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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. The views you get are incredible and make this hike worth your time.
6 miles (9.7 km)
Paved Fire Road
Yes, in Parking Lot
Cuyamaca Peak Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
Paso Picacho Campground, Julian, CA, 92036, USA
Cuyamaca Peak is about 1 hour east of downtown San Diego. Make a day of it and hike Stonewall Peak too.
The hike is a straightforward out and back. This is also the easiest approach to the peak. The other side has a bigger elevation gain.
It's a steady uphill hike to Cuyamca Peak. Don't forget to take breaks. You can turn around and soak up the views while you catch your breath.
Interactive Map Cuyamaca Peak Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Cuyamaca Peak Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, please check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Cuyamaca Peak Hike Video Cuyamaca Peak Hike Directions What to Expect Cuyamca Peak a great hike for a beginner – no tricky twists and turns. It’s also paved the entire way, but not open to cars. You pronounce Cuyamaca as kwee-a-mack-a. I went ahead an mispronounced it in my video. Cuymaca Peak is the only trail in the park that oastou can bring leashed dogs on. You’ll see evidence of a forest fire on the lower slopes. In 2003, 90% of Cuyamaca park burnt down during California’s largest recorded wildfire, started by a lost hunter who made a signal fire. 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. On a clear day, you can see for 100 miles from the summit, including the Coronado Islands and Table Top Mountain in Mexico. Cuymaca Peak is right next to Stonewall Peak, and both can be hiked in a day. Break your hikes up with a picnic in Paso Picacho Campground. 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. Turn by Turn Directions There’s plenty of parking. Make the right after the entrance gate for the main lot (not the campground on the left). The parking lot has bathrooms and picnic tables. You can also fill up your water bottles here. It gets hot in the summer, make sure you have plenty of water. You will sweat going up this climb. The Lookout Fire Road is the trail you want to take. It goes around the south side of the campground. This map makes it easier to understand the layout – the campground all looks the same. You can either cut through the park office and maintenance yard to get to the trailhead, or go just past campsite 69 to find another entrance to the trail. If you go through the park office and maintenance yard, this is the gate at the start of the trail. It’ll be on your right as you go through the lots. The Lookout Fire Road is marked on the post. If you start by campsite 69, there’s a bathroom and a hiking board close by. Make the right when you get on the paved road. Either way that you enter, follow the paved trail up the side of the mountain. You’ll see evidence of the forest fire on the lower slopes. You’ll see some smaller trails spitting off to the sides. Stay on the paved Lookout Fire Road for the entire hike. It’s a steep hike, but if you stop to catch your breath, turn around to take in the views of Stonewall Peak, directly behind you. At about 1.5 miles there’s a bigger trail split. Again, stay on the paved trail the whole way up. The flowers and fauna are great here, especially in the spring. When you’re almost at the top, you’ll notice more pine trees and sections that survived the fire. It gives you an idea of what the mountain looked like before the 2003 wildfire. After that wooded stretch, the road ends at the peak. Get your selfie! After you check out the views at the end of the road, go back down a little bit to these two buildings, and then go through the gap between them and head to the other side of the peak. The path is a little funky, but you’ll come out on a pile of rocks with incredible views to the west. The views from the peak are awesome. Get your shots, be careful, and go back down the way you came up. An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
Hiking the Stonewall Peak Trail to the summit is one of my favorite hikes. At the top you’ll find a stone lookout with 360 views of the surrounding peaks. It’s one of the more unique summits out there and worth a visit.
The 10 hiking essentials are the recommended key survival tools that hikers should bring with them on every hike. The original 10 essentials date back the 1930s. Here’s my take on the modern hiking essentials and how to use them.
I’m Hiking Guy, aka Cris Hazzard. I like to get outdoors, walk, and then write about it. It wasn’t always like that though.
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