Nestled in the heart of San Diego County, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a hiker’s paradise, offering over 100 miles of trails. It is home to Cuyamaca Peak Trail, the park’s crown jewel, where an exhilarating hike awaits both novice and experienced trekkers. Cuyamaca peak is the second highest in San Diego County at 6,512-feet, and rewards hikers with a panoramic view that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Trailhead Information and Facilities
Cuyamaca Peak’s trailhead is conveniently located at the Paso Picacho campground off Highway 79, with ample parking available for a small fee. There are restroom facilities and picnic areas close to the trailhead. Do note, a day-use fee per vehicle applies, which will grant you all-day access to the entire park.
About Cuyamaca Peak Trail
Cuyamaca Peak Trail features a mix of chaparral, oak woodland, and coniferous forest, making it a delight for nature enthusiasts. While the 5.6-mile round-trip hike is moderately challenging, with an elevation gain of approximately 1,700 feet, it is suitable for most hikers making it a family-friendly hike. Although leashed dogs are allowed in some areas of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, I recommend checking with the park first to determine whether or not they will be allowed to hike with you.
Hiking Cuyamaca Peak Trail
From the parking lot, your journey begins on Lookout Road, a paved fire road. Follow this path uphill, watching for trail markers indicating the Cuyamaca Peak Trail. As you ascend, the road winds and turns, with occasional benches to rest and soak in the views. The final stretch is a bit steeper, but the breathtaking summit view of San Diego County, the surrounding mountains, and sometimes even the Pacific Ocean, makes it all worthwhile.
What to Expect on Your Cuyamaca Peak Hike
The trail primarily consists of a well-maintained, paved fire road. You may encounter snow during the winter, so prepare accordingly with proper clothing and footwear. There is some shade on the trail in places, however most of the hike is exposed, so sunscreen is recommended. Keep an eye out for wildlife like mule deer, coyotes, and a myriad of bird species. You will also encounter a wide variety of shrubs, manzanita trees, oak trees, and pine trees along the way.
When to Go
What to Bring & Wear
- At least two liters of water
- Hiking shoes or boots with plenty of traction
- Sunscreen & hat