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.
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?
North Fortuna Peak is the third highest peak in Mission Trails Regional Park, behind Pyles Peak and Cowles Mountain. This is a fun hike and an easy extension when hiking to South Fortuna Peak via the same route. There’s more than one way to reach the summit of North Fortuna Peak, but South Fortuna Trail is by far my favorite.
Beyond the summit of Cowles Mountain, another 1.5 miles down the trail, there is a peak that few people know about, and even fewer make the effort to visit. Pyles Peak may be Cowles Mountain’s lesser half, but only in stature. The 3 mile out and back extension offers a number of impressive viewpoints, while leaving the crowds and chaos of Cowles behind.
Kwaay Paay Peak Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park is a short, out and back hike that will leave you breathless, both on the hike up and from the view once you reach the top. Not for the faint of heart, this trail is steep, rough and tough. Wear a rugged pair of hiking shoes and prepare yourself for a quick, but memorable hike.
If you’re looking for a quick, challenging hike in San Diego that is easy to find and offers unobscured views of San Diego for as far as the eye can see, look no further than Cowles Mountain. But be ready because lots of other people are looking for the same thing.