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An out-and-back route across Cowles Mountain, Pyles View Peak, and Pyles Peak.

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Out and Back

1,567' 478 m


669' 204 m


1,772' 540 m


1,772' 540 m



Avg Grade (7°)


Max Grade (15°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Views · Wildlife

No music. Dogs on leash.


A hike to panoramic view from Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak.

Need to Know

Bathrooms and water fountains at the trailhead. Trash cans for trash and recycling and dog waste bags. Be sure to bring water.


At the base of the trailhead there are restrooms, a water fountain, trashcans, and dog waste bags. The way up Cowles Mountain Trail to the Pyles Peak Summit Trail junction is about 1.25 miles. You'll be going up a relatively steep incline, with switchbacks and uneven terrain riddled with rocks. You'll see Laurel Sumac, Chamise, and California Buckwheat to name a few.

Be cautious of going off trail and keep your eyes open as there are snakes on this trail including the Red Diamond Rattlesnake. You might also spot the California Towhee and Wrentit (voice of the chaparral) in the trees and scampering across the trail. The trail up to Cowles Mountain Trail is well-marked with signs which include mileage. It would be hard to lose your way on this one.

Around mile 1.25, you'll reach the peak of Cowles and turn left; there will be a set of wooden stairs next to an interpretive sign. This will lead you to the junction to Pyles Peak Trail. The terrain is the same as coming up Cowles Mountain except for the next 0.5 miles there is a steady, relatively straight descent.

At mile 2.67, you'll see a sign that points left to go up to the Pyles Peak Viewpoint. The viewpoint is about 0.16 miles out and back. At the end of the viewpoint, there is a wooden fence that overlooks Cowles and Mission Trails Regional Park below. From the Pyles Peak Viewpoint sign, it is another 0.25 miles to the summit. The terrain going up to the summit is similar to the way up to Cowles Mountain albeit a little steeper and the trail is not as wide. You reach the summit at mile 2.91.

Flora & Fauna

Chaparral and coastal sage brush habitat including yucca, figwort, red monkey flower, California buckwheat, white, black sage, laurel sumac, and yucca.

History & Background

Cowles Mountain was once mined “unofficially” for tourmaline. Cowles is pronounced KOHLZ and was named after George Cowles a rancher who lived in the area.


Shared By:

Elana Stahl

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 21 votes


  4.1 from 21 votes
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in California


34 Views Last Month
3,212 Since Oct 25, 2016
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult



Partial panorama at the top of Pyles Peak. You can see Cowles Mountain at the right side of the photo.
Jun 29, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
Looking North East from the top of Cowles Mountain. The trail that can be seen is the service road.
Jun 29, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
View of San Diego
Jul 1, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
Cowles Mountain Trail.
May 12, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
View from Cowles Mountain
May 5, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
San Diego morning - get above the smog!
May 12, 2015 near La Mesa, CA



Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Dec 31, 2023
Ryan Fraze
Great hike steep from the get go.
Jan 2, 2022
b p
Apr 14, 2021
Jeremy R
Jan 2, 2021
Diego Solis
Dec 26, 2020
Dmitriy Obukhov
Jul 18, 2020
Tyler Kelehan
Cowles had a billion fucking people on it. Pyles had 5. 5.8mi — 3h 10m
Aug 24, 2019
Corey Jay
Hot! No shade cover. Great urban trail with panoramic views of the city of San Diego — 2h 40m
Jun 1, 2019
Evan Ferree
5.9mi — 2h 15m

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