San Diego CA 92119
- Mon: 6:30am-8pm
- Tue: 6:30am-8pm
- Wed: 6:30am-8pm
- Thu: 6:30am-8pm
- Fri: 6:30am-8pm
- Sat: 6:30am-8pm
- Sun: 6:30am-8pm
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Cowles Mountain is the highest point in San Diego, and a beloved spot for local hikers. With a 1,592 foot climb to the top and a view that makes it worthwhile, Cowles Mountain is a steep and moderately challenging hike that everyone should experience at least once.
Parking and public transportation at Cowles Mountain
Parking at the lot at the base of the mountain is free, but may fill up on afternoons or weekends. Street parking is widely available in the surrounding area.
Best and worst time to go to Cowles Mountain
Since weather is almost always ideal in San Diego, the only concerns regarding Cowles Mountain are that it can attract hundreds of hikers on Saturday and Sundays.
Admission to Cowles Mountain
Cowles Mountain is free for public use with no fees for admission. Camping is available for $14 per site with one vehicle.
Must see and do at Cowles Mountain
The Hike to the Summit
The most popular reason that Cowles Mountain gets so many visitors is because of the half-mile hike to the top. The entire path is at an incline, so many locals take advantage of Cowles as part of their daily workout.
Views From the Top
Finally reaching the top of Cowles Mountain is a rewarding experience. Views from the top of San Diego's highest peak are thoroughly impressive, and include Silver Strand, Coronado, and parts of Mexico. To help you understand exactly what you're looking at, a map at the summit identifies each location. The view is among the most impressive in San Diego.
In addition to great photographic opportunities in every direction, the peek of Cowles Mountain also provides a rare opportunity for remarkable panoramic photography. You might not need to buy an expensive lens to take phenomenal 180 degree pictures; most smart phones have a panoramic feature that enables you take surprisingly high-quality wide lens photographs.
Other places to visit near Cowles Mountain
Cowles Mountain Coffee
Directly across from the trails of Cowles Mountain, Cowles Mountain Coffee offers various coffee options at a low price. They also have outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi.
If Cowles Mountain is too easy a hike for you, then you can hike an extra two mile trail that branches from the summit of Cowles, to Pyles Peak. Pyles Peak offers similar views, but the trail will be notably less crowded, as most hikers stop at the first 1.5 mile hike to the top of Cowles.
The Trails Eatery
The Trails is a beloved local restaurant that not only features a "Hiker's Delight" menu, but also offers unique breakfast options like Croissant French Toast and Chocolate Bacon. They serve breakfast every day from 7-3, but are also open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5-9.
Insider tip for visitors to Cowles Mountain
Although Cowles Mountain is spelled as if it rhymes with "Towels", locals know that it is actually pronounced "Coals". The reason for this is that ranching pioneer, George A. Cowles, developed much of Eastern San Diego, and Cowles Mountain is named after him.
Author's bio: After a seven year career in the US Navy, Nicholas Napier completed his MBA and settled in California. He's published over 40 articles as the San Diego Fitness Trends Examiner, and regularly contributes as a freelance writer to various companies.