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.
Camping near Middle Peak is available at Paso Picacho and Green Valley campgrounds.
Middle Peak trail info.
- Distance: 6 miles
- Hiking time: 3 hours
- Type: Loop
- Elevation gain: 1100’
- Difficulty: 6/10 (distance, elevation gain)
- Elevation: 5883’
- Rank on 100 peaks list: 8/100
- Usage: Hiking, Mountain biking, Camping
- When to go: Spring, Fall, Winter
- Agency: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Map & directions for Middle Peak
- Directions to trailhead (via Google Maps)
More trails near Middle Peak
Additional links & resources
Photos of Middle Peak
- John Muir Trail Day 5 – Past Donahue Pass to Red’s Meadow. 19.5 mile lake tour hike. - March 7, 2017
- John Muir Trail Day 4 – Tuolomne Meadows over Donahue Pass. 16.4 mile shakedown hike. - March 2, 2017
- John Muir Trail Day 3 – Sunrise Lakes to Tuolomne Meadows. 10.1 mile hike for hunger. - December 28, 2016