Cowles Mountain – Peak #7

This is my first hike since I had a muscle strain in my back two weeks ago. I took it easy on the way up and could just feel a slight soreness in my back, but nothing major or lasting.

Although the temperature was flirting with the 90’s, a nice breeze was blowing this morning as I started up the trail. I saw a small covey of quail run across the trail ahead of me. I got my camera out just in time to catch the last one scurry into the brush.

A quail scurrying into the brush

A quail scurrying into the brush

The trail follows a service road all the way to the top of the mountain. I encountered a lot of locals who looked like they summited this peak on a daily basis. And I also met several people who looked like they were flirting with a myocardial infarction just to see the hazy panorama of San Diego.

Cowles Mountain from the trail

Cowles Mountain from the trail

While on the summit, a new group of people would join me about every two minutes. This appears to be one of the most popular peaks I’ve been to so far. The summit has a historical plaque, as well as two informative signs that identify many of the surrounding peaks and natural features. I spent some time guessing what all the peaks were before I noticed the signs. I was wrong about half the time.

On the way back down the mountain, I saw a crow and a red-tailed hawk swoop at each other in a dizzying display of aerobatic combat. The hawk kept flying above the crow and would suddenly drop about 5 feet in an attempt to sink its talons into the crow, but the crow would dart away. Likewise, the crow repeatedly darted at the hawk, trying to get the upper hand. In the end, the two birds had had enough and flew away in different directions.

I was rooting for the hawk.

I was back at the trailhead by 12:30 and felt great.

(Visited 611 times, 1 visits today)


  1. Kelly says

    Just climbed this today. It was an incredible day for a hike – amazing views of Lake Murray and the ocean! Pretty packed trail but so worth the crowds to see the view this afternoon.

    Looking for a 5-6hr hike for Friday somewhere in North County, challenging enough for experienced hikers and a couple a beginners. Do you have any recommendations?

  2. says

    Kelly, I am glad that you were able to make it up Cowles Mountain. Which way did you go up? I tend to take what I call the “back way” off of Barker Road. There are fewer people there, and it is a pretty decent hike.

    Regarding hikes in North County, I have thought of some:

    One is to go to Barker Valley on Palomar Mountain. I haven’t been on this hike for a long time, but it is a great place to go.

    Another one is Combs Peak, which I just did last month. It is also a hike where you might not encounter a lot of people. It is a little shorter at 4.7 miles and is only a little challenging at the end, when you have to climb off the trail to the summit. Any beginner can do it and any experienced hiker can enjoy it. To get to the trail head, there are several miles on a dirt road that most cars can easily make.

    But by far the best view that I have had in San Diego (although Monument Peak is close 2nd place), is Eagle Peak near Julian, which is more East County than North County, but is a good hike with a great summit that looks down into Boulder Creek and beyond. This is also shorter than 5-6 hours, but the drive through Wynola and Santa Ysabel can be part of the trip. You can also stop for Julian Pie on the way out.

    Let me know if you need any help on trails and getting there, etc.

    Thanks for posting!


  3. jessica says

    i used to do this one a lot. i am finally venturing out though – and it’s getting addicting!

  4. says

    Knocked this one out this morning. I don’t know why this mountain intimidates me so much but it does. I came, I saw, I kicked it’s butt. Took the fire road from Baker. Lots and lots of people coming and going; was like a party up there. :)


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