Cowles Mountain Trail

MODERATE 1,532 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

Simple, easy to follow trail with great views at the top.

hiking
6 days ago

Amazing view! A little crowded and dog owners need to do a better job of cleaning up after their pets!!

hiking
8 days ago

I have an 8 year old daughter who had never been hiking before. She pushed through it and was so proud of herself at the top. I think it’s the perfect challenge for kiddos around that age. Adult beginners too! The views at the top are incredible.

hiking
17 days ago

Obviously a staple in the San Diego area. This trail is easily travelled by even children around 8 to 10. You'll probably have more trouble with crowds than the trail itself. Go as early as possible to avoid congestion. Plus, early morning views from the crest are amazing.

18 days ago

Great hike, rocky, have gone with my friends, my hubby & kids (7, 11, 15) and also my mom in her 60s, go early 7 or 8, nice views, bring water and snack, can get crowded later in day. Breakfast or brunch at Trails Eatery after. Enjoy!

hiking
22 days ago

Great trail, nice hike moderately traveled. Amazing view once you get to the top! Only 4 stars because not many posted signs and there are no bathrooms and based on the number of rattle snakes I saw, you will not want to venture into the brush to go.

23 days ago

Done it many times, very nice spot; that whole Regional Park system as well!

25 days ago

Personal favorite when I visit home. Bring water as always

trail running
25 days ago

You must run this trail early in the morning. By mid to late morning, it’s extremely busy. Not too hard of a hike and the view at the top is gorgeous!

1 month ago

Cowles is a convenient, quick hike that unfortunately is a victim of its popularity. The trail itself is great, maintained well with challenging sections and plenty of areas to catch your breath. But Cowles can be extremely busy, and SO MANY hiking it have zero trail manners, which is a huge bummer. Parking can also be a chore if you arrive during busy times.

BUT, the views are great once you get to the top. Full view of every bit of San Diego and beyond. Definitely worth it.

1 month ago

Great for almost everyone (except if you have bad knees...)

1 month ago

Great view!

hiking
1 month ago

can't beat the view!!!

1 month ago

Great up hill hike... amazing views

hiking
1 month ago

Easy and short trail with nice views at the top.

hiking
1 month ago

My first West Coast hike and I enjoyed it. The day was of course hot and dry which is much different than what I'm used to in the Northeast but with enough water certainly enjoyable. The view was fantastic all the way up. Wasn't too busy late morning on a weekday. Path is dusty and firm packed but no real traction issues. Just over an hour up and back. A good way to start my vacation.

1 month ago

Crowded but enjoyed it

hiking
1 month ago

I have completed Cowles Mountain a couples time and, for a person that doesn't hike, it is a moderate hike. I don't mind the crowds that much. It is a very fun hike that usually takes me about 2 hours up and down.

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike, good amount of switchbacks but plenty of level ground to catch your breath. Would definitely rate this hike more on the easier side. Really enjoy the view once you get to the top! Would have given it 5 stars but the trail is very busy at all times of the day and the people on the trail tend to keep to themselves without a smile or "hello". We can't control the popularity of the trail, but a little smile or "hello" goes a long way to making a trail more enjoyable.

2 months ago

This was my first "hike" in San Diego. Nice incline. Fairly congested up and down. Great views throughout.

2 months ago

Beautiful scenery and trail is very clear - most climbing up steps though and is very crowded

hiking
2 months ago

2 months ago

great for Sunrise!!

hiking
2 months ago

This trail is probably the most popular and busiest trails in San Diego. It's an easy and quick hike. It's definitely more fun when you run all the way down, but this can add some pressure on your knees and ankles so be extremely careful. It provides a great workout and there's ample space at the top to stop for a drink or a quick snack just to enjoy the scenery. You will find yourself having to go around or letting people pass, making it less enjoyable.

3 months ago

Crowded, but good workout

hiking
3 months ago

Not very fun when it's busy. Too many bros with music. Nice views, but it's almost better on a full moon, hardly need flashlight then.

3 months ago

Good trail, but the pathway is not so clear all the way!

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike, brought our dog and I know he had a great time. A bit too busy for my taste but great to see more people going out to hike. Pretty steep incline, bring plenty of water!!

hiking
3 months ago

Solid hike - great incline and switchbacks. But SUPER trafficked and populated. It’s hard to break through the crowd.

hiking
3 months ago

Okay hike and, yes, heavily trafficked.
Lots of the terrain was burnt from the fire, so longs of darkened soil and lifeless plants, a bit sad.

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