The 5 Best Hikes in East County San Diego

The 5 Best Hikes in East County San Diego
19 Jan 2022

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Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

East County San Diego is home to many beautiful trails. The beautiful climate and scenery in San Diego creates the perfect weather for hiking. Whether you are a tourist, or a San Diego local, you should visit these trails at least once. There are beginner-friendly, moderate, and expert-level trails, so everyone can tag along. These are the 5 best trails you can hike on in East County San Diego.

1. Iron Mountain – Expert

This trail is seriously underrated, though visitors claim the views are worth the effort. Its lack of popularity may be due to it being an expert-level hike. The Iron Mountain trail is 5 miles long. It is always open to the public, and there are no fees to get in. On the trail, visitors get to see the stunning Cuyamaca Mountains. The weather conditions are good all year round, but people recommend going earlier in the morning. Another benefit to going early is to get parking, because it’s tricky to find a spot. If you are ready for a challenge, the Iron Mountain is the hike for you!

2. Lake Murray – Beginner

Since it is accessible to people of all ages, Lake Murray is one of the most visited trails in East County. The Lake Murray trail is perfect for family vacations, or even for just getting some physical activity into your week. On the 6.4 mile trail, site seers get to view the scenic Murray Reservoir. Those who go to Lake Murrary will partake in activities such as: jogging, fishing, having picnics, barbecuing food and even writing. The park closes at 8pm, so make sure to leave a bit early to avoid conflict. The weather is said to be nice year-round, so if you are staying the entire day, there is no need to worry.

3. Father Junipero Serra Trail – Beginner

Here is another beginner trail that accommodates anyone. The trail has a paved road, and is only 1.8 miles long. Though it is so short, the trail includes many sites that will keep you interested, and more likely to stay longer. Visitors can look out for wildlife like birds, rabbits, and occasionally predators like deer or coyotes. The Father Junipero provides wheelchair accessibility, unlike many of the other trails. The highlight of this trail is getting to hear the calming sound of the San Diego River, and even see parts of it at certain points of the hike.

4. Los Penasquitos Canyon – Moderate

Unlike the previous trials, the Los Penasquitos Canyon contains two trailheads. The west trailhead is open between 6:00am to sunset, while the east trailhead is open between 8:00am to sunset. There is a beautiful waterfall between the two trailheads. The waterfall is created from the Penasquitos creek that is continuously flowing. The Los Penasquitos Canyon is wonderful year-round, spans 6.5 miles long, and has lovely oak woodlands. The parking fee of a reasonable $3 only applies to the east trailhead.

5. Cowles Mountain Trail – Moderate

If you want something in between easy and difficult, I suggest trying out the Cowles Mountain Trail. This trail is dog friendly, but goes extremely steep; it is still manageable and is only 3 miles long. Once you are at the top, the remainder of the trek is easy. The Cowles Mountain Trail is known for its luscious greenery and plants. Wildflowers, sagebrush, chaparral trees, and scrub oak are just some of the plants that make up the thick elfin forest. At the top, you are able to view some of the previous trails like Iron Mountain and the Cuyamaca Mountain range. The Cowles Mountain Trail peak is the highest point in all of San Diego, at a whopping 1,592 ft. The yearly weather on the trail is beautiful and is good for amateur or experienced hikers going alone or in a small group.

All of these trails have consistent incredible views, perfect weather, and endless opportunities to make long-lasting memories.

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Craig Silva

Craig is a husband, a father, team leader, travel and food writer, senior youth group coordinator, designer, brander, community builder, volunteer, and social media strategist. Craig likes to travel, go camping, go on road trips, watch movies, build stuff, operate the grill, and sing with his band. Craig is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada. In June 2017, PR firm Cision identified Craig as one of Canada’s top 10 most popular male bloggers in the parents and family space.

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