Pine Mountain Loop

Pine Mountain Trail

Distance: 10 miles | Hiking time: 5 hours | Difficulty: 7/10

Pine Mountain Loop is a fun, scenic hike that uses a series of connecting trails and fire roads to circle around, and eventually past the summit of Pine Mountain. The route is frequented by hikers and mountain bikers and offers views of Cuyamaca Peak, Middle Peak, Stonewall Peak and more. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a short hike off trail to the summit for a secluded picnic in a pine tree forest.

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Middle Peak

Middle Peak hike

Distance: 6 miles | Hiking time: 3 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

The hike up Middle Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is like walking through a history lesson of San Diego County’s wildfires. In 2003, the Cedar Fire decimated the park’s population of centuries old sugar pine trees. The effects of the destruction are still clearly visible along every step of the trails surrounding Middle Peak.

Today, the habitat is recovering. Young oak trees and pine saplings are beginning to take hold, as are the manzanita trees that are so prevalent in Southern California. Wildlife is beginning to return to the area as well. Deer and large birds of prey are a common sight on the trails leading up Middle Peak. From what I hear, even the occassional bald eagle makes a stop in Cuyamaca.

Despite the destruction, the views from Middle Peak are still the primary attraction of this hike. The main trails, Milk Ranch Road and Middle Peak Fire Road, are frequently used by both hikers and mountain bikers. The smaller adjoining trails, Sugar Pine Trail and Black Oak Trail, are accessible only on foot and offer a more secluded feel.

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Stonewall Peak

Stonewall Peak hike

Distance: 4 miles | Hiking time: 2.5 hours | Difficulty: 5/10

Stonewall Peak sits just outside Paso Picacho Campground in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The trail to the summit is a well maintained series of switchbacks that gradually ascends the western face of the mountain. This is a quick, relatively easy hike with outstanding views that stretch north as far as the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains.

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Cuyamaca Peak

Liebster Award Nomination

Distance: 6 miles | Hiking time: 3 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

Standing at 6512 feet, Cuyamaca Peak holds the top spot on the Sierra Club’s 100 Peaks of San Diego County list, and is officially the second highest point in the county. During the winter, Cuyamaca is one of the few places in San Diego that’s almost guaranteed to get snow. Aside from the views along the way, hiking the paved road to the summit isn’t that noteworthy. But if you don’t mind putting in the work to get there, the views from the summit are better than anywhere in the county.

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South Fortuna Peak

South Fortuna Peak hike

Distance: 4.5 miles | Hiking time: 3 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

South Fortuna Trail is best known for the wooden stairs that lead you up the final ascent to the summit, but there’s so much more to love about this trail. If you’re in search of a fun and diverse hike with an abundance of scenery and a few worthy challenges, then the hike to South Fortuna Peak will not disappoint. Oh, and did I mention that the views from the summit of South Fortuna Peak are spectacular?

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Viejas Mountain

Viejas Mountain Trail Hike

Distance: 3 miles | Hiking time: 2.5 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

The Viejas Mountain Trail hike takes you straight up the western face of the mountain to the summit. Viejas Mountain is a thigh busting, lung burning hike that’s the perfect length for a quick workout, and the rewards at the top are worth every ounce of energy it takes to get there.

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Bernardo Mountain

Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail

Distance: 7.2 miles | Hiking time: 3.5 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

Overlooking Lake Hodges and located along the Coast to Crest Trail in San Dieguito River Park is Bernardo Mountain. The vast number of wandering trails that wind their way around the lake and over the surrounding hillsides make the park a popular destination for hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers and birdwatchers. Bernardo Mountain is a fun, moderately challenging hike that is sure to please, regardless of your reason for going.

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Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain Peak Trailhead

Distance: 6.4 miles | Hiking time: 3.5 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

The “short trail” up Iron Mountain is a family friendly hike that will leave you invigorated and inspired. Get started early to beat the crowds, bring plenty of water, and you are certain to embark on a hike that you won’t soon forget.

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Mt. Woodson & Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock on Mt. Woodson Summit

Distance: 7.25 miles | Hiking time: 4.5 hours | Difficulty: 7/10

Potato Chip Rock, resting near the 2894 ft. summit of Mt. Woodson, attracts people from around the world. It has a celebrity-like status among visiting hikers due to the massive amount of attention it has received in social media over the last few years. Everyone wants a picture taken of them standing atop the iconic rock, and for good reason, they earned the right by simply getting there.

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