Trip Planner:   USA  /  California  /  San Diego  /  Cowles Mountain

Cowles Mountain, San Diego

4.5
#7 of 13 in Nature in San Diego
Cowles Mountain is a prominent mountain located in the San Carlos neighborhood, within the City of San Diego, San Diego County, California. The 1,593ft summit is the highest point of the city of San Diego.It is protected within Mission Trails Regional Park.HistoryThe mountain is named after George A. Cowles, a 1870s-80s rancher and early businessperson in southwestern San Diego County.San Diego State UniversityFor many years Cowles Mountain was locally known as "S" Mountain. In 1931, 500 students from San Diego State University (SDSU) painted a 400ft letter "S" on the side of the mountain, after which it took on its popular name. In April 1942, during World War II, the local military ordered the S covered up for the sake of national security. After the war the painting tradition was resurrected.In the 1970s, the annual repainting tradition was ceased for environmental and habitat protection, but suffered a brief resurgence in the late 1980s. The "S" has not been repainted for nearly three decades.Mission Trails Regional ParkThe entire mountain, with marked trails, is a protected area within Mission Trails Regional Park, which opened in 1972.TrailsThe main trail to the summit is a popular hiking destination taking hundreds of people per day to a 360-degree panorama of San Diego County. The hike to the top is long and an elevation change of about. This trail is on the corner of Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road. A much-less-used but maintained trail begins near the intersection of Boulder Lake Avenue and Barker way. This trail meets the main trail near the summit.
Arrange your visit to Cowles Mountain and discover more family-friendly attractions in San Diego using our San Diego trip planning website .
Source
Create an itinerary including Cowles Mountain
map
Cowles Mountain Reviews
Rate this attraction
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.0
57 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • Park at Big Rock park in Santee and hike up the back. Steep, longer, but less crowded. Lots of stairs and rocks at the start, but a really beautiful hike:)  more »
  • Our family hiked this area during Christmas. Lots of hikers, the trail is moderate in difficulty. At the peaks of each trails, some beautiful views of areas. I would suggest to bring lots of water, ho...  more »
  • Very good hike for how close it is to San Diego. Hiked it on Saturday morning. Showed up at the trail head for 0900. Parking lot packed and hundreds of people on various parts of the trail. Declined t...  more »
Google
  • I love hiking up Cowles' Mountain. Regardless of your fitness level making it to the top always feels like a major workout. The earlier in the morning you start, the easier your hike will seem. Bring water and enjoy!
  • Great hike! It can be crowded on the weekends, but I definitely recommend you go onto Pyle's Peak. There's a lot less be people on that trail. There are beautiful views and very dog friendly!
  • This place is a great ankle workout. It is very rocky. Wear a good grip sole shoe.
  • This the most romantic place in SOUTHERN California. If you don't have plans for Valentine's day come to Cowles. Bring a date or come along and you are sure to meet the man or woman of your dreams whilst hiking the mountain.
  • Amazing 360 degree view of the area, you can see all the way to Mexico from the top.
Places to stay near Cowles Mountain

Plan your trip to San Diego

  • Get a personalized plan

    A complete day-by-day itinerary
    based on your preferences
  • Customize it

    Refine your plan. We'll find the
    best routes and schedules
  • Book it

    Choose from the best hotels
    and activities. Up to 50% off
  • Manage it

    Everything in one place.
    Everyone on the same page.

Plans to Cowles Mountain by other users

60 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM CANADA January, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: January ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 60 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM BRAZIL June, popular PREFERENCES: June ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 60 days in California & Miami BY A USER FROM BRAZIL June, teens, outdoors, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife, popular PREFERENCES: June, teens, outdoors, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 46 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES August, popular PREFERENCES: August ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 60 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM ITALY June, popular PREFERENCES: June ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 58 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM SWITZERLAND July, culture, outdoors, beaches, shopping, wildlife, fast-paced, popular PREFERENCES: July, culture, outdoors, beaches, shopping, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Fast-paced 60 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM GERMANY May, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife, slow & easy, popular PREFERENCES: May, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Slow & easy 47 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM SWITZERLAND December, popular PREFERENCES: December ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 48 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM CANADA March, popular PREFERENCES: March ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 28 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM INDIA February, kids, relaxing, popular PREFERENCES: February, kids, relaxing ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 60 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM AUSTRALIA March, popular PREFERENCES: March ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 60 days in San Diego BY A USER FROM ITALY January, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife, popular PREFERENCES: January, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium
View more plans