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General Overview: 
Cowles Mountain is a very popular hike in Southern California. Through out this 3-mile hike, we saw 50+ hikers also enjoying this Sand Diego hiking trail. Some were running, most were walking, and a lot of them brought their furry friends along on leashes.
Cowles Mountain hike takes approximately one hour and fifteen minutes to complete, including spending time at the top of the mountain to enjoy the gorgeous views of San Diego. At 1,592 feet, it’s the tallest point within the city limits of San Diego. Cowles Mountain is a short, moderate hike in Southern California, offering a moderate incline on the way up. It has plenty of parking (non-paid) and even offers public restrooms at the bottom of the trail.


If you’re looking for a shorter hike in San Diego, Cowles Mountain is it! This hike offers a moderate incline that will break a sweat, while not taking up your entire day. The views at the top of the mountain are gorgeous, especially on a clear day in San Diego (which is quite often). Plus, it’s both dog-friendly and bathroom-friendly.
Trail Map

View Cowles Mountain – San Diego Hiking Trail in a larger map

From North San Diego:
  • Take the ramp onto I-5 S
  • Take the exit onto I-8 E
  • Take the College Ave exit
  • Keep left at the fork, follow signs for College Ave N
  • Turn left onto College Ave
  • Turn right onto Navajo Rd
  • Turn left onto Cowles Mountain Blvd

Where to Park:  
  • There are approximately 15-20 parking spaces in the Mission Trails Regional Parking lot. If the lot is full, there is street parking available. Parking is free.


When to Go

  • Late Fall/Winter/Early Spring: This hike is more inland San Diego, so avoid the summer months between 11 am – 3 pm when the temps can get really high. During the winter season, be sure to check the weather forecast prior for rain or thunderstorms.
How it Looks:  
Near the start of the trail
Near the start of the trail
Rocky terrain – near the trial summit
Rock terrain – near the trial summit
Summit marker
Hikers enjoying the summit
Panoramic of the Cowles Mountain trail
Dog Friendly
  • Yes, dogs are permitted on leashes. If it’s warm out, be sure to bring water for your dog as well.
Intensity Levels
  • Barry-the-Bear: “This hike was the bomb! It took me a little less than 2 hours to complete. I felt like I really burned some calories on the way up too. Score!”
  • Larry-the-Lion: “I liked this hike because it was short and sweet. It offered a good incline too! Afterwards, I went to Old Town for some Mexican food. ¡Delicioso!!”
  • Chris-the-Cheetah:
    “Cowles Mountain is a good hike for beginner hikers, which is NOT me. I need more challenge, so I ran up and down this mountain for a harder work-out. Next tim
    e, I’ll bring my weighted vest for an extra challenge.

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