Ready to take on a hiking challenge in 2020? This list of hiking challenges throughout Southern California will get you outside and keep you busy throughout the year. From San Diego to Los Angeles here are eight hiking challenges to try in 2020.

Eight 2020 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. This challenge has been going on for several years. It encompasses hiking some of Southern California’s most difficult hikes and originally was created as a training regimen for the John Muir Trail. The challenge includes some of Southern California’s most notable peaks: Mount Wilson, Cucamonga Peak, Mount Baldy, San Jacinto Peak, San Bernardino Peak, and the tallest peak in Southern California, San Gorgonio.

The current challenge for 2020 has six additional peaks that people can choose from to choose as alternatives to the original ones above like, Mount Baden-Powell. I personally think that this is a great challenge. The trails are tough but the views are phenomenal. Completing this challenge made me feel like an accomplished hiker.

The Six Pack Of Peaks Challenge has also been extended south into San Diego for the 2020 year. It has been a long time coming as San Diego has some very worthy trails that should’ve been included in this challenge all along. Many people still believe that the original six peaks are still the best to accomplish. Others have taken it on themselves to complete all eighteen peaks.

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 Six Pack Of Peaks Challenge.

2. The 52 Hike Challenge

Also popular like the Six Pack of Peaks is the 52 Hike Challenge. This challenge has been going on for a few years and is a very straight forward challenge: 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. Throughout the year it turns 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 $11.95 to $79 in price and include patches, stickers, a medal, and other perks. For more information, check out The 52 Hike Challenge.

3. 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 about 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.

To complete the challenge, take a selfie at the top of each peak and submit it via email to the Mission Trails Regional Park. After about one week the park will issue a certificate of completion and a logo pin. The certificate and pin can be picked up at the park’s visitor center between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

4. 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.

5. The Tartigrade Tough 8 Challenge

This is an un-official challenge that ran for the duration of 2018 and has since been discontinued according to the creators. However, I still wanted to include this on a list of 2020 Southern California Hiking Challenges. This challenge was called the Tartigrade Tough 8 Challenge. This challenge was started by The Resiliant Squad and is an eight peak challenge in San Diego County.

The peaks include eight of the toughest popular hikes in the county: Iron Mountain, Three Sisters Falls, Corte Madera, Cuyamaca Peak, Monserate Mountain, Potato Chip Rock, El Cajon Mountain, and the Five Peak Challenge in one day as mentioned above.  The peaks can be hiked in any order. Since the challenge has been discontinued, the only thing you’ll gain out of this challenge is pride and the personal satisfaction from hiking eight of San Diego’s toughest and popular trails.

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, 2019 to June 30th 2020. 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.

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 2020 hiking challenges are you planning on taking?