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Cowles Mountain

Cowles Mountain Trail is a dog-friendly, moderately easy, 3-mile hike in San Diego, CA. Located within Mission Trails Regional Park, this hike will take about 2 hours to complete with Fido. Cowles Mountain is the highest point you can get to within the city limits of San Diego. Plans are being made to add more trails to the area. Visit Website

Or call (858) 694-3030 for more information.


BringFido Guest Rating

Cowles Mountain has received a rating of 2.8 out of 5 bones by 13 canine critics on BringFido.

  • Serena
    Oct. 7, 2019
    Not The Best For Doggies!

    It’s a challenging hike for a dog and it is not allowed to bring them during hot hours.

  • Jenn
    Jun. 13, 2018
    SD has better dog trails to offer

    If your a local, you've probably been to Cowles at some point. It's a steep 3 mile hike up the mountain. It is exposed like most trails around here and therefore gets quite HOT. It is also crowded (very crowded!). It's popular due to easy central location in the city, a quick, tough cardio workout, with a great view at the top. I bring my dog only ON leash here and only evenings after work. If you are visiting the San Diego area and looking for a dog friendly hike, there are better offerings. Visitors to SD often underestimate just how hot the trails really are out here, and going up-hill increases chances of over-heating. Where-ever you go, just hike smart, bring lots of water, and keep tabs on your pup.

  • Lily
    Mar. 1, 2018
    Be Responsible Dog Owners

    It's a nice hiking area, came here on a Sunday afternoon, semi-crowded, took my puppers Bruno for the first time (medium size dog); My finance and I try our best to keep our puppers on the leash at all times and was teaching him to wait on the slide lines so that people (joggers) can pass safely. Most dogs were leashed but it was a hassle with those who weren't and problematic for those dog owners who wouldn't move their dogs taking up space. Seems like majority of the people aren't bother by the dogs, just be responsible.

  • Mike
    More than a year ago
    Don't bring your dog here

    It's not safe. Lots of widelife and bikers. Gets very hot. Dogs are sprinters not long distance runners.

  • Danny
    More than a year ago
    Not a Good Place for Pets

    Cowles Mountain is great. Not great for your pet.

    I work in the Veterinary Field and have seen many cases of Bloat, Heat Exhaustion, Rattle Snake Bites and Dog Attacks- Directly from Cowles.

    Bloat happens when pet owners allow dogs to gulp water before, during or after taking on the mountain. Surgery = apx 4000

    Heat Exhaustion. It is simply too hot. Going in the dawn or dusk poses a higher risk to snake bites. Most pet owners do not notice the early signs of Heat Exhaustion, time it takes to get off the mountain, in the car, and to a veterinarian can cause severe harm to your pet.
    Heat Exhaustion = apx 2000

    Rattlesnakes are prevalent at Cowles. I have seen several myself, including a Red Diamond. As mentioned above, Dawn and Dusk are times were reptiles move about most often. So, trying to avoid the heat may lead you and your pet to a great chance encounter with a Rattler. Rattlesnake bites are Serious! Even if your pet has had a Rattlesnake Vaccine. If your pet is bitten, Every Second is Critical. You must think about the time, to get off the mountain, in the car, to a veterinarian, the out coming is often fatality.

    Treatment of a Rattlesnake bite, is not just a "Anti-Venom Shot" it is the administration of Anti-Venom. Often, patients can use multiple vials of anti-venom. The pet is also going to need hospitalization and after care. Rattlesnake bites can cause life time coagulation problems.
    Rattlesnake Bite Treatment - apx 4000

    Lastly, dog attacks.

    Sadly, with San Diego having so many Dog Parks and Beaches the most frequent case in the veterinary ER is lacerations. It's probably not your dog's fault. Cowles Mountain is Not a Leash-Free area, but people do it all the time. And if you think you can get the attackers information to have him/her cover the cost, you are wrong.

    My best advice, is do NOT use retractable leashes. Be sure the your dog's collar will Not slip off (Try a Martingale style collar) and be aware of your dog's surroundings.

    Sorry to be a Negative Nancy- but it's the truth.

  • Leanne
    More than a year ago
    early is better

    I like Cowles but never from the "front" side always from Baker way. It is less crowded most of the way. I start very early. There is no shade for dogs and east county gets hot. I have never understood those people who start out at 10am or later. Also if you want solitude continue on to Pyles Peak and you see maybe a handful of other people.

  • Sara
    More than a year ago
    hot & dogs get in the way

    Been hiking this area for 18 years and have seen 4 dogs die from the heat on these trails and snake bites and some brutal fights from dogs not being leashed. Even saw a biker hit a dog and he sued the owner for damages since the dog was off leash and its the law to keep them leashed. You will be given a ticket if the Rangers see your dog off leash and its not cheap! I don't take my dog anymore since many locals complain of the dogs being in the way and too many people are not picking up the poop and my dog was attacked by an off leash dog and also had a close call with a rattlesnake which is also very expensive ....$4,000 for the anti venom shot. The best place if you do hike this is the service road since its wide enough to see snakes and easy to rescue a dog in distress since trucks can drive up for rescues...very difficult to carry a large dog that has collapsed from heat....Believe me I've seen it several times and it is so sad to see this.

  • Karlie
    More than a year ago
    Too crowded

    I love this place,it's great exercise for people, and the dogs love it,but I like to take my time,get some pictures (off to the side and at the summit),enjoy being outside,there are a lot of trail runners here, uphill-maybe,but I don't think running down this incline is very safe,plus I've seen someone dragging their dog behind them doing it,and my pitbull got ran into by one on a more narrow portion of the trail someone couldn't seem to slow down on . Verdict:if I go again it'll be during the week,if that's still bad I'll find somewhere else

  • Jenny
    More than a year ago
    great little hike

    Can get crowded with runners and lots of hikers but everyone was cool with the dogs

  • Casey
    More than a year ago
    Half way up might be better for some dogs

    This hike is awesome but I don't think it's the best for dogs. I went with a group of 5, and 1 dog. He only made it about half way, (it was fairly warm outside), even with plenty of water. The smaller dogs we saw on the trail seemed to make it up a lot easier than the big ones. The view is great but I was very thankful I left my large dog at home.

  • Yessika
    More than a year ago
    Cowles Mountain in June

    It can get really hot here and there is very little shade. I brought my dog later than I wanted to, maybe about 1pm, and we only got halfway. I had water for him and everything, but i think the ground was hot too. A lot of dogs were tired. Easy hike, lots of friendly people and dogs, just make sure you go before or after the full sun! :)

  • KR
    More than a year ago
    Off trails at Cowles Mtn

    This is an awesome location to exercise yourself and the pet(s) regardless of which trail you pick. If you stick to the paved roads the park has porta-johns available but no drinking water sources so bring enough for the 4-legged friend too. Dirt trails vary from commonly used to remote paths, all enjoyable but keep in mind there are other predators too. Winter is not so bad, just a few coyotes and tarantulas but in the summer I have spotted several rattleers with the snake size ranging from 4-feet to 12-16 inches (more poisonous). If you are deep in the hike, you probably won't make it out in time as cell phone coverage is limited so please keep your dog on-leash or at leash get familiar with the trails beforehand. The nearest vet clinic is at the intersecion of Golfcrest Drive and Mission Gorge Road at 619-828-5784

  • Adele
    More than a year ago
    SD Hiker

    We usually start at the Santee end, off Mesa Rd. Lots of great views on the way up. The entire hike is almost 5 miles roundtrip with a 1400 ft elevation gain...You'll see a lot of people and dogs at the top of the mountain as everyone takes in the vast view of San Diego. Definitely worth the effort.

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Cowles Mountain