"One of San Diego’s most accessible cardio hikes to the highest point in the City of San Diego almost immediately rewards hikers with views of surrounding mountains and the Pacific. The south- facing trail has almost zero shade, but on a cool day if your four- legged pal likes to socialize on his workouts, this is the jaunt for him. The 1,600-foot mound protruding above the San Diego skyline is protected within Mission Trails Regional Park’s approximately 6,000 acres. The seed for Mission Trails Regional Park grew from community concern about the rapid spread of new development during the 1960s." Read more
"Cowles Mountain is the highest point within the city limits of San Diego. It is named after George Cowles an early ranch pioneer in Southern California. The surname is pronounced coals, even though the spelling suggests otherwise. The mountain almost lost its historical moniker, but the good folks at Mission Trails Regional Park were able to preserve the name and this wonderful urban recreational area for posterity. This region was slated for development in the early 1970s, and a mix of visionary developers, elected officials, and community leaders helped to get the area turned into a regional park. More recently, a few bond measures have resulted in the current boundaries of the park property as it now stands, and new trails are currently in the works." Read more
"For good reason, this switchback trail is the most heavily trafficked hiking route in all of San Diego County. The route ascends the sunny south side of Cowles Mountain to the summit—at 1,591 feet, it is the highest point within San Diego’s city limits and Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP).
At more than 7,000 acres, MTRP is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. Cowles Mountain is named for a pioneering rancher George A. Cowles (pronounced “coals”), who settled just east of here in 1877. His two ranches were called Woodside and Magnolia." Read more
"If you tire of the hordes of Cowles Mountain regulars on the popular south trail, try this loop on the east slope instead. Partly on the service road leading to the antenna facility near the summit and partly on a narrow foot trail, the route draws relatively few travelers. Since I live close to the mountain and use it as a training ground, you’ll sometimes find me jogging up either the road or the trail by the light of dawn. When early morning fog hugs the ground, most commonly in the fall, a quick trip up the slope allows me to punch through the cloud layer and witness a scene every bit equal to the famous sunrises over the cloud-wreathed crater of Haleakala on Maui." Read more
"This most difficult approach to Cowles’ summit is also the most beautiful— especially in the early spring when blooming chaparral, ground-hugging wildflowers, and bright-green grass freshen the landscape. The meandering roads and ugly paths cut into the mountain’s northeast slope long ago by bulldozers and motorcycles have been replaced in recent years by better-engineered trails, complete with water bars and other features designed to divert runoff and prevent erosion. Please stay on the designated paths so as to let the scarred areas of the mountain return to a natural state. Mountain biking is allowed on the entire route as described here; however, there are some steep grades and certain sections are strewn with rocks." Read more
"This very popular (possibly San Diego County’s most heavily traveled hiking route) trail switchbacks up the sunny south side of Cowles Mountain. Because of the low-growing vegetation, there are unobstructed views nearly the entire way up. At first, nearby features such as Lake Murray command your attention, then far-off locales such as downtown San Diego, the Pacific Ocean, and Mexico come into view. The trail was cut on mostly decomposed granite, so it is quite susceptible to erosion wherever the slope gets steep. Please don’t shortcut the switchbacks, tempting as it may be, as this aggravates the erosion problem." Read more