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Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead

Mission Trails Regional Park

San Diego Metro Area, California

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Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead

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  • Parking lot at Golfcrest Drive.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • Stairs at the Cowles Mountain Trailhead.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • Typical section of Cowles Mountain Trail.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • Many overlooks along the trail.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • View of San Miguel Mountain.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • View of Lake Murray behind San Carlos Golf Course.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • Cowles Mountain Trail.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • Switchbacks of Cowles Mountain Trail.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • To Barker Way Trailhead.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • Many trail runners use Cowles Mountain Trail.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
  • Cowles Service Road is an alternate approach.- Cowles Mountain, Golfcrest Drive Trailhead
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Easy to access.
Cons: 
Crowded. No cover.
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Region:
San Diego Metro Area, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
942.00 ft (287.12 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
675.00 ft (205.74 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

At 1,592 feet, Cowles Mountain (pronounced ‘coals’) is the highest peak in San Diego. Its multiple approaches, easy access, and 360-degree views from the summit make it one of the most popular hikes in the county. Although the route from the most popular Golfcrest Drive Trailhead is only 1.5 miles long, the elevation gain of almost 950 feet makes the hike quite a workout. The parking lot at Golfcrest Drive fills quickly, so many hikers park along the street.

The best time to visit Cowles Mountain is on a cool, sunny day. When the sky is clear, views stretch over Lake Murray, south to Mexico, and west to the city of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. An informational sign at the summit names all the visible peaks. While the views may be limited on cloudy days, the hiking may be a little cooler as the trail offers little in the way of shelter. This well-groomed trail is popular with trail runners and night hikers.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(46 within a 30 mile radius)

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