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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North Fortuna Peak

North Fortuna Peak hike

Distance: 6.5 miles | Hiking time: 4 hours | Difficulty: 7/10

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.

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Pyles Peak

Pyles Peak hike

Distance: 6 miles | Hiking time: 3 hours | Difficulty: 7/10

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.

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McGinty Mountain

McGinty Mountain hike

Distance: 5.0 miles | Hiking time: 3 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

McGinty Mountain is part of San Diego’s 11,000+ acre National Wildlife Refuge and is home to some of the rarest plant species in the county. Despite having a relatively low peak elevation (2183 ft.) in comparison to some of its neighboring peaks, like Lawson and Gaskill Peaks, the panoramic views from McGinty Mountain’s summit are no less spectacular.

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Lawson Peak

Lawson Peak Hike

Distance: 4.5 miles | Hiking time: 3 hours | Difficulty: 7/10

The hike along the fire road leading to Lawson Peak is really just the price of admission. The real adventure begins when you reach the base of the peak and begin your scramble for the summit. If it’s a challenge you’re looking for, it’s a challenge you’ll find at Lawson Peak

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Kwaay Paay Peak

Kwaay Paay Peak Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles | Hiking time: 1.5 hours | Difficulty: 5/10

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.

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