Viejas Mountain Trail: A Quick Hike to an Ancient Kumeyaay Ceremonial Site with 360 Degree Views

Hiking Viejas Mountain Trail

The hike to the summit of Viejas Mountain trail begins with a steep 1.5-mile ascent from the trailhead. You’ll need to display an Adventure Pass in your vehicle when parking here, or anywhere within Cleveland National Forest. Wearing a good pair of hiking shoes or trail runners will give you confidence on the technical trail sections.

RELATED: Viejas Mountain Trail in Cleveland National Forest

As you climb, the valley view expands into a panoramic scene reaching from the Mexican border to Orange County and beyond. From the top of Viejas Mountain trail, you can either head north towards the summit or south towards the two neighboring peaks. All three peaks are easy to reach and offer a unique perspective of the surrounding landscapes.

The twin peaks of Viejas Mountain as seen from the trail.

What is that Mysterious Stone Structure?

A stone structure, erected after campers destroyed the original site during the 1970s, marks the summit of Viejas Mountain. According to Jerry Schad’s Book, Afoot & Afield San Diego County, “the original site featured an arrangement of stones that anthropologists believed was a winter solstice marker used for ceremonial purposes by the Kumeyaay Indians hundreds of years ago.”

A stone structure that used to be an ancient Indian ceremonial site.

The Rewards of Hiking Viejas Mountain Trail

The view from the summit of Viejas Mountain on a clear day is astonishing.

From Viejas Mountain, I could see the snow-capped peaks of Mount San Gorgonio and San Jacinto. The towering peaks of Cleveland National Forest filled the eastern views to the brim.

To the south, Lawson Peak, Gaskill Peak, and Otay Mountain were all visible, as well as the Coronado Islands to the southwest. Looking west past El Cajon Mountain and Mount Soledad was the glimmering Pacific Ocean.

A view of San Jacinto Peak and Cuyamaca Peak from the summit.


Hiking the Viejas Mountain trail is an ideal way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with nature. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner looking for a challenge, this trail has something to offer. From the breathtaking views to the unique stone structure at the summit, Viejas Mountain is a must-visit.

Tips for Hiking Viejas Mountain

  • Wear a good pair of hiking shoes or trail runners
  • There’s no shade, so dress accordingly and wear sunscreen
  • Look for the trailhead a couple hundred yards after passing the gate
  • Contact the Descanso Ranger District for overnight camping permits

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