Hike Cuyamaca Peak
|In This Guide|
|Distance||6 miles (9.7 km)|
|Hike Time||2:30 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,610 feet (491m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,512 feet (1985m)|
|Fees & Permits||Park Fee|
|Park Contact||Cuyamaca Rancho State Park|
The hike to Cuyamaca Peak brings you to San Diego County’s second highest point at 6,512 feet. It’s only 20 feet lower than the highest peak, but much easier to hike. On a clear day, you can see for 100 miles from the summit, including the Coronado Islands and Table Top Mountain in Mexico. Even though the hike goes to a high point, it’s not a tough backcountry expedition, but rather a a great hike for a beginner – no tricky twists and turns.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, where the Cuyamaca Peak lives, is also a beautiful spot and worth the visit. The park is 24,700 acres of oak and conifer forests, with pristine meadows and mountain streams. Originally the Kumeyaay Indians made this area their home, and Cuyamaca is a Kumeyaay word for “the place where it rains” since the higher peaks here get about 3 times more rain a year than the rest of San Diego.
You would think that Cuyamaca would be very lush, but it’s not. It’s still recovering from a devastating forest fire. In 2003, 90% of Cuyamaca park burnt down during California’s largest recorded wildfire, started by a lost hunter who made a signal fire. You’ll see evidence of the fire on the hike to Cuyamaca Peak; there are burnt logs and trees as you do the hike. The area has recovered well, and today is home to over 200 bird species, and lots of mule deer and wild turkeys, which you have a decent chance at spotting if you leave early.
Cuyamaca Peak is the only trail in the park that you can bring leashed dogs on.
Where is Cuyamaca Peak?
Use this as the trailhead GPS address: Paso Picacho Campground, Julian, CA, 92036, USA.
Cuyamaca Peak is in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and there’s an entry fee. If you have a California State Parks Pass, entry is free. There’s camping and other hikes in the park, so if you want to make a weekend of it, it’s an option.
Here’s what I recommend if you visit Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The Cuyamaca Peak hike is right next to Stonewall Peak hike, and both can be done in a day. Break your hikes up with a picnic in Paso Picacho Campground.
Gear for the Hike
This isn’t a technical hike and you can get away with fitness clothing here. It does get hot in the summer, and cold in the winter, so check the weather for the park before you leave.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.
Good for light and more hardcore hikes. Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.
This is a super-light and comfortable backpack that can hold everything you need on a hike, including a hydration bladder. It also works great as a general backpack or carry-on.
Make your photos stand out by using this lightweight, do-anything tripod. The Joby attaches your smartphone to trees, rocks, whatever you can find on the trail. Folds down compactly too.
Don’t waster your money on hiking gear that’s no good, I’ve done that for you already! Full HikingGuy Gear List
* No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Also → Big Sale at REI On Now:
Cuyamaca Peak Trail Maps
The peak has great views, but lacks pristine nature. There are radio towers and small buildings. Don’t let that stop you from doing this hike. The views make it worth it.
Hike Cuyamaca Peak Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Cuyamaca Peak Hike Directions
Cuyamaca is pronounced kwee-a-mack-a. I went ahead and mispronounced it in my video.
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Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.