Nighthawk Trail Black Mountain Loop is a 5.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near San Diego, California that offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Free parking and a restroom at Hilltop Park
An average trail. Mountain bikes are allowed, and they're abundant. You have to watch your back so as not to be run over. Views at the top are nice. On a clear day you can see downtown, the ocean, and Big Bear.
Great trail. The recent rains have made the beginning of the trail, at hilltop park, a muddy mess, but hey, welcome to the great outdoors. While damp most of the rest of the way, the trail dried up considerably after the first 1/4 mile.
I hiked counter clockwise, nighthawk to miners ridge. The trail is in very good condition and easy to follow (mostly). The basic rule is, stay on the most obvious and well worn trail and you're far less likely to get lost.
As of the writing of this review, the section of trail from the secondary peak to Black Mountain peak IS CLOSED. There is no readily available bypass or alternative to reach Black Mountain from the N/NW. If you're looking at the map, the section I am referring to is from where the map says STUB (slightly NW of Black Mountain summit) to the Black Mountain summit. I do not know the duration of the closure but it is for restoration purposes, so my guess is some time. I tried one of the small goat paths down from the secondary summit to the draw between the peaks (this is not on the map but easy to locate from the secondary summit), but it led only to a stream and no path to the top, forcing me to backtrack to the secondary summit. Essentially, there is no way to the top of Black Mountain from the north without bushwacking and for naturue's sake, don't.
Your options are then to backtrack to Nighthawk and take the short, steep connection to the "thumbs up" on Miner's Ridge Loop to the summit or consider the secondary summit a success all it's own (it still has amazing views).
This trail is a good challenge. I would not rate it as Easy. More like moderate. There are steep hills and lots of rocks. Glad I brought along my poles. While most of the trail is well marked there are some confusing parts. I started at Hilltop park and hiked counter clockwise. I thought I was supposed to stay on the Nighthawk Trail, but at 1.3 mark (where there is no red line) you can fork to the right and get on the Miner's Ridge Loop. Instead I turned left, up, and hiked the steep short hill to connect to the service road to the summit, which looks like west side MRL trail. At the summit I found the MRL trail blocked off with a warning that they were working on regrowth of the area. In fact, many of the trails on Black Mountain are blocked off. Trying to follow the red hiking trail lines from the summit, I walked past the "Don't go farther" sign and started the descent, but found more signs of STAY BACK so I just hiked back up to the summit and retraced my hike. In my opinion, the north side of the MRL trail from the summit is not accessible. It is all blocked off with regrowth signs. Looking on the map, there's a part of the MRL which looks like a thumbs up. The short trail that connects the tip of the thumb with the eastern side of the MRL is very steep and rocky. Beware. I don't understand where the NHT ends. Just beyond the East Rim Trail? Does the NHT turn into the MRL on the east side after about a mile? Still a good hike, but beware of very rocky paths and blocked paths.
Good to do with kids.