Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
1,400.00 ft (426.72 m)
Trail type
4.80 mi (7.72 km)
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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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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Panoramic views. Wildflowers.


Crowds at the summit.

Trailhead Elevation

200.00 ft (60.96 m)


Bird watching
Big vistas

Suitable for



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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