Cowles Mt. Sunrise
YouTube: Adventure Tails
Cowles Mountain is the most popular hike in San Diego at 3 miles round trip and 1,594 ft elevation with approximately 908 ft elevation gain. It is the highest point in the city of San Diego with amazing views, and is THE best sunrise hike in all of San Diego. I highly recommend it!
The main Cowles Mountain Trailhead parking lot can be found on the corner of Navajo Rd and Goldcrest Dr. There are many different trails within Mission Trails Regional Park. To follow the main Cowles Mountail trail to the summit, take a left at each of the two forks.
As its popularity may suggest, Cowles is a heavily trafficked trail on most days and at most times. Your best bet for some solitude is on a weekday or before sunrise. When aiming to watch the sunrise from the summit, I highly recommend starting your hike 1-1.5 hours prior to sunrise. Bring a headlamp or flashlight! This should give you enough time to hike plus a few breaks. Look up the mountain to see lights from other early hikers making their way in the dark!
Congratulations, you've arrived before sunrise! Reward yourself with a California breakfast burrito later :) Read the sign at the summit, take a break, then start hunting for a good sunrise viewing spot.
Our favorite sunrise viewing location is the overlook just past the summit on the north side. Follow the trail north down a small set of stairs and across the dirt road to reach a flat, rocky area. The view here is very wide open and fits a lot of people. It's going to get crowded (yup, even at sunrise) so make sure you arrive with enough time to grab the best spot!
When coming back down Cowles, keep an eye out on some of the steeper, rocky areas. They might be wet and slippery with the morning dew, or dry and slippery in the heat of the day. Sometimes both at the same time. Never be too embarrassed to sit and butt scoot down those big rocks! It's my favorite move and I do it all the time. Jumping down a big rock while tethered to a dog generally doesn't work out too well haha!
We hope you enjoyed hiking Cowles Mountain! It's a must do hike in San Diego :)