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Cowles Mountain, San Diego

4.3
#8 of 11 in Nature in San Diego
Mountain Nature / Park
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.
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
51 reviews
TripAdvisor
  • We went during the week which was nice for both parking and crowds on the trail. There are bathrooms at the beginning of the hike. Trail condition good and easy to follow. This is a dusty trail with n...  more »
  • Go early, take lots of water, and enjoy the views. Our roundtrip took about an hour and thirty minutes. Great city hike.  more »
  • Did a solo hike starting my ascent from barker way as early as 5:45 in the morning. The trail is well maintained and has markers on the way. I am a beginner and did not find the hike to be too hard. R...  more »

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