature felt like 70. This trail provided ample shade. Sounds of moving water and beautiful Mountain View’s. The trail is well marked and provides some good uphills. Elevation gain 1243ft / completed 5.7miles in 2+ hrs - 24oz tailwind and 12 oz water

hiking
bugs
rocky
3 months ago

An easy start to the trail with a clearly marked pathway lead to a steep, rocky climb. Definitely wear shoes/boots with good tread because the loose rocks near the top make it very easy to slip. The trail was busy, with most people hanging out at the summit to see the view. There were some bugs at the summit, but weren’t anything to really worry about. We saw some wildlife along the way including a snake that went into the bushes as we walked by.

hiking
3 months ago

Today was way more crowded than usual but I love this hike got a good challenge and a straightforward trail.

hiking
rocky
3 months ago

We went the clockwise route (which is opposite what the map shows). With hindsight we’d go the other way, as we found it challenging with our footing getting down after we’d reached Pyles Peak (didn’t help that we brought our dog!). That said, this is still a great hike. The back route to Cowles is a burner, and very easy to navigate. The same with Pyles too. Once you reach the summit of Pyles it gets a bit confusing for maybe 0.1 miles or so, purely navigating the trail, as it isn’t clear with the naked eye that you can still continue (in fact we had a couple sat at the peak tell us there was no way through - there was; it just wasn’t hugely clear). Fairly soon after you notice a clear enough trail (still not super clear). I’d imagine had we gone the opposite way it would’ve been clearer as that trail was our starting point. Was super helpful using other user’s recordings to navigate the last 1.5 miles. Some overgrown parts there and a few cuts, but overall still a really solid hike!

hiking
no shade
3 months ago

Intense workout. It was pretty hot when I did this trail, I’d opt for a cooler day as there is min shade spots. Great hike.

hiking
rocky
4 months ago

hiking
rocky
4 months ago

Well worn trail , manzanita trees made a idyllic shade canopy , gorgeous views and friendly people

hiking
no shade
scramble
4 months ago

hiking
no shade
4 months ago

Definitely a good trail. Great views looking out to Gaslamp in San Diego and some of the mountains further out from the city. Can be steep at times, but not too difficult. Moderate is probably a fair description

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

hiking
rocky
4 months ago

Cowles mountain & Pyles peak! Great trails, hot during the afternoon.

hiking
rocky
5 months ago

hiking
rocky
5 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

Great hike. Parked near the park which lead to a better more scenic and green hike then the typical cowles mountain hike. Great views from the peak. We brought our dog and he did great on the hike setting our pace.

This is a decent hike, especially for being in the city limits. I did not see much, if any, litter or graffiti! The first 2/3 mile was walking through a fairly level well established dirt & sandy path through waist to shoulder height shrubbery. The trail then starts to gain elevation and the shrubbery turns into a Manzanita forest. After about a mile through this shaded section, you’ll come out to an opening and a wide fire or maintenance-type road. There is a sign at this junction indicating the direction of the summit (right turn towards the ascent). The fire road is 9/10 of a mile to the summit. This section is VERY steep! The true summit is on the left side of this trail. Enjoy!

hiking
no shade
rocky
5 months ago

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