San Diego's topography lends itself to publicly accessible mountains and peaks. Everyone knows about popular Cowles Mountain in the Mission Trails Regional Park, but did you know there are a number of other mountain peaks that can challenge you and get your heart pumping. And you get a great view of the county, too. Here are some of the more popular mountain peaks in San Diego County.
Mount Soledad is probably one of the most popular peaks in San Diego because it is largely residential and easily accessible by car, and it rises along the coast between La Jolla and Pacific Beach, affording spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the city. The summit is also the location of a veterans memorial. Mount Soledad climbs to 820 feet (249.94 meters) above sea level. Mount Soledad is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 32.83977 and W -117.252259.
Mount Helix, located in La Mesa, is another popular residential mountain peak because of it is easily accessible by car and has spectacular panoramic views of the entire city. Mount Helix is also adorned with a cross atop its peak, but unlike Mount Soledad, the cross sits on private property. A winding road takes you to a small park at the summit, with a small amphitheater. Parking is very limited. Mount Helix climbs to 1,365 feet (416.05 meters) above sea level. Mount Helix is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 32.766996 and W -116.98336.
Cowles Mountain (pronounces 'coals') is probably the most popular hiking peak in the county, due in part because of its location within the San Diego city limits in the Mission Trails Regional Park. Cowles Mountain has become a fitness playground for the young and old and is popular for the hikers/joggers/runners who regularly frequent the challenging trail every day. On weekends, during the period 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, hundreds of people can be among those making the trek up to the Cowles Mountain summit to enjoy the spectacular view. Cowles Mountain climbs to 1,526 feet (465.12 meters) above sea level. Cowles Mountain is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 32.81255 and W -117.03114.
To most San Diegans, Mount Laguna is the place you go to when snow falls upon San Diego County. Mount Laguna consists of a small general store, rustic lodge and cabins, local restaurant, rural post office, and campgrounds along Sunrise Highway and adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail. The Laguna Mountain Recreation Area surrounds the village, and the visitor's center for the pine-covered area is located here. Along with numerous mountain trails, the peak also houses the Mount Laguna Observatory run by SDSU. Mount Laguna climbs to 5,079 feet (1,548.08 meters) above sea level. Laguna Mountains is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 32.808385 and W -116.449184.
Palomar Mountain is the location of the world famous Palomar Observatory and the 200-inch Hale telescope. Palomar Mountain is one of the highest peaks in San Diego County, at 6,140 feet. Palomar Mountain State Park features spectacular views of the Pacific, camping, picnicking, hiking, and fishing (trout) in Doane Pond. Coniferous forests cover much of the 1,862 acres, in contrast to the dry lowlands surrounding the mountain. This is one of the few Southern California areas with a Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere.
Fortuna Mountain is the other mountain summit (besides Cowles Mountain) in the Mission Trails Regional Park. Fortuna Mountain climbs to 1,243 feet (378.87 meters) above sea level. Fortuna Mountain is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 32.846993 and W -117.060308. The North Fortuna Trail provides access to the North Fortuna Mountain summit at 1291 feet. It can be accessed from the North Perimeter, Fortuna Saddle and South Fortuna trails.
Iron Mountain is a popular hiking area near Poway. The best feature of this hike is the views of North San Diego County from the trail. At the peak, you have a great view of all of San Diego County. Iron Mountain climbs to 2,684 feet (818.08 meters) above sea level. Iron Mountain is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 32.970879 and W -116.955307.
Also located near Poway and Ramona, Mount Woodson climbs to 2,881 feet (878.13 meters) above sea level. Mount Woodson is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 33.008656 and W -116.970586. With giant boulders galore, and consistently superb views, Mount Woodson, draws lots of hikers, runners, and rock climbers. This looping route up and over Woodson’s summit include the newer and relatively lightly traveled Fry-Koegel Trail, along the mountain’s bouldery north slope.
Volcan Mountain, rising to nearly 6,000 feet (1,500 m) on the Pacific Crest near Julian, is iconic as the location of both the headwaters of the San Dieguito River and is the highest point in the 94,000-acre (380 km2) San Dieguito River Park. Two trails will take you to the summit at Volcan Mountain Preserve, which is managed by the County of San Diego. Volcan Mountain is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 33.164486 and W -116.620019.
Black Mountain Open Space Park is owned and managed by the City of San Diego and the center piece of the park is the 1,554 foot summit of Black Mountain which provides 360-degree views of the surrounding area. On a clear day, the visitor can scan the horizon for ocean views to the west, mountain views to the north and east, and views of downtown San Diego to the south. Access to the summit is provided by a 2.5 mile hike or bike ride up a dirt road that is near Hilltop Community Park located at 9711 Oviedo Way. Black Mountain is located at latitude - longitude coordinates of N 32.981712 and W -117.116422.