Cowles Mountain Trail is a 2.9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near San Diego, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
2.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
912 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

rocky

no shade

The scenic pathway up Cowles Mountain is one of the most popular trails in San Diego County. The trailhead starts in the San Carlos neighborhood on the corner of Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road and summits the highest point in the City of San Diego. Visitors will enjoy great views during the entire ascent but the summit offers 360 degree panoramic views of downtown San Diego, Mexico, North County and Orange County on a clear day.

5 minutes ago

Morning and daytime (during cooler weather) hikes here can be extremely busy! I go at night (bring head gear or hand flashlight). When using a flashlight at night please be mindful of either sticking your beam on the trail or just turn it off until they pass (some hikers prefer using the natural moonlight). Don't shine it in their eyes! It's rude and unsafe. Once at the summit, incredible views!

1 day ago

it was great hike.

hiking
2 days ago

We did an 6am morning hike and it was perfect not too many people going up or coming down.

hiking
5 days ago

hiking
5 days ago

Trail is EXTREMELY crowded on the weekend (even at 7 AM).
Overlooks urban sprawl.
Peak is dominated by an ugly transmission tower.
I think one star is generous.

9 days ago

Been hiking Cowles since 1986

hiking
13 days ago

Went at night, the hike had awesome views of San Diego, including downtown. The trail was wide, in most parts with lots of switchbacks and fun, rocky terrain. Great hike overall!

15 days ago

If you are new to San Diego, it's a great way to get the lay of the land. Expect crowds and in our case, some unusual people hiking with Bluetooth speakers playing rap music for all to hear. Other than that, great views ranging from the ocean, downtown, East County, Mexico, San Jacinto Mountain near Palm Springs and even the San Bernardino mountains way off in the distance. Enjoy!

hiking
15 days ago

My favorite part about this hike is at the top it has a map telling you what landmarks are in each direction and you can see Mexico!

22 days ago

Beautiful views going up! Very crowded, but everyone is very nice and polite! :) There are a few people that forget their dog-potty bags sadly.
The views and trails are worth the crowds, a must do trail!

hiking
28 days ago

We wanted to get out of downtown to get a short hike and Cowles Mountain did fit the bill. This trail is less than 1/2 hour away from downtown in the approximately 7,000-acre Mission Trails Regional Park. This is an easy to moderate trail and family friendly. The trail is very open with no cloud cover and is pretty dusty. It is also quit busy. As the park is in the rural San Diego area you never quite feel that you are in the wild. Great 360 views from the top. Add a couple of side hikes to increase the miles and visit the very nice visitor center in the park. If we had more time, we would have driven further out of town to experience the SoCal back country, but is was good for what it is billed. A couple of good park rules that I appreciated. No external music is allowed and no radio controlled devices. This means that someone is not allowed to pull out their drone at the top. This seems to be a very annoying trend even on back country hikes.

1 month ago

beautiful and clean trail

hiking
1 month ago

I will forever have a special place in my heart for this mountain. In April of 2018 I started my new journey to lose weight. I am so proud to say by July 2018 I had lost 40lbs. I hiked and still hike Cowles 2-3 time a week and that was it. This hike is great for beginners and experienced hikers. Don’t give up in the hard areas you can do it! The view is worth it. I like to cut from the front trail to the back trail at the top for a nice steep incline at the top. Have fun!

1 month ago

it was awesome

1 month ago

Great trail for any age group and fur babies. I'm def not in shape and was fine. Rocky ground so my hiking boots helped immensely! Hiked Saturday around 530 pm and headed down as the sun was setting, perfect weather and time. Less ppl then the last time I went on a Sunday.

hiking
1 month ago

Uneventful and busy. If you are new to hiking its good though.

trail running
1 month ago

Used to run this regularly in college, did again while visiting friends due to proximity. Perpetually busy, worn out trail. Much better options out there!

1 month ago

hiking
2 months ago

Love this hike!
Good exercise. Great View. Close to home.

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Stars only for easy hike with good payoff with a nice view of San Diego, otherwise very crowded with people with horrible trail etiquette. Speakers blasting music, trash not packed out, people not staying on trail and ruining surrounding brush.

2 months ago

The back side is more preferred. Not nearly as crowded and is more demanding.

2 months ago

Smashed this hike wearing 60lbs of body armor....it gets very crowded, get there early. It is an easy hike that would be great for a beginner who is unsure about their skill level. The views are nice from the summit and you’ll feel
Like you’ve accomplished something.

2 months ago

It was a decent hike up, but definitely super crowded. I was there by 8 & there were still a bunch of people already on the trail.

hiking
2 months ago

good trail for beginners

2 months ago

Awesome trail! Full of happy helpful folks!

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike with spectacular views of San Diego. You can also jog or run the path leading to the summit. It’s great for kids, groups, dogs and runners.

hiking
2 months ago

First time hiking this mountain while I visit SD. Not bad at all, but the haze in the sky was depressing. Maybe smoke or just pollution, but not too clear for looking into the distance. Pretty views all around otherwise and I guess not too busy for a weekday morning. Yay vacation! A good little workout just enough to get the blood pumping. More moderate than difficult that the signs advertised. More trails to check out in the area.

hiking
3 months ago

awesome trail front side I good start then move to side service road and then for extra distance use big rock,, I come here at least twice a week for cardio workout

3 months ago

Great trail, was packed by 9am. Ground was like stepping on marbles and feet went out from under me. Beautiful view all the way up

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