San Diego County boasts stunning natural beauty and a wide array of outdoor recreation opportunities. If you’re a hiking enthusiast or seeking a family and dog-friendly adventure, don’t miss the Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail in North County. This popular hike offers breathtaking views of the San Dieguito River Park and the communities of Rancho Bernardo and Poway. The hike from either of the two nearby trailheads to the summit of Bernardo Mountain spans approximately 7.2 miles round-trip. Starting from the junction with the Coast to Crest Trail, the summit trail ascends Bernardo Mountain for approximately 1.95 miles to the 1,152-foot summit.
Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail Overview
The Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail is a moderate hike offering scenic views of Lake Hodges and the surrounding area. Part of the 92,000-acre Coast to Crest Trail system within the San Dieguito River Park, this 3.9-mile round-trip trail is rated as moderately challenging in difficulty. It begins on the Coast to Crest Trail and leads to the summit of Bernardo Mountain, which stands 1,152 feet above sea level. On clear days, you can even catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean!
Open year-round, the trail is ideal for hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and wildflower viewing. Dogs are welcome on a leash.
Trailhead and Parking Information
Begin your adventure at either the Mule Hill Trailhead or the Piedras Pintadas Trailhead. Both offer free parking and access to the Lake Hodges pedestrian bridge. The total round-trip hike to Bernardo Mountain Summit from either trailhead is approximately 7.2 miles.
- Mule Hill Trail: Limited parking, so arrive early to secure a spot.
- Piedras Pintadas Trail: A larger parking lot and a great option if you arrive later.
Hiking the Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail
Starting from the Coast to Crest Trailhead near Escondido, California, the trail is a moderate out-and-back hike. The trail ascends approximately 1.95 miles up the mountain, gaining around 875 feet of elevation. As you make your way up, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Hodges and the surrounding valley. The trail traverses diverse habitats, including riparian woodlands, chaparral, and rocky slopes, where you may spot deer, birds, and reptiles.
From the summit, enjoy panoramic views of North County San Diego, the San Dieguito River Valley, and on clear days, the Pacific Ocean and distant mountain ranges. To extend your hike or explore more of the area, the Coast to Crest trail connects to other San Dieguito River Park trails, such as the Bernardo Mountain Lake View Trail and the Piedras Pintadas Trail.
Bernardo Mountain is a must-visit destination for hikers, families, and dog owners in North County San Diego. Offering stunning views, challenging terrain, abundant wildlife, and a family-friendly atmosphere, this trail provides a unique and memorable experience for visitors of all ages and skill levels.
When to Go
What to Bring & Wear
- At least one liter of water
- Hiking shoes or boots with plenty of traction
- Sunscreen & hat