If your looking for a lot of visual bang for your hiking buck, Stonewall Peak Trail in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is the ticket. Stonewall Peak is a steep, two-mile out-and-back trail brings you to a stony outcrop that offers stunning 360-degree views of the expansive landscape.
- Trail type: Loop
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Length: 2 miles round trip
- Elevation gain and loss: 820 feet, -830 feet
- Trailhead Coordinates: 32.959654, -116.579116
- Location: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
- Season: Year round, but can be hot in summer
Getting to Stonewall Peak Trail
Take I-8 about 35 miles east of San Diego. Take exit 40 and take CA-79 north for miles, until you see the Paso Picacho Campground on the left. The trailhead is just across CA-79 from the campground. You can park in the campground parkinglot, but will need to pay a day use fee.
Getting to Cowles Mountain Trail
From downtown San Diego, take the Friars Road East for 5 miles (it becomes Mission Gorge Road). Pass Jackson Drive and the Mission Trails Regional Park visitors center turnoff and take a right turn on Golfcrest. Follow Golfcrest one mile south to the trailhead on the left side of Golfcrest at Navajo Road. On weekends, you’re most likely to find parking on the Golfcrest, as the park parking lot will typically fill up quickly.
The hike, which begins at a trailhead just across Route 78 from Paso Picacho Campground, winds through a series of long switchbacks to the 5,700-foot summit. Moving at a moderate pace, it will take you about an hour to get to the top.
The trail is well-maintained and other than the elevation gain, it’s an easy hike. Shade is scarce. Bring sunblock, hats and plenty of water, especially during the summer months, when it can get brutally hot with the sun beating down on you.
At the summit, a set of stone stairs bring you to the rocky peak, which is protected by a handrail. The view from the top takes in much of surrounding Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Cuyamaca Lake to the northwest and some of Anza Borrego Desert State Park to the northeast.