The trail leading up to Cuyamaca Peak leads up to the second tallest peak in San Diego County. From there there will be sprawling views of nearby Southern California mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the Sonoran Desert.

Cuyamaca Peak 2020 Update

The fire road which is a portion of this trail is currently closed until further notice. San Diego Gas & Electric is currently doing repairs along this portion of the trail. Although this is part of the Southern California Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, attempting this hike at the current time is at your own risk of not being able to complete the hike.

Cuyamaca Peak Hiking Trail Guide

San Diego isn’t exactly known for having much of a winter. However, during a handful of times throughout the year, San Diego’s tallest peaks can get a moderate amount of snow. Occasional winter weather makes for some pretty incredible views from the higher elevations that San Diego County has to offer.

Sitting at 6,512 feet, Cuyamaca is San Diego’s second tallest behind Hot Springs Mountain near the small town of Warner Springs. The peak is located in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park within the Cleveland National Forest and the highest point in the Cuyamaca Mountains. This area gets some of the best there is to offer when it comes to having four seasons in San Diego.

There will be some pretty indredible views from the top of the peak. The coastline of San Diego can be seen as well as the Coronado Islands off of northern Baja California. The desert of Anza-Borrego extending eastward to Arizona and northern Baja can be seen. Other ranges such as San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, Mount Baldy, Palomar, and Volcan Mountain can also be seen. Across the street is another fun hike, Stonewall Peak.

On A Personal Note

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is fun to explore and the views from the top of the peak are hard to beat in the county. The trail can be fun to explore while there is snow on the ground. I caught this trail after a winter storm had blown through. The snow higher up on the trail gave a pleasant winter vibe not often experienced in San Diego.

Generally speaking, this area is a good place to view much of San Diego’s wildlife including mountain lions, deer, coyotes, and various raptors. Keep in mind, this trail is in a state park. There is a parking located behind the park gate as well with an entrance fee. Camping is also available. Additional information can be found in the trail directions.

Do you have an update to the trail conditions or any pictures that you want to share? Please post them in the comments section.

  • Overall Difficulty: 70% 70%
  • Overall Views: 85% 85%
Cuyamaca Peak Quick Facts:
  • Elevation: 6,565 feet
  • Elevation Gain: 1,821 Feet
  • Estimated Distance: 7.7miles
  • My Actual Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Estimated Time:  Three hours
  • My Time: 2:49
Cuyamaca Peak Trail Directions:
Open in maps. Parking is available within the Paso Picacho Campground. As usual, weekends are busier. The day use fee is ten dollars. A California State Park’s Pass will also work. Camp sites are also available here for thirty dollars a night. For additional camping and park information, check the state park website.  For more information, call the park services: 760-765-0755.
Cuyamaca Peak Trail Pictures:
Who Cuyamaca Peak Is For:
Novice Hikers: This trail will be on the difficult side for those with mobility issues or those who are new to hiking. I don’t want to disuay all novice hikers from this hike. Cuyamaca Peak is a great peak to test your limits especially if you are interested in taking on some longer trails in the region. 

Advanced Hikers: For advanced hikers this is a perfect hike. The length of the trail will leave you feeling accomplished but not completely gassed. 

Expert Hikers: This trail will be a moderate workout but the views will still be very enjoyable. There is a fourteen mile peak option via Arroyo Secco and the West Mesa Trail if you’re up for a longer day. 

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.


Best Time Of Year To Hike Cuyamaca Peak:
Cuyamaca Peak is generally great to hike any time of the year. I personally think that late fall through early summer is the best time of year to hike this trail. Winter is usually cool but comfortable. Occasional winter storms can bring windy, rainy, and snowy weather. I personally think after a snow is is one of the best times to do this hike. Winter weather really greens up the hills and valleys in this area also bringing with it an abundance of wildflowers.

Temperatures stay mild until summer gets under way. During the summer months temperatures can be hot if you’re not off the trail by mid-morning. Summer also brings the threat of thunderstorms. If you hear thunder seek shelter to avoid being caught in the open while lightning is present. By the time fall comes around temperatures cool down again. The portion of the trail near campground does offer an opportunity to see some fall colors.

It’s always a great idea to check the weather before a hike.

Cuyamaca Peak Trail Conditions:
There are a couple of different ways to get up to the top of Cuyamaca Peak. The shortest way is also the steepest way and is an in an out via an asphalt fire road that takes you to the top where the antenna tower is located.

The way I took was the Cuyamaca Peak Loop. The trailhead starts in the parking lot and makes a right onto the Azalea Glenn loop. The loops goes to the right to the Conejos Trail and eventually meets up with the fire road which takes you to the top. The Cuyamaca Peak loop descent is along the utility road and is much quicker than the way up.

The trail is reportedly moderately trafficked, although I only saw four people on a Tuesday during the middle of the day. That being said, the trail is maintained and in great condition. Rattlesnakes can be seen during the warmer months. Poison oak may be possible in some of the shadier portions of the trail that receive the most rainfall.