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Volcan Mountain Trail Guide

  • 5.6 miles - Moderate Effort
  • 3-4 Hours (Total)
  • 1,300 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 5,353 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

This hike visits the namesake of the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, and it's a journey filled with natural beauty, history, and breathtaking views. To get to Volcan Mountain, we will take the popular Volcan Mountain Trail and then hop on the Five Oaks Trail, where the beauty is on another level. When we get to the summit, we'll enjoy views from the Salton Sea to Catalina.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Volcan Mountain Trail
  • Where to Park for the Volcan Mountain Trail
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations for the Hike

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

Where is the Volcan Mountain Trail?

There's no parking lot for the Volcan Mountain Trail. Instead, you are allowed to park on the wide shoulder along the road by this address:
1209 Farmer Road, Julian, CA 92036

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There's a wide shoulder to park along. Don't block any driveways. Parking is free.
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Here are the opening hours. Check the website before you go; occasionally the park will close.
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Stay on the trails, don't take anything, and be respectful.

Gear For the Hike

Although you can get away with fitness clothing, I recommend proper hiking gear for the hike. Bring at least 1L of water, and trekking poles can help on the steeper slopes of the Volcan Mountain Trail. The weather can be extreme. In the summer it can get very hot (and the trail is mainly exposed). In the winter, there can be snow.

When the winter winds howl on Volcan, there's nothing between it and the North Pole except for a barbed wire fence, and that blew down. Old Julian Local's Saying

My Latest Gear Picks

Featured Gear 2023 08 11

Garmin inReach Mini 2 ( Amazon | REI )
HOKA Speedgoat 5
( Men | Women )
Zpacks Sub-Nero Ultra ( Zpacks | Review )
Alpine Carbon Cork Poles ( REI | Amazon )

As a hiking guide, I test lots of hiking gear. On my picks page, I'll show you all of the gear that I actually use. I don't accept paid promotions or talk about the stuff that doesn't make the cut. It's just the gear that works best, so you don't have to waste your money.

All My December 2023 Top Gear Picks

Volcan Mountain Trail Maps

Click Here To View

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

Best Smartphone Apps to Navigate: AllTrails | GaiaGPS | OnX

Elevation Profile

Volcan Mountain Trail Guide Elevation
Here's the one-way elevation profile. It's a mixed bag of uphill. Some sections are steep but short. Other flat sections give you a reprieve to catch your breath. And while certainly uphill, it's not the effort that you'd put in for bigger peaks.

3D Map

Volcan Mountain Trail Guide 3d Map
We'll be climbing up the west ridge to Volcan Mountain. You don't actually see the summit area of Volcan Mountain until you reach the upper slopes.

Hike Brief

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Volcan Mountain comes alive with wildflowers in the spring. Keep your eyes open for the California poppy, which is an Instagram favorite.

Volcan Mountain Hike Directions

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Start hiking up the road from the parking area. There are private residences along this starting stretch of the hike.
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Go through the gate at the end of the road.
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And then pass the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve sign.
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And then continue through the James Hubbell Gateway sculpture.

The Elsinore Fault is directly underneath you here.

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Take time to appreciate the sculpture, created by Julian artist James Hubbell. The wood is cedar felled and milled at nearby Palomar Mountain. James' son Brennan created the metalwork, and Mirko Mrakajic did the carvings you see here. The frog was originally a rendition called "Universal Man." After hearing that it looked "too demonic," Mrakajic changed it into a frog.
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To the right of the sculpture are toilets, the only ones on the hike.
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Just past the sculpture is a trail board and map.
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Start hiking up the Volcan Mountain Trail, which is an old road.
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When the trail winds around to the south, you can see Cuyamaca Peak in the distance.
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At about 0.6 miles in, make the right onto the Five Oaks Trail.
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We're going to take the scenic Five Oaks Trail up toward the summit. This trail parallels the Volcan Mountain Trail and is much more scenic.

The Five Oaks Trail was built in 2003 by the California Conservation Corps, and is named after the five species of oaks found along the trail. Since the trail was built, they've found an additional three species of oaks growing here, bringing the total to eight. This area is at just the right elevation to allow lower and higher elevation oaks to live together.

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The Five Oaks Trail is a scenic singletrack with some shaded sections.
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The views into Julian and beyond to Cuyamaca Peak are nonstop.
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The Five Oaks winds and climbs around the southern slope.
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The trail is well-built with some sections of switchbacks and stone steps.
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And there's a bench about halfway through.
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The view from the bench makes it worth stopping at.
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As you get toward the top of the Five Oaks Trail, the gradient eases.
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And at the top you are rewarded with a stone bench looking into Banner Canyon.
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You can also see to Monument Peak in the distance.
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Continue to the end of the Five Oaks Trail and rejoin the Volcan Mountain Trail.
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Just 1.2 miles to the summit from the junction.
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Continue hiking through the WIndows screensaver landscape. It's easy to see how this was once ranch land.
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There's a stretch of the trail here where you hike through a shaded oak grove.
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When you get up to the ridgeline and the junction with Volcan Road, stay right on the main trail.
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Look for a chimney on your right, just past the last junction.
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This is all that remains of the Volcan Mountain Astronomy Outpost. It was built in 1928 as an evaluation location for the Hale Telescope, which eventually ended up at Palomar Mountain.
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Keep climbing and keep your eyes open for the viewfinder on the right.
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Use the viewfinder and display to identify the peaks to the west.
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Continue uphill and look for a turnoff to the left with another viewpoint.
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From this viewpoint you get incredible views into Anza Borrego, including the large mountain directly south, Granite Mountain, and beyond that, Whale Peak.

The downdrafts coming off Volcan Mountain into the desert are notorious here. Several small planes have crashed into the side of the mountain when they didn't account for these strong winds.

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Continue uphill and make the right at the split. When you return, you can come back on the other side of this loop.
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Look to your left for a small summit rest area with a trail board and bench.

The tower you see here is an Airway Light Beacon, used before modern aviation navigation systems to help guide pilots along airways. By 1972 the entire network was decommissioned.

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The summit area is worth a look around.
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To see the actual summit, climb the concrete by the bench. Yes, that's an orb.
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And the benchmark is to the right once in the trees, not on the highest rock ahead.
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The benchmark is from 1939.
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One more thing to see at the summit. From the picnic bench, head back to the loop, then cross over onto the singletrack trail.
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Follow the trail a short way.
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And then enjoy the views from the Charles Powell Memorial Bench.
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That's it, that's the hike! From the summit, continue around the loop and head back downhill. You can skip the Five Oaks Trail and go straight if you'd like to cut a few minutes off the hike.

Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.

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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!).

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