If there is anything that 2020 taught us it’s how important taking care of mental health can be. Getting outside is one of the best ways to increase happiness and destress. These hiking challenges will help inspire to get you outside and have some fun. From Los Angeles to San Diego, here are eight hiking challenges to try in 2021.
Eight 2021 Southern California Hiking Challenges
***UPDATE: For an updated list on 2022 Southern California Hiking Challenges please view the current list here.***
1. THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SIX PACK OF PEAKS CHALLENGE
Of the most notable hiking challenges in the Southern California region is the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. Back for it’s eighth year, this challenge encompasses hiking some of Southern California’s most difficult hikes. The challenge was originally created as a training regimen for the John Muir Trail. The challenge includes some of Southern California’s most notable peaks: Cucamonga Peak, Mount Baldy, San Jacinto Peak, Mount Baden-Powell, Mount Wilson, San Gorgonio, and Ontario Peak.
How It Works: The challenge has changed slightly over the years. Currently the challenge lists eleven separate peaks in the Southern California region. Pick six different peaks to complete and they can be done in any order. Peaks in addition to the ones mentioned above are: Sitton Peak, Sawmill Mountain, Strawberry Peak, and Santiago Peak.
Taking the challenge is free. However, they do have three different levels of registration kits ranging in price from $40 to $85 that include training tips, peak reports, a patch, stickers, and a t-shirt. For more information, check out the So Cal Six Pack Of Peaks Challenge. My wife and I completed this hike a couple of years ago and loved it. It made us both feel like accomplished hikers.
2. The San Diego Six Pack of Peak Challenge
For several years there were a lot of questions about the Six Peak Challenge and why no trails were included from San Diego. After all, the city is also part of Southern California with its own challenging hikes. For 2021 the founders of the Six Pack of Peaks finally included San Diego with six notable hiking trails in the County of San Diego.
The challenge works the same exact way as the So Cal Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. There are six peaks to hike and they can be done in any order. The peaks are as followed: Volcan Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, Corte Madera, Hot Springs Mountain, High Point, and El Cajon Mountain. More information about the San Diego Six Pack of Peaks Challenge can be found here.
3. THE 52 HIKE CHALLENGE
Also popular like the Six Pack of Peaks is the 52 Hike Challenge. This challenge has also been going on for a few years. The 52 Hike Challenge is very straight forward: complete 52 hikes within the year. The hikes can be of any distance or level of difficulty as long as they are 52 hikes in a year. Over the course of a year it averages out to be one hike a week.
Like the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, the 52 Hike Challenge is free but they also have registration kits. The kits range from different levels of pricing and include patches, stickers, a medal, and other perks. The challenge has progressed over the years and now includes challenges for kids, pets, a National Park challenge, nd more. For more information, check out The 52 Hike Challenge.
4. THE MISSION TRAILS REGIONAL PARK 5 PEAK CHALLENGE
Heading down south to San Diego is the Mission Trails Regional Park 5 Peak Challenge (MTRP). Mission Trails is the largest municipal park in California and the sixth largest in the entire United States. The park lies in the heart of San Diego and has about sixty-five miles of trails. MTRP has a series of peaks with the tallest of those being Cowles Mountain at 1,593 feet. There are also four other notable peaks: Pyles Peak, Kwaay Paay Peak, South Fortuna, and North Fortuna.
With these five peaks, the park headquarters created a 5 Peak Challenge. Individually the trails range from mild to moderate and the most difficult ones take ove a few hours to complete. The time frame to complete the challenge is one year. However, a small percentage of people have ambitiously created a route that can have all peaks completed in one day. Through this route the challenge takes on a whole new meaning. Completing the challenge in a day is rather difficult and has a total distance of nearly twenty miles.
The hike was initially created as a way to get more people to explore the rest of the park aside from the very popular, Cowles Mountain. On completion they used to issue a certificate and a small pin. However, they stopped doing that. If you are still feeling ambitious, this is still a great challenge to try. I hope they bring the pin and certificate back.
5. SAN DIEGO COUNTY PARKS’ WARRIOR HIKE
If one is having a conversation about one of the most difficult day hikes in San Diego, the hike up to El Cajon Mountain is inevitably going to be named. The trail has an undulating and physically taxing thirteen mile trail that winds through Ramona’s back-country and into the boundary of the Cleveland National Forest.
The challenge has been ongoing since 2015 and is set up for hikers of all levels. There are three different distance categories that one can sign up for: the Bootcamp, Recon, and Warrior. Level of difficulty ranges from light to difficult. The challenge takes place biannually on Veterans and Memorial Day to celebrate those in the armed forces. For more information please visit the event’s website.
6. THE COAST TO CREST TRAIL CHALLENGE
One of the last San Diego hiking challenges is the Coast to Crest Challenge put on by the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy. The challenge actually runs through July 1st, 2020 to June 30th 2021. Check with the Conservancy’s webpage for more information. There are designated spots on each trail where a selfie can be taken. The selfies can be submitted to the Conservancy’s email. Anyone who completes the challenge will receive a special certificate, a sticker and decal, REI and Adventure 16 Coupons, uniquely designed patch. All hikes are a portion of the Coast to Crest trail that runs from the ocean to the mountains of San Diego.
7. MONSERATE MOUNTAIN 9/11 MEMORIAL CLIMB
Every year the North County Fire Protection puts on an annual 9/11 Memorial Hill climb. This yearly event was inaugurated in 2013 near the weekend of September 11th. The event is to honor the 343 firefighters that died in the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001.
The hill climb takes place at Monserate Mountain in Fallbrook, California. There challenge takes hikers over 1,300 elevation gain in about two miles. For more information check out the Fallbrook Firefighter’s Association and learn more about Monserate Mountain.
8. THE THREE T’S TRAIL AND ECBO
For those looking for a couple of other challenging hikes closer to the Los Angeles and Riverside area, there are a couple of options. The Three T’s Trail and the ECBO hike: Etiwanda Peak, Cucamonga Peak, Bighorn Peak, and Ontario Peak. These two trails aren’t a series of challenges but rather a couple of tough and challenging trails that encompass a few peaks in one trail. Both trails are located in the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains.
The Three T’s Trail includes three different peaks: Timber, Telegraph, and Thunder Mountain. The trail has an elevation gain of over five thousand feet and is approximately fourteen miles long. Beginning at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead, the trail heads east before taking a sharp turn to the left. As the trail heads north you’ll be able to access three different peaks each with outstanding views of the surrounding desert and Los Angeles basin.
The ECBO trail begins at the same trailhead and instead of going sharp left, the trail takes a turn to the right. From here the trail will take you across Etiwanda Peak, Cucamonga Peak, Bighorn Peak, and Ontario Peak. Cucamonga and Ontario Peaks are both part of the Southern California Six Pack Of Peaks Challenge. This trail is much more difficult than the Three T’s. There is an approximate elevation gain of over six thousand feet and a total distance of nearly seventeen miles.
ECBO AND THREE T’S TRAIL PERMITS
Both of these trails are located within the Cucamonga Wilderness and are managed by the San Bernardino and Angeles National Forests. The managing agencies require that an Adventure Pass be purchased for parking. An America The Beautiful Pass will also work. Permits are required for all hikers going through this wilderness. Permits are free. There is a small booth at the trailhead with permits to fill out on a carbon paper slip. Keep a copy for yourself at all times. Permits can also be picked up from the Mount Baldy Visitor Center which is along the drive up to the trailhead. About two miles up from the trailhead is a saddle which is a popular spot for campers who are in this area.
That sums it up for hiking challenges in Southern California. If there are any I have not heard about, mention them in the comments below. What 2022 hiking challenges are you planning on taking?