Cowles Mountain Trail

MODERATE 1,211 reviews

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.

hiking
2 days ago

Saturday was a warm, sunny day. The trail was busy but it was hardly noticed among the beautiful panoramic view. It was not until I was at the Summit did I notice the people as the numerous small groups gathered to take in the view.

3 days ago

Fun hike, we really enjoyed this trail.

hiking
4 days ago

Great hike and nice trail and view at the top. Only bad part is the high amount of traffic. Best to go on a week day if possible.

5 days ago

Nice hike if you can keep going at a steady pace. Too crowded for my taste, had to stop too many times for others. Seems more like a tourist hike. Going to try again, maybe super early = less crowds?

5 days ago

It was a good hike and the trail was pretty clean, sucks when it's busy-constantly passing ppl coming back down

hiking
9 days ago

Great moderate hike up Cowles, in a rural area with urban views. Super rewarding views of San Diego County!

hiking
10 days ago

Nice trail! Crowded but great views at the top & some nice rock terrain to hike on.

11 days ago

Good hike.

hiking
11 days ago

Very little experience. 1:30 roundtrip. Seen 3 year olds & 65+ year olds on it. Nice brief trail, tougher going up of course.

trail running
12 days ago

If your'e from San Diego, Cowles is where you go after work to get out into nature without having to drive far. Front side is extremely crowded especially on the weekend! Lots of kids, dogs, and people not paying attention so be aware of who is around you. Great trail fun to run or just enjoy the views :)

hiking
13 days ago

I love doing this hike but ONLY at off peak times. Good workout but not too long or tough and dogs are allowed on leash. Warning: it can get extremely crowded and has a tiny parking lot at the trailhead. Street parking is available but you may have to walk as much as a half mile up the road due to crowds. You will never be alone on this hike. Even at 5am the trail will have people on it. The hike is totally exposed but has a great view at the end. IMO the best views in Mission Trails are at the top of Cowles.

hiking
13 days ago

busy but worth it

hiking
16 days ago

The views were amazing! While we were there, it wasn't completely clear in the distance, I would love to go back when it is. It is a challenging hike. The whole trail was rocky and it was steep at a lot of spots while walking up. There was a lot of traffic with everyone going at different paces so be patient! And it was hot! Be prepared for no shade, wear your sunscreen and hats!

16 days ago

Very popular hike. There was tons of people. The trail is very rocky, more towards the bottom. The higher you go the less rocky it is. I liked it because I was able to bring my dog but didn’t like how busy it was because it made the hike less enjoyable. But the views were pretty. It was a good hike to do only once just to say I did it. Nothing too special.

trail running
17 days ago

Hiked first time then ran 2nd time. Awesome both times!! Try to get there before 730, by 630 you can see sunrise. Finished under 1 hour, amazing views of San Diego and Mexico on a clear day.

17 days ago

Not very challenging, although the best "bang for your buck" if you want a great view without spending too much time getting to the top

18 days ago

Crowded. No shade.

hiking
19 days ago

Good trail, a bit Rocky, but way too crowded. If you want to challenge yourself, continue on to Pyles Peak, adds another four miles for a total of 7.5 miles.

hiking
19 days ago

Was good, but too crowded now.

rock climbing
21 days ago

It was so challenging. It’s very uphill & the sun is directly next to you the whole time. Most likely wouldn’t do it again !!!!

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