Cowles Mountain in San Diego (pronounced "kohls") got its name from George A. Cowles, one of San Diego's early prominent ranching pioneers. Cowles Mountain at 1,592 feet it is the highest point in San Diego. Cowles Mountain is found in Mission Trails Regional Park in central San Diego. Mountain biking Cowles Mountain is so much fun especially for an “in San Diego” ride. The ride up the trail is very technical. There are about 100 or so water bars you have to climb up. They are easier than they look. First time I rode it I saw those water bars and said “this is going to suck” but after I cleared a few I just kept going. I couldn’t clear the whole thing but I am working on it. Please don’t go around the water bars it erodes the trail in ways it shouldn’t erode. The fire road is so brutal, 22% grade at points, you will be in your granny huffing and puffing. The trail from Cowles Mountain over to Pyles Peak is fun because you leave the crowds, not as many people go over there. The trail to Pyles Peak is also technically challenging. The ride down the road is fast, please watch out for hikers. Down the trail is technical and fun. A few spots are tough to clear so hang on tight. If you are looking for a great mountain bike trail in San Diego that will give you a great workout Cowles Mountain is your ride. If you don’t like to climb you may not want to attempt Cowles Mountain.
There are at least 3 spots you can start your ride up Cowles Mountain. Big Rock Park in Santee is off Mesa Rd right by the 52 and 125.At the end of Lake Murray Blvd. Take Navajo to Lake Murray Blvd. Go north on Lake Murray Blvd to the end.At the fire road off Barker Road. Take Navajo to Boulder Lake Ave and go north to the trail head.
There are a few OK single track sections, but for the most part the riding is on very steep fire roads. Depending on the season, the roads may be well graded or rocky and rut filled. There are typically lots of hikers.I would skip Cowles Mtn and go across Mission Gorge Rd to the other side of Mission Trails Regional Park. From there, you can ride lots of great trails and have access to Spring Canyon to the north and Sycamore Canyon to the northeast.
02/11/2009Trailhead off Lake Murray Blvd
02/11/2009Bottom of Mesa Trail
02/11/2009Mesa Trail and Big Rock Junction
02/11/2009Don't miss this turn on the way down
02/11/2009This is steep
02/11/2009Made it to the top
02/11/2009View of Pyle's Peak trail
02/11/2009They just don't let up
02/11/2009It get's technical
02/11/2009You can hike to the top if you want
02/11/2009Great view at the end of the trail
02/11/2009Fun stuff coming down Big Rock Trail
02/11/2009Stairs on Big Rock Trail
02/11/2009Close up of one of my friends
10/27/2007Cowles Mountian Trail MapPrint Trail Map (.pdf)
10/27/2007Cowles Mountain From Google Earth looking southPrint Trail Map (.pdf)
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