Cowles Mountain – San Diego, CA


Hiking is one of my biggest passions and some of my favorite hikes have actually been with H- and B-, like when we did The Narrows in Zion National Park.  So of course when we were planning my trip to San Diego, hiking was high on the to-do list.  The first hike we settled on was Cowles Mountain.  We chose it because it’s part of the 5 Peak Challenge in Mission Trails Regional Park.  The thought, of course, being we could do the first peak together and H- and B- can do the other 4 during the remainder of their time in San Diego.  Little did we know at the time that Cowles Mountain also happens to be the highest point in San Diego at 1593-ft…

In spite of our early start, the trailhead lot was already completely full and cars were lining the sides of the street, scrambling for a place to park (It really was a sign of things to come – the trail was packed with hikers and trail runners the entire time).  After securing our spot, we walked to the trailhead, made a quick stop at the restrooms (always a must), and then began our ascent.

The Trailhead
The Trailhead

The trail is 4-miles long – 2 miles straight up, and 2 miles straight down, switchback after switchback.  As I’ve said before, switchbacks are mis enemigos mortales, but I hung in there, periodically cursing under my breath when we would turn a corner and see even more switchbacks ahead.  As per usual with the hikes we’ve done together in the past, B- raced ahead, H- was in the middle, and I brought up the rear.  Periodically we would stop to take pictures, guzzle water, and rest our legs for a moment.

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The view from the top is absolutely gorgeous.  As the highest point in San Diego, there’s a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city with plenty of room for all winded hikers to sit down and take it all in.  We also made sure to take pictures of ourselves next to the marker (H- and B- will need them as proof to complete the 5 Peak Challenge, and I just wanted to join in on the fun).  There was an option at the summit to continue on to Pyles Peak, another one of the peaks in the 5 Peak Challenge, but with no idea how long the extra mileage would take, coupled with the sun beating down on us, made the decision easy to just head back the way we came.




Descending was the exact opposite of ascending – I flew down the mountain, in what I call a graceful falling motion, and B- actually brought up the rear for a change.  I’ve heard family members and some friends complain about their knees or ankles bothering them when they’re going downhill while hiking, but I’ve never had that particular problem, thankfully.  By the time we made it down, we were sweaty and tired, but then again, we all had huge smiles on our faces.  Just the perfect morning.

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