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Cowles Mountain Trail

Cowles Mountain Trail is a dog-friendly hike in Santee, CA. This trail is considered moderately easy and will take about two hours to complete with Fido. The summit of Cowles Mountain is the highest point in the city limits of San Diego, so be sure to pack your camera! Visit Website

Or call (619) 258-4100 for more information.


BringFido Guest Rating

Cowles Mountain Trail has received a rating of 4.0 out of 5 bones by 3 canine critics on BringFido.

  • Tori Anne
    Feb 21, 2020
    Great Trail, So Busy

    This is a nice trail that can be accessed a few different ways and different lengths. My issue with it is it's so busy all the time. Theres really no time it's not packed, unless you maybe go in the middle of the day during the week. Some parts of the trail are tight so you will be passing people closely in tighter spots. Occasionally an off leash dog you have to fend off but I've found most people follow the rules.

  • Marc
    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.

  • Grayson
    More than a year ago
    Long Hike!

    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.

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Traveler Photos

We dug up 8 pictures of dogs at Cowles Mountain Trail.

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Cowles Mountain Trail