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Hiking in San Diego: Cowles Mountain

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Located 125 miles outside of the hustle and bustle of LA lies one of our (and Ron Burgundy‘s) favorite places in America, beautiful San Diego!

There are tons of incredible and unique adventures to be found here, including the famous Potato Chip hike, which is our number one most popular post at 10,073 views to date! Cowles Mountain, sitting at 1,593 feet, is the highest point in San Diego and the most traveled hike in the county, it’s even more popular than Mount Fuji in Japan!

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Getting to the Cowles Mountain Staging Area (map) is pretty simple. While there are some parking spots located at the trailhead, you can also park anywhere along Golfcrest Drive, which you will most likely end up doing as this hike attracts hundreds of visitors on any given day, weekends especially. Check out the line up below, and we were there on a regular Wednesday afternoon!

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diegoThis 3-mile roundtrip trail took us about an hour to summit and 45 minutes to descend. It was definitely steep at times with quite a few rocks to scale, but it was overall well maintained and had wooden railings along the switchbacks to keep anything crazy from happening:

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

If you look closely you can see the zigzags of people climbing up and down the switchbacks in the photos below:

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego After a hot, steep, heart-pumping climb, the 360-degree, unobstructed views offered at the top took away whatever breath we had left. With San Diego, the Pacific Ocean, the Laguna Mountains and Mexico on the horizon, it’s safe to say that we fell in love with this hike:

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

Gnarly Lyons Peak at 3,738-feet in the distance:
cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

In conclusion, this hike is totally worth it. Bring lots of water, a camera and remember, you haven’t made it to the top until you complete the long standing San Diegan tradition of touching the Cowles Mountain headstone! They say if you don’t touch it, it’s as if you never hiked Cowles…

cowles mountain, best hikes san diego, best hikes california, things to do in sand diego

I’d say climbing it more than counts 😉

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