While Cowles Mountain Trail is a popular destination for hikers, the challenge alone can fall short for some. Fortunately, a nearby hidden gem provides stunning views and a more secluded experience. Pyles Peak offers all the rewards of Cowles Mountain with fewer people and more nature. So, grab your hiking boots and get ready to discover the best-kept secret in Mission Trails.
Starting Your Hike from Cowles Mountain Trail
To find the trailhead from Cowles Mountain summit, walk north towards the fire road that leads to the towers on the north end of the mountain. Follow the road west a few yards to the point where it curves sharply to the right. A small trail sign marking the trailhead is located on the outer edge of the road. Start your hike by stepping down onto the trail. You are now on your way to discovering the best-kept secret in Mission Trails.
The Hike to Pyles Peak
The trail quickly descends a couple of hundred feet down the side of the mountain. From here, it begins to track along the ridge between Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak. Just beyond the halfway point along the trail is another narrow, unmarked trail leading up and to the east. Follow it a couple of hundred feet up to a small clearing for a quick detour. The view to the north includes Kwaay Paay Peak and North and South Fortuna Peaks.
Continue following the main trail past the lookout and across the ridge until you find a trail sign directing weary hikers toward the summit. Scramble up the hill, and you will soon reach the summit marker for Pyles Peak. Take a boulder and enjoy the views in all directions.
Pyles Peak Hike Retrospective
I am generally not a fan of the Cowles Mountain hike by itself. Despite the views from the summit, I am always left wanting more trail, nature, and fewer people. Adding Pyles Peak to the hike, however, fulfills all my hiking expectations and more.
The added distance and elevation gain provides a rewarding challenge. In contrast, the short hike to the summit of Cowles often fails to provide that same sense of achievement. In addition, extending the hike offers an opportunity to enjoy the scenery while escaping the crowds of Cowles Mountain.