San Diego: Cowles Mountain

Ride the bus to the rugged hills of Mission Trails Park and bag the city's high point on a 3-mile out-and-back.
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Ride the bus to the rugged hills of Mission Trails Park and bag the city's high point on a 3-mile out-and-back.

Mapped by Rajeev Jain

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 2.4

Waypoints

CMT001

Location: 32.8043212890625, -117.037757873535

From corner of Golfcrest Dr. and Navajo Rd., head NE into park on user trail to kiosk

CMT002

Location: 32.8045845031738, -117.037208557129

R @ Y on Cowles Mountain Trail. Climb past sage scrub and horned lizards What's in the name? This peak was called Black Mtn., then dubbed "S Mountain" in 1931 after San Diego State students painted a 400-ft. "S" on hillside. The name later changed to honor rancher George A. Cowles

CMT003

Location: 32.805965423584, -117.036476135254

Hike over wave-carved plateaus

CMT004

Location: 32.8076820373535, -117.032814025879

Purple and blue California lilacs shelter swallowtail butterflies. These fragrant scrubs were boiled by local Indians for an itch-relieving rub

CMT005

Location: 32.8095817565918, -117.031608581543

Look ahead: The granite dome of Cowles rises above the sedimentary rock layers below

CMT006

Location: 32.8102874755859, -117.031066894531

Nearing 1,307 ft., look back for views of Lake Murray

CMT007

Location: 32.8108062744141, -117.031532287598

Trail switchbacks

CMT008

Location: 32.8119621276856, -117.031646728516

Trail transitions into a mix of chamise, chaparral, and toyon

CMT009

Location: 32.8127403259277, -117.031860351562

Cowles Mtn. (1,591 ft.) serves up wide-angle vista over the Coronado Islands and hazy Pacific to the San Ysidro and Cuyamaca Mtns. Return to bus stop