Gaskill Peak Hike: Off-trail Adventures in San Diego’s Backcountry

Hike to Gaskill Peak

Distance: 7.1 miles | Hiking time: 4-5 hours | Difficulty: 7/10 | More info.

Gaskill Peak and Lawson Peak share much of the same hiking and scenery, so I’m picking this trip report up where the report on Lawson Peak ended. If you haven’t read that report yet, be sure to check it out for a description of the hike to Wisecarver Road from the trailhead at Lyons Valley Road.

From the base of Lawson Peak, continue following Wisecarver Road for another 1.5 miles towards Gaskill Peak. The trail wanders its way down and across the ridge separating the two peaks. It remains similar to the trail leading to Lawson, rugged, but with very little elevation gain or loss until you reach the base of Gaskill Peak.

Hike to Gaskill Peak
Gaskill Peak from Lawson Peak with the trail visible near the base of the mountain.

As you reach the base of the peak, the trail will suddenly take a sharp turn right (southeast). Immediately after the turn the trail opens up slightly at an intersection of trails.

To the right, a well-worn trail leads off to a southeast facing scenic overlook with views of the valley. Straight ahead, Wisecarver Road continues around and over the mountain to the North.

If you want to summit Gaskill Peak, then you’ll want to take the lightly traveled trail that heads into the bushes to the north. Continue along this trail for a short distance while watching for signs of an even more primitive trail that shoots off to the left directly into the underbrush.

Hike to Gaskill Peak
Gaskill Peak trail from Wisecarver Road

There are no fixed signs or trail markers for the summit trail, and it’s very easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. If you’re lucky, as I was on my second visit, you may find that the trail is marked with cairns by past visitors.

In any case, if you find that you’ve gone more than a couple of hundred yards without running into the trail, you probably walked right by it. Turn around and head back rather than making the mistake I made the first time by continuing my search for a 1/2 mile or more.

Hike to Gaskill Peak
This little trail can be easy to miss, so keep a sharp eye out.

Once you’ve identified the trail, plunge yourself into the brush and work your way up the mountain towards the peak. As you reach the summit, you’ll be confronted with a variety of options for climbing your way up. After a little hunting, I eventually found a route that I was able to manage by heading westward around the south edge of the peak.

Once on top, take some time to enjoy the views you’ve worked so hard for. They’re remarkable and distinctly different from those you get while standing on top of Lawson Peak.

Gaskill Peak Retrospective

Just as with my experience hiking Lawson Peak, the only thing that didn’t excite me about my visit to Gaskill Peak was the hike up from Lyons Valley Road. Once I left Wisecarver Road and headed off into the brush to find Gaskill Peak, my adventure meter started buzzing.

On my first visit, I missed the summit trail, which was hugely disappointing. But on my second visit I had a new plan thanks to the magic of Google Earth.

Using Google Earth’s satellite view, I was able to find what I felt was the most likely route to the top. The trail I found on Google Earth looked pretty weak, but it stood out from the rest of the terrain as being the only possible route. And sure enough, I was right.

The scramble to the summit is a little technical, but overall not too difficult until you reach the base of the summit. It took me a little work to find a safe route to the summit, but once I did I was glad that I hadn’t given up too early.

Standing on top of Gaskill Peak is like standing on top of the World. The day was clear and, as you can see in the pictures, the views were unlike any I’ve found in San Diego to date.

Hike to Gaskill Peak
Looking towards Lawson Peak and Otay Peak from the summit.

Gaskill Peak is a rewarding hike and a challenging adventure. The views from the summit are some of the best I’ve found in San Diego and are well worth the effort it takes to get there.

If you don’t mind doing a little bushwhacking and getting your hands dirty, then head to Gaskill Peak for a scrambling good time.

My Runkeeper Stats

  • Miles: 7.11
  • Time hiking: 2:01:40
  • Calories burned: 987

Tips

  • Parking is located at Mile Marker 13
  • There are no facilities or trail signage at this site
  • Bring at least 2 liters of water, there’s very little shade
  • Remember to bring sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Wear a good pair of hiking shoes or trail runners
  • Wear long pants to contend with trees, brush and rocks

Photos


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Robb Keele

Robb Keele

Robb is a native San Diegan and avid hiker, backpacker, picture taker and 52 Hike Challenger. He created Getgo Outdoors with the goal of giving back to the outdoor community and inspiring others to get outdoors.
Robb Keele

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