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Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail

Mission Trails Regional Park

San Diego Metro Area, California

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Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail

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  • The trailhead.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • Unidentified wildflowers along the Big Rock Trail.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • A lizard basking in the sun along the Big Rock Trail.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • The view to the north looking back at the trail.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • View of Lake Murray near the summit.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • Unidentified wildflowers along the Big Rock Trail.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • There are stairs leading up to the summit of Cowles Mountain.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • View of Santee to the northeast.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
  • View of the path as it descends back to the trailhead.- Cowles Mountain via Big Rock Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Panoramic views. Wildflowers.
Cons: 
Crowds at the summit.
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Region:
San Diego Metro Area, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,400.00 ft (426.72 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Biking
Total Distance: 
4.80 mi (7.72 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
200.00 ft (60.96 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

Big Rock Trail is a moderate hike just minutes away from downtown San Diego, located in the heart of Mission Trails Regional Park. It is by far the most difficult and secluded trail to Cowles Mountain, yet it is one of the most beautiful. In the spring and early summer, countless species of wildflowers dot the path.

The hike begins in Big Rock Park at the corner of Mesa Road and Prospect Avenue. The trail runs parallel to Big Rock Creek before it slowly begins to ascend a hillside and becomes gradually steeper. After several switchbacks, views of the surrounding city open up, and at the top of Cowles Mountain hikers are rewarded with 360-degree views of San Diego County. On a clear day it is possible to see the skyline of downtown San Diego, Lake Murray, and the surrounding urban regions of El Cajon and Santee.

Standing at 1,591 feet, Cowles Mountain is the highest point within the city of San Diego and one of the most popular destinations for hikers within Mission Trails Regional Park. Hundreds of people hike to the summit every day, although most prefer the easier and more direct southeastern Golfcrest Drive Trailhead.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(57 within a 30 mile radius)

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
8 Members
Who's Done It
15 Members
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Pro Contributor
66 Adventures Explored
50 Adventures Published

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