Cowles Mountain Trail8212 Mesa Rd, Santee, CA, US, 92071
Or call (619) 258-4100 for more information.
Cowles Mountain Trail is a moderately easy, 5-mile hike in Mission Trails Regional Park that 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.
Nov. 30, 2018
Pick your entrance and pick your exit
As a San Diego local, I can tell you that Cowles provides a great "set" of hikes. I say "set" because there are multiple places you can enter (all different parking areas), with multiple routes up and down to the peak(s). Plan your route beforehand to come up with the distance / elevation gain hike that best suits you and your pup.
On the short end, you can make this a 3 mile hike / 900 ft gain straight to Cowles peak via the Golfcrest entrance and the switchbacks. Alternatively, you can make this a double-peak exercise (continuing from Cowles peak to Pyles peak) and taking one of the meandering routes from say the "Mesa Trail" entrance., which turns this into a 9mile hike / 2250 ft gain. And there are multiple distances / elevation gain, depending upon where you enter, which trails you opt to take, and whether you stop at Cowles peak, or whether you continue on to PYles peak.
I personally prefer to enter from Mesa Road and do the Mesa Trail, as it is much less crowded than the main/golfcrest entrance, the trail is longer and more meandering, and it provides much more shade in the afternoon. Also, the main entrance/route is very crowded, as the 3 mile hike is an extremely popular exercise venue for the locals; I prefer to stay off of that for the bulk of the hike.
No matter which trail you do, I would consider these trails moderate to moderate/strenuous depending upon one's level of shape. I'd rate the hikes as 5 bones, but I drop to 4 bones only because of the intense number of people on the main portion of the trail.
More than one year ago.
We had no idea how long this hike would actually be but we took our two boxers on this journey. We went in December so the weather was nice and cool. We brought lots of water with us which is good because we went through almost all of it. The views from the top were amazing! Lots of great areas for photos. We passed plenty of other dogs as well, all on leashes. Only do this when you can take your time with your pup, on a cooler day, and have lots of water.