Nighthawk Trail Black Mountain Loop

MODERATE 186 reviews

Nighthawk Trail Black Mountain Loop is a 5.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near San Diego, California that offers scenic views 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.

5.3 miles
1,210 feet

dogs on leash

kid friendly



mountain biking

nature trips

trail running




Free parking and a restroom at Hilltop Park

2 months ago

Great hike. Definitely on the difficult side of moderate. Lots of climbing. A great local hike. Good training hike for a bigger hike.

2 months ago

This was our first family hike and we absolutely loved it!! We live a few minutes away and now this will be one of our favorite hikes for sure. Edward (5) did increíble. Ashton (3) not too much but daddy was able to carry him they both very happy.

3 months ago

I’m not sure why this trail is rated easy. I think it’s more moderate because its almost all uphill for the first half of the loop. Very little shade but a great hike/view. Trails are wide but rocky.

trail running
4 months ago

good workout, able to jog throughout, tons of rocks most of the way if you are jogging it watch your ankles! Great incline and View at the top! no shade, bring water.

5 months ago

Beautiful views...moderately steep and rocky on the way up but nice downhill .

5 months ago

Great alternative to Cowels Mountain! A little less steep, quiet, less people, and wider trails.

6 months ago

Great views. Easy to moderate hike with many loose rocks. We explored a few off shoot trails that were poorly marked to the east.

7 months ago

It is not an "Easy" category. I'd equate this to Iron Mountain or Mt. Woodson hikes. quite a bit of good inclines.

7 months ago

Several sections/routes were closed on trail

8 months ago

Loved this hike!! It was the best!

10 months ago

Great hike and just long enough for an evening outing

mountain biking
11 months ago

As a novice mountain bike, this trail was not my favorite.

- Beautiful view
- Really cool marbles on the trail for some reason.

- Straight elevation climb all the way to the top, then straight downhill all the way... hard work recommended for experienced riders.
- I may not have taken the right or most efficient route but on the trail I chose there were very large, very loose rocks on a steep incline...All those factored together led to me doing s lot more walking than riding.

Overall this is a nice trail....for foot hikers. As a mountain biker I can think of several other trails that are more fun and accessible. If you do want to ride this one, I recommend taking the fire road up and down as it has a more gentle grade and is actually super fun to ride down.

11 months ago

First time hiking this trail to test the Garmin Etrex 20x. We bought the GPS in preparation for Zion and it's definitely worth the money. Nice quiet hike with city view. We started around 6pm and finished at 8:30pm. The city lights is actually kinda romantic. Reminds me of mt. soledad. The entrance to the trail is at Hilltop Park.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Easy hike. Ok views from the top. Too many mountain bikers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Challenging elevation changes. No shade, come early.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

pretty views. Also, good cell phone signal at the summit where all that radio equipment is...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I loved the hike.

Difficulty - based on the descriptions "good for all skill levels," I thought this was going to be easy. But I went in at the hilltop and went left, and it was a steady climb to the top, which took about 40 minutes. Halfway up there was a break ish, and by no means would I say I was huffing and puffing, but it definitely counts as a workout, and my friends who would be on the lower skill level would not have enjoyed it. I, who love hiking, loved it. It filled my activity bar on my Polar watch (like a FitBit) in 40 minutes, and I ended my 2 hours (wandered around) at 200% so definitely suggest and say it's a workout.

Foot Traffic - I went today (Saturday) at 1pm and while there were enough people that I felt safe, 95% of the time I was alone. A random person would go by in the other direction, but it was nice. I like being somewhere I can clear my head, but also know if I get lost, someone will find me. Which leads me to:

Bring Supplies - The signage isn't the best. I mean if you just want to follow one path, that's fine. But I tried doing Nighthawk and then Little Black Mountain (I think that's what it was called) and got lost. I ended up back on a path I'd already been on but didn't realize it until I ran out of water and found myself half way up the summit again. A group of people went by with extra bottles of water and more confidence on which way was back to the bottom, so we walked together, so I'm happy about the foot traffic and definitely will not go with just 2 bottles of water next time.

Definitely suggest it as a more peaceful alternative to Torrey Pines for someone who is active and looking for a workout, while also having others around you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Loved the 360 view at the Summit

trail running
Wednesday, April 05, 2017

This is not easy!!! I consider easy as something that would work for all levels but there are tons of rocks and climbing. I pretty much guessed that by the vertical feet gain listed in the details. I still enjoyed the challenge and you definitely get some nice views. I couldn't figure out where to go to do the full on loop but I wasn't looking at the directions listed constantly so I just ended up exploring till I hit my desired mileage. I guess if you constantly paying attention to the directions you are good, but that can be difficult to do while running.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Good to do with kids.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

It was great workout to go and back trail. The mountain color was really black like its name. The trail name should be changed to Black Mt. Trail righter than Nighthawk Trail like other trail name in this app.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

It was awesome, hiked all the way to the top!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Very rocky, had good views.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Did the nighthawk trail to the summit. Lots of parking at hilltop community park. Trail starts off steep, and then there are patches of steep portions throughout. Ground is mostly small rocks- somewhat difficult to walk on, but wide. Minimal to no shade. Not crowded at all (Monday 10am). Good views, but surely not the best of San Diego. Kind of a disappointing summit. Took less than 2 hours round trip for approximately 4 miles

Monday, November 16, 2015

I wanted to do a little pre-work hike and settled on (little) Black Mountain as it was near my house and I knew I could knock it quickly. Being Mid-November, the weather was cooperative cool throughout the trek.

My start point was the top of Sundevil way; the street ends with a wooden fence, but the pavement continues another 1/8th of a mile or so to the trailhead. Starting at this point can be confusing if your not used to the trail. I veered left to join the nighthawk trail, whose starting point is officially Hilltop park a few hundred yards away.
Nighthawk trail is wide rocky and provides very little shade. It joins little Black mountain loop after a span, and eventually leads to a a very large and deep set dirt road that circles the mountain to its peak.
I came across 3 other hikers and a trail runner, but for the most part, found myself alone, a state I generally prefer. At the top of the mountain are some graffitied concrete blocks and an array of rusted satellite dishes and microwave emitters.

Much to my dismay, I was unable to find the USGS survey marker for the mountain. I searched the summit high and low, but eventually availed myself with some very scenic photos instead. I'm determined to find that marker and plan to visit the NGS website and research a little more until I can track it down.

I chose to come down the mountain via the Glider port side. A Fat and chunky trail, deeply etched by recent water erosion lowered me to the gliderport level, but, rather than continue, I decided to extend a a little further and connecred with Miners loop, trail that eventually brought me to the Black Mountain Open Space Park parking lot. Miners loop is narrow and rocky. Hugging the fledgling foothills of Black mountain the loop is full of tall chaparral that consistently shade explorers every 10 yards or so. There are also some markers with plant identifications and side trails for viewpoints dotting the trail.

Finally, toward the end of my hike, where Miners Loop begins there is a cordoned off region that can be used to get to Black Mountain mine. It's an old arsenic mine that still has a few small caves a giant concrete flute on its side.

Although all the trails are beginner-friendly, I do recommend you watch your step as many of the trails, no matter how wide, can be rocky, affording the uninitiated a sprained ankle or worse. This trail offers picturesque views of San Diego all the way to the ocean and beyond. I recommend it as a day or workout hike.


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Nice hike with a few steep inclines that are rocky. Not too crowded on weekends and there is free parking and a restroom at hilltop park. The last 1/2 mile is a gravel fire road unless you take the miners loop trail around the north side to glider port. Be prepared for a steep climb if you take the northside. The view is nice if it is clear and you can run into a few snakes once the sun comes out. Trails are well marked with a few options for side tracks.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I did this hike with my family this June. we do the loop mentioned in this thread and it seemed a good choice as it took us through different terrain and offered nice views. the summit had multiple cell towers and microwave dishes. I could see the powai mountains from the top as well. we did the hike in 2.5 hours and we started 6 pm. My mom had difficulty with all the loose stone on the trail mainly while coming down. We saw some rabbits. Better to carry sufficient water for summer months.

trail running
Wednesday, April 01, 2015

I hate that the top is full cell phone towers, etc. But this is a nice quick hike or run that will challenge someone not used to hiking and get the blood flowing for those that do hike (especially if you run it and avoid the road). Other nice part is that you can add additional loops and time to your hike or run if you like. Wear some sun screen.

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