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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North Fortuna Peak
North Fortuna Peak
North Fortuna Peak
North Fortuna Peak
North Fortuna Peak

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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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Pyles Peak
Pyles Peak
Pyles Peak
Pyles Peak
Pyles Peak

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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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Lawson Peak
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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Kwaay Paay Peak
Kwaay Paay Peak
Kwaay Paay Peak
Kwaay Paay Peak
Kwaay Paay Peak

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El Cajon Mountain

Hiking El Cajon Mountain Trail

Distance: 11 miles | Hiking time: 5-6 hours | Difficulty: 8/10

Frequently described as being, “the toughest hiking trail in San Diego,” El Cajon Mountain hiking trail is well-known for its relentless elevation changes and remarkable 360 degree views from the summit. Also known as “El Capitan” or simply “El Cap,” El Cajon Mountain is a beast of a hike that challenges your will and tempts your spirit.

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Gaskill Peak

Hike to Gaskill Peak

Distance: 7.1 miles | Hiking time: 4-5 hours | Difficulty: 7/10

With a peak elevation of 3836 feet, Gaskill Peak stands nearly 200 feet taller than its little sister 1.5 miles to the south, Lawson Peak. Gaskill Peak can be hiked by itself or included as an add-on adventure when hiking to Lawson Peak.

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Gaskill Peak
Gaskill Peak

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Cowles Mountain South Trail

Cowles Mountain Southern Trail

Distance: 3 miles | Hiking time: 2 hours | Difficulty: 6/10

If you’re looking for a quick, challenging hike in San Diego that is easy to find and offers unobscured views of San Diego for as far as the eye can see, look no further than Cowles Mountain. But be ready because lots of other people are looking for the same thing.

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Cowles Mountain South Trail
Cowles Mountain South Trail
Cowles Mountain South Trail
Cowles Mountain South Trail
Cowles Mountain South Trail

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Black Mountain

Black Mountain Miner's Ridge Loop Trail

Distance: 4.25 miles | Hiking time: 2 hours | Difficulty: 5/10

Black Mountain, located in the heart of Black Mountain Open Space Park, is home to one of the most inspiring observation points in Central San Diego. The Miner’s Ridge Loop Trail takes hikers along a winding path that gradually ascends to the 1554 foot summit of Black Mountain Peak. If it’s a quick, easy hike with big payoffs that you’re looking for, then you can’t do much better than Black Mountain.

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