Noble Canyon Trail Featured
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Hiking San Diego

Hike Noble Canyon Trail

  • 16.2 miles - Hard Effort
  • 5-8 Hours (Total)
  • Not Often Hiked
  • 2,520 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 5,560 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

The hike up the Noble Canyon Trail is a hike of transitions. The trail starts in the desert, with scrub and cacti lining the trail, high above Noble Creek. As you climb, you move into old oaks, riparian zones, and the pines of San Diego's high mountains. This hike ends at a viewpoint of the iconic PCT, where you can see for miles from the desert divide.

In this Guide:
  • Why the Nobel Canyon Trail is Epic
  • Hike Directions & Recommendations
  • How to Get to the Traihead

Where is the Noble Canyon Trail?

We're going to start the Noble Canyon Trail in Pine Valley, about 1 hour east of downtown San Diego. We're going to start a short ways up the trail, cutting off the beginning three miles of desert in favor of some incredible views later.  The parking can be found marked on Google Maps at: Noble Canyon Mid-Way Exit and Parking, Pine Creek Rd, Pine Valley, CA 91962.

Nobel Canyon Trail Parking
The start of the hike is a short way off of I8, east of San Diego, in the southern part of Cleveland National Forest.
Road To Noble Canyon Trail
The last mile or two to the parking area is a small road that's not always in great condition, but it's doable by low-clearance vehicles.
Gate On Road To Noble Canyon Trail
You'll pass through a gate that's usually open unless the weather is bad.
Parking Noble Canyon Trail
There's a large parking area that I've never seen full. It's usually only used by mountain bikers.

You don't need a parking pass, and there are no facilities here.

Gear Recommendations

Nobel Canyon Water Spigot
There's a water spigot at Penny Pines where you can refill, but it can be frozen in the winter. It's a popular water refill spot for PCT hikers.

This is a backcountry hike, and you should plan accordingly.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2Hit SOS or just tell loved ones that you're running late where your cell phone has no service.  Review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The best hiking footwear I've ever owned. No blisters. Get them wet, they dry quickly. Lots of cushion and comfort.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProHiking maps, route info, and fitness stats on my wrist. Review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26Lightweight, carries all your gear, and your back doesn't get sweaty. Oh yea, it's also one of the most inexpensive packs you can get.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated July 2024)

Noble Canyon Trail Maps

Nobel Canyon Trail Route
In this guide, we'll skip the first few miles of the trail (in red) and skip ahead to the more exciting parts. At the end of the Noble Canyon Trail, we'll cross the road for a short stretch on the PCT to a desert divide viewpoint.
Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Nobel Canyon Trail Elevation
Overall the climb to the viewpoint is gradual and manageable. There are a few short and steep sections, but I wouldn't consider this hike a big mountain climb.

3D  Map

Nobel Canyon Trail 3d Map
The hike route meanders up through Noble Canyon until reaching the Penny Pines Trailhead. Then we cross the Sunrise Highway and hike a short way on the PCT.

If you look at other guides for the Noble Canyon Trail, you'll notice they all describe it from top to bottom. I prefer to hike it as described here, from bottom to top and back.

Hike Notes

Nobel Canyon Mountain Bike Trail Register
The Noble Canyon Trail is considered one of Southern California's best mountain biking trails. Most mountain bikers will ride it from top to bottom, and a box at the top trailhead has free bells for bikers to use. The San Diego Mountain Biking Association helps maintain the trail (thank you!). Keep an eye out for bikes as you hike.

Noble Canyon Hike Directions

Noble Canyon Trail Directions 2
Look for the wood posts and start the connector trail to the Noble Canyon Trail proper.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 3
Stay straight, avoiding the mountain bike use trail to the right.

The burn area is from the Valley Fire of 2022. It won't last long, don't worry.

Noble Canyon Trail Directions 4
After about a quarter of a mile on the connector, you'll join the Noble Canyon Trail. Bear to the left and join the trail.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 5
You'll start seeing the official NRT trail markers for the Noble Canyon Trail.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 6
The trail turns and follows above Noble Creek.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 7
After following the creek from above, you'll dip down into a lush area with oaks closer to the creek.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 8
At the split, bear right and cross the creek for the first time.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 9
Now the canyon narrows and you follow the right bank of the creek.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 10
Cross back over the creek and start the climb uphill.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 1
This is the steepest section of the hike as you climb up and out of the canyon.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 11
Cross over Pine Creek Road to continue.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 12
At the junction of the Indian Creek Trail, keep straight on Noble Canyon.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 14
When you reach the big clearing, make the hard left. It's not obvious.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 15
Here's the view from that last intersection after you've made the turn. There's a Noble Canyon Trail marker ahead.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 16
And here you are a the end of the Noble Canyon Trail. Continue straight toward the Sunrise Highway.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 17
Go through the gate by the Sunrise Highway.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 18
This is the Penny Pines Trailhead. The PCT access is over to the right, across the Sunrise Highway.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 19
There's a short connector to the PCT.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 20
And then the PCT joins in from the right. Go straight (northbound) on the PCT.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 21
Once the views open up, look for a small use trail heading down to the right.
Noble Canyon Trail Directions 22
At the end of the use trail is the viewpoint. That's it! From here, just turn around and go back down the way you came up.

Need More Info?

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.