Cowles Mountain Trail

#1 of 17 trails in Mission Trails Regional Park

Join the largest community of outdoor enthusiasts.

Get Started

Upgrade to Pro

Unlimited access to National Geographic TOPO! & Trails Illustrated Maps

Learn More »

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

Picture?width=50&height=50


N/A:

15 Completed 3 Reviews

Way too crowded. People were climbing over the fences and into the sensitive areas. Not a pleasant hike. Felt more like a freeway than a nature hike. For a better experience, continue past Cowles and on to Pyles Peak. The trail is much less crowded and there are some great lookouts.

Person_placeholder

Hali'a Eastburn

N/A:

3 Completed 3 Reviews

This is a solid hike if you want a good workout or to get some nice views of the city. I recommend going in the evening or early morning because it's cooler and less crowded. Finding parking is the hardest part about this trail.

Icon_


N/A:

4 Completed 4 Reviews

This trail was busy at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday. It is a nicely maintained but very rocky trail that is relatively narrow. It is fun, but not when someone is walking way inside your personal bubble trying to pass you because you have to slow down for the Dad in front of you insisting that his 3 year old finish the 3 mile adult intermediate trail solo, this happened twice with two different unfit Dads. I give it a three instead of a two because I feel like I can't grade such a good trail too harshly by the people I encountered on it. It's steep and has many sections of bare rock, good for hiking, trail running, not good for young children or unfit people.

Icon_


N/A:

9 Completed 5 Reviews

This is a good "hike" if you're just looking for a quick workout. There were a ton of people on the trail, some walking, others running.

I bring my dog on every hike, but should not have for his hike. Too many large rocks and too many people to fully enjoy it. The view at the top is nice, but it's very crowded because the trail up is quite narrow.

Icon_


N/A:

7 Completed 4 Reviews

BORING! this is more of a work out phenomenon, NOT A HIKE. if you are looking for a place to workout and post instagram statuses to fit in your in the right spot. Its awfully crowded, can't really talk or enjoy quietness due to the crowds and other peoples convos or little teens / kids screaming and crying. Then you have the extremely fit individuals who are running up it, bravo to you. i couldn't do that. But i don't know i prefer more outdoorsy hikes, better views, wildlife, waterfalls, etc. WHAT I'M SAYING IS FOR THE BUZZ YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS PLACE IT REALLY FALLS SHORT. MORE OF STATUS SYMBOL. & i took my 2 year old pit bull with me, i got crazy rude looks and people moving away from him. which was funny cause he got barked at by other obnoxious dogs and just wagged his tail and was quite. he's a big baby, mamas boy. but yet people assumed he was vicious. kinda disappointing. and i understand with how crowded it was i always kept him close and stood on the side to let walkers or runners pass and keep out of their way but still felt judge. kind of annoying. won't be returning.

Person_placeholder

April Huston

N/A:

9 Completed 7 Reviews

Liked the trail, didn't like so many people.

Icon_


N/A:

21 Completed 5 Reviews

I checked out this trail with my brother while I was in town visiting. Very nice, heavily used trail with great views of Lake Murray and several mountain peaks in the surrounding area! Not too crowded on a Monday evening. I highly recommend this trail!

Icon_


N/A:

2 Completed 2 Reviews

Great hike! I often carry a weighted pack and do some exercises at the top. Gets crowded but makes for a nice social activity trying to say hello to everyone while heading up and down... but that's me. LOL Go earlier for less people and bring plenty of water on hotter days!

Picture?width=50&height=50


N/A:

3 Completed 2 Reviews

I love this trail. It's fairly easy but has enough of an elevation gain to keep it interesting. It offers an amazing view at the top and even provides you with a map to let you know what you're looking at.

I like that it is always full of people. It makes me feel comfortable when I am hiking alone, as I have come across a cougar on a different trail within Mission Trails Regional Park. However, it can get a little ridiculous. At some points it can feel like you're walking in a single file line and it can be a challenge to get around people if you're running.

Picture?width=50&height=50


N/A:

5 Completed 3 Reviews

Great quick workout hike. Spectacular 360 degree views of SD.
Plenty of parking space and plenty of hikers on the trail. Dont forget your water, sunscreen and music!

Support