Cowles Mountain Trail

San Diego, CA
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Cowles Mountain Trail is a 3 mile out and back trail located near San Diego, California that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running & walking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

By far, Cowles Mtn. (pronounced Coals) with its outstanding views at 1,591 above sea level, is arguably the most popular (and populated) trail in San Diego County. This for many reasons: With its 933' vertical ascent, it has become a fitness playground for the very, very young to the very, very old. Its popularity is regularly substantiated by the high number of hikers/joggers/runners on the trail at any time. On weekends, during the period 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, upwards of 800 discoverers of Cowles Mountain have been counted while enjoying this difficult and scenic hike.

People problems are rare here, making it a favorite of single moms and others who embrace safety in numbers. Unlike so many local (and regional) trails theres a sort of comradship here where nearly everyone says hi and each looks out for the other.

Because of the trails fairly consistent rate of altitude gain, hikers who have made a commitment to health and fitness a priority, have found that even a slow beginning walk to the first switchback and back is a start bringing a great feeling of accomplishment with it. Some use the mile markers to slowly increase their distance on a regular basis with the very realistic goal of someday touching the plaque on the rock at the top!

Its also a favorite of families, especially those with young children in introducing them to hiking. Its rare that youll hike Cowles Mountain trail without seeing children with their favorite adults - some in backpack carriers, some running and many huffing and puffing. But most gratifying are the huge smiles on all involved!

To get there from San Diego (see below for directions from other locations)
From I-15, take Friars Rd. East which becomes Mission Gorge Rd., 5.0 miles east. Pass Jackson Drive and the Mission Trails Regional Park turnoff. Continue up Mission Gorge Rd. to a right turn on Golfcrest (the first traffic light past Jackson Drive). Follow Golfcrest one mile south to the trailhead on the left side of Golfcrest at Navajo.
CAUTION: The speed limit on Golfcrest is 25 mph. and is regularly enforced with radar!

Parking Lot Entrance Coordinates: 32 48.312N 117 2.255W

On weekends the parking lot is usually full, however curbside parking is permitted on

Mission Trails Regional Park
One Father Junipero Serra Tr., San Diego, CA 92119
(619) 668-3281
mtrp@mtrp.org

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4 Completed 2 Reviews

Its a good little workout. First time my wife and I did it, took us 35 up and about the same down. I have
ran/walked it since and the fastest I've gotten up is 21 min. It can be crowded but really no problem. You might have to park up the street, don't leave any valuables in your car... Ive seen some broken glass on the street that looks like people had there car broken into. Yet to have a problem. Bathroom at the start or the trail.

Its only hard if you push yourself!

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5 Completed 3 Reviews

Great hike you can do in an hour at a steady pace. Fantastic views at the top!
Gets pretty crowded on the weekends though. No real shade either so ensure you have sunblock.

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4 Completed 2 Reviews

Good place to start off with. I like that there are people there even through the week. I can go alone and am not scurred! I so huff and puff but damn is fun! Happy hiking!

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9 Completed 4 Reviews

A nice short hike. If you are new to hiking, I would suggest you start here first. There is basically no shade so bring sunscreen and of course water.

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2 Completed 2 Reviews

Uphill hike Takes me about an hour and 11 mins round trip (just started hiking) Good for cardio. Crowded so you don't have to worry about being alone on a trail. You can change the trail up for a longer hike. I would say this is more of a moderate hike than an easy one, because you do a lot of work going uphill. Once you have reached the top coming downhill is a cakewalk, and you can even jog to your car which will in all probability be parked at least a 1/2 mile off :)

Parking is a little hard to find. Crowded - a pro and a con. My personal annoyance is people playing their radios loud for all to hear.

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7 Completed 5 Reviews

Nice easy hike. Good for a quickie u don't have a lot of time. Get there early, it gets pretty crowded and expect to park up to 1/2 mi. away.

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11 Completed 11 Reviews

Over all easy hike . Expect a lot of people on this hike .if you want a less crowd hike in the night not as scary as you think .

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1 Completed 1 Reviews

Definety challenging if you run/jog it. Lots of loose gravle, and as everyone said, lots of people. Once you're at the top, look for the radio tower. There is another trail by it that leads to Pyles Summit. This is much quieter and easier to run.

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3 Completed 6 Reviews

Very good trail, except to many people..

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9 Completed 2 Reviews

Great hike for beginners, those that don't have a lot of time, and for some of us that want a good local climb for fitness. Gets very busy and many of the people that climb understand hikers etiquette. I climb it weekly with 30# and do it in 35 mins and time it to be on top at sunrise. Lot of great regulars at sunrise.
Busy on the weekends and with many people that like to blast their phone's music or talking loudly about their life. Many work hard to pick up the trash of the less concerned and many have destroyed the trail with cutting switchbacks even tho Mission Trails people work hard to deter it.
Overall absolute great hike for everyone.
Please help maintain this heavily used trail.

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