El Cajon Mountain Trail

HARD 357 reviews
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El Cajon Mountain Trail is a 11.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Lakeside, California that features a river and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
11.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3766 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

rock climbing

trail running

walking

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

washed out

1. You'll start out at the Parking lot which is .5 miles from the pit toilets and trail head. Elevation gain is 246 feet to get your legs limbered up. 2. From there you have the option to follow the road or to take the trail. If you take the road to the trail junction it's .4 mile with an elevation gain of 268 feet. 3. If you take the trail to the junction with the road it's .5 mile with an elevation gain of 257 feet. Plenty of switch-backs with some nice views. Take the trail. 4. From trail road junction, over the next 1.4 miles, the trail/road ascends and descends with a couple of steep spots. Enjoy the views and relative ease of the hiking, this is probably the easiest part of the trail. 5. At 2.2 miles from the parking area, the trail will start a steep descent into a drainage for the surrounding peaks and will take a sharp southeasterly turn. Because the water that falls on the surrounding hills is focused into this drainage the vegetation becomes much more lush with trees and other vegetation not seen on other parts of the trail. 6. Around 2.8 miles from the parking lot, the road will begin a very steep ascent as it swings back to the east and then northeast. This is the first of the worst part of this hike. The trail gets more rugged and rutted at this point and if you aren't wearing hiking shoes or boots you may begin to wish you were. 7. As you continue to ascend you will notice another trail/road that veers off to the left. Going back to paragraph 5, if you look left and up-slope you can see this trail slashing across the mountain. You can continue on the trail ahead or take this alternate route. If you go left it is slightly shorter but considerably steeper. I've gone both ways, and staying to the right is probably the better way. As you ascend, the views become more and more spectacular. On a good day you can see all the way to the ocean. 8. As you continue you will come to a stop sign with a notice that tells you it will take 1.5 hours to return to the parking lot from this point and that if it's past 12:30 pm you should not attempt to reach the El Cajon mountain summit. In winter, they close and lock the gates to the parking lot at 4:30 pm, so if you are parked in the lot, plan accordingly. The point here is know your limitations! 9. From the stop sign, over the next .6 mile, you will climb 467 feet to a saddle between a large peak on your left and a smaller one on your right. From there you will drop 290 feet over the next half mile or so, until you start the climb to the next saddle. This section of the trail is steep, rutted and in some places partly washed out and it doesn't improve much the rest of the way. You may find yourself wondering if you've gone astray, because the trail seems to be going north away from where you want to be. But stay steady, the trail is taking you around, rather than over the peak to your right at the saddle. 10. As you continue, you will find yourself climbing again to another saddle where you will come to a three way junction. Over that .8 mile stretch, you will gain 642 feet, so if you thought the other side of the mountain was tough, this is tougher. But congratulations, you're almost there. Stop and check out the old jeep hulk as you go. 11. The saddle is a good place to take a break, load some calories and steel your nerves for the final push. When you are ready, you'll take the trail to your left (due east). At this point, you will begin bushwhacking, there are only a couple of trail markers to be seen, but if you pay attention, the trail isn't that hard to follow. Over the next .6 miles to the summit, you'll gain another 424 feet. Once at the summit you'll find that the view and sense of accomplishment make the hike worthwhile. Don't try this hike unless you are in relatively good shape. As many people have already said, bring plenty of water, food and good footwear.

hiking
3 days ago

trail running
3 days ago

hiking
3 days ago

Definitely start early, like 6-7am. You might even be above the clouds for part of the hike. Don't psych yourself out with the mile markers, but be humble and know when to stop. It's an up and down hike that is hard on the feet. Once you get to the top, you still have a deceivingly long climb to the summit, but find some shade up there and relax. Like everyone says, you can't have enough water.

hiking
7 days ago

Hiked over memorial day, was a great hike, that challenges your stamina. Its a long one with a lot of elevation gain. Its going to get hot over the summer as it was already getting pretty hot while we hiked. Trail is in fair condition, as you get higher up it breaks down a bit but very well marked. If you're ready for the challenge, go for it, don't forget to bring extra water and some food.

8 days ago

We did this hike on 6/12/17 and it was about 78 degrees and breezy. I have done longer hikes before but I definitely think the elevation changes made this one a challenge. It was pretty much uphill or downhill the whole time without much flat ground. I think this would be doable for anyone in good shape if the weather is decent and you are prepared with water, snacks, and good shoes. I went with running shoes and did okay but it was quite slippery at times so I agree with other comments that hiking boots and maybe even hiking sticks could help. The path was very well marked which I appreciated. The views were very pretty. We finished the round trip in a little under 6 hours including breaks.

10 days ago

11 days ago

11 days ago

hiking
11 days ago

13 days ago

Fun hike, a lot of steep ups and downs. You're going to need a lot of water. And watch out for the poison oak for the first mile that would make you hike unpleasant. There was a lot of wind for our journey up.

16 days ago

Hiked up 3 miles today and it was toughest hike ever but well worth the views. Please bring plenty of water which I didn't and had to be rescued from 3 nice individuals and rangers, I definitely learned my lesson today. That's my word of advice. Water , Water

hiking
18 days ago

18 days ago

21 days ago

Difficult, but worth it!

hiking
23 days ago

This is a fantastic hike with spectacular scenes probably not suitable for the beginners. We started at 5:00 am took us 2hr10min to reach the top, about 10min on the top and ~4.5hr round trip. We did it too fast though. It has steep hills (42% grade) mainly start at the beginning of the 3rd mile. The last 1000ft of the hike is also challenging, there is almost no trail just make sure to follow the green signs. On mile 3.25 there is a fork, I suggest to continue on the main trail as the alternative one is a notch shorter but even steeper. We took it on the way down and paid a toll on our knees. Enjoy the ocean view at 3700ft!

hiking
29 days ago

Great hike with gorgeous views of San Diego County. However, it was the hardest hike in San Diego County. But it was well worth it. It took us 6 1/2 hours of hiking, then we spent another 1/2 hour at the top. Highly recommend.

29 days ago

Hard hike to summit not for beginner's!!

hiking
1 month ago

1 month ago