Monserate Mountain Trail Loop Hike

Monserate Mountain Trail Loop Hike

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Monserate Mountain Trail Loop Hike
  • Where to Park for the Monserate Mountain Trail Loop Hike
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations
Total Distance (?)4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Other Options 3.2 to Summit and Back
Hike Time2-3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,490 feet (454m)
Highest Elevation1,569 feet (478m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Monserate Mountain Preserve
Park Phone760-728-0889

A local favorite, the Monserate Mountain Trail loop hike features a tough little climb with some unique trail markers. First off, you’ll climb about 1,200 feet straight up the mountain, which is challenging but doable. And along the way, you’ll have trail markers for every ten stories of the original World Trade Center, put there for the Fallbrook Firefighters 9/11 Memorial Hill Climb. The top offers panoramic views and a fun summit area that often includes a flag. You can head straight back down or hike a loop that rewards you with more great views into the Agua Tibia Mountains.

Where is Montserate Mountain?

Montserate Mountain is located just off of I-15 in Fallbrook, CA, in the northern part of San Diego County. Use this trailhead address:
243 Horse Ranch Creek Rd, Fallbrook, CA 92028

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The parking area is big but does fill up. This is a popular hike with local hikers, runners, and dog walkers.
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There is additional parking in the dirt lots south of the trailhead.

There are no bathrooms or water fills at the trailhead.

Gear for the Hike

While plenty of people do this hike in casual or fitness clothes, you’ll fare better if you have light hiking gear.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.


Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated July 2021.

My July 2021 Top Gear Picks

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 a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Montserate Mountain Trail Maps

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.

Montserate Mountain Trail Directions 2
The Monserate Mountain Preserve is a diverse and fragile habitat, so please respect any closed areas and stay on the trail.
Montserate Mountain Trail Directions 1
This is what the 9/11 markers look like. There are 11 markers on the way up, one for every 10 stories of the 110-story original World Trade Center. They were put here to honor the fallen first responders who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 and all those dedicated to saving the lives of others. They also serve as markers for search and rescue. If you have to call in an emergency, just give 911 the marker number and they will know where you are.

Elevation Profile

Monserate Mountain Trail Elevation
Aside from a short breather or two, the climb to the summit is straight up. The loop is a longer descent, with a little 200 foot climb at the end.

3d Map

Monserate Mountain Trail 3d Map
The Monserate Mountain Trail Loop is a lollipop shape, heading clockwise up to the left and down to the right.

Monserate Mountain Hike Directions

It’s easy to say thank you for this guide!

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

Montserate Mountain Trail Directions 5
Hike through the impressive ranch gate at the Monserate Mountain Preserve trailhead.
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After a few minutes you’ll come to the gate for the Preserve, hike on through
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And now you start the climb. You can see from this picture how rocky the trail gets in some sections. Avoid any small side trails and stay on the big wide trail climbing up.
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You’ll see the trail climb in front of you. And given that this is a popular hike, you’ll probably see other hikers heading up and down, giving you clues as to where you will be next.
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When you get to the junction, make the left to continue to the summit. There’s also a trail marker here pointing left to the summit. You’ll be coming back on the loop at this junction.
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The climb is steep, so don’t forget to take a break and look around. You’ll have I-15 in view for all of the hike, which is not the prettiest, but as you climb, the surrounding countryside comes into view.
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Some sections of the trail have pavement, but it’s not long.
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When you get to this trail junction, stay straight (and up) toward the top of Montserate Mountain.
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Here’s the detail of that marker, 0.6 miles to go to the summit. There are a few of these along the route.
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You have a few minutes of respite as the trail levels off.
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And then goes up a rocky section again.
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The trail winds around and you get good views to the south.
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Soon you can see the summit from the trail.
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When you get close to the summit, take the spur trail to the left.
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And here you are, the summit!
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At the summit you’ll get your first views to the east. The big mountains are part of the Agua Tibia Wilderness. Just beyond these peaks you’ll find Palomar Mountain.
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Leave the summit and make the left to continue on the loop trail.

If you want to just go back down the way you came, make the right here and follow the same path back down.

Montserate Mountain Trail Directions 23
As the trail heads south you’ll get some nice views of the surrounding countryside. You’ll be hiking down the ridge in front of you.
Montserate Mountain Trail Directions 24
Start the descent down the ridge. You’ll see the trail unfolding like a ribbon as you descend.
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When you get to the small rise, take the main (and semi-hidden) trail to the left. You can also go straight to continue but the descent is steep and slippery.
Montserate Mountain Trail Directions 26
There are stairs right after that last photo, taking you downhill safely.
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Pavement starts and the trail passes a spur to a water tank on the right. Hike straight to continue downhill.
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When you see this side trail to the right on the descent, take it.
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Hike over the ridge and enjoy the views.
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Rejoin the paved section and go right.
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And immediately after that, make the next right.
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Hike through the gate and continue. You can see the trail climbing up in front you. You’ll do that climb to arrive back at the loop junction.
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You might notice a trail running parallel to the left. You might also notice that it doesn’t have a climb. Avoid the temptation to go off-trail through the protected area and cut across.
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The 200 feet of uphill might hurt if this was a challenging hike for you. Take your time and know that this section is short.
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When you get back to the intersection, go straight and retrace your steps back down the hill.
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In no time you’ll be back at the trailhead gate. That’s the hike!

This guide last updated on February 23, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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