Explore the most popular forest trails near San Diego with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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.

Fun hike, we really enjoyed this trail.

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.

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?

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

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

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

10 days ago

Good hike.

Warning. This trail has a tick infestation. Had to take many of them off my dog.

Trail starts out in open space, no shade, and gravel/rocky ground. There are many other trail options so follow the signs for grassland loop. As you begin to curve around a canyon you’ll see the freeway to the side for a brief moment. Then after that the hike becomes a little more interesting. You walk across bridges and under trees. The water is currently all dried up. Nice easy loop trail.

hiking
10 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.

Just okay. Brought our 2 kiddos and dogs with us and it was just right for them. Next time we will go down the oak creek trail also, that looked like a more worthwhile trail.

Flat trail but next to a creek and a wooded area with shade and sometimes the trail is single track

Very scenic trail,mostly flat until you reach the waterfall. Great place to go on a nice easy walk. Plenty of bikers and moms with strollers and kids. Easy going trail.

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 :)

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.

busy but worth it

walking
13 days ago

Nice starter hike

Super easy and mostly flat until you hit the waterfall. It is very family friendly, but not too busy!

It was a nice trail to walk with additional trails to take and some historic information. The waterfall feature didn’t seem so prominent but that could be because there hasn’t been any rain. Overall it is a great hike and do recommend it.

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