The El Cajon Mountain Trail is an 11.1 mile expert trail perfect for hikers who want a bit of a challenge, some solitude, and scenic views.

El Cajon Mountain Trail is easily accessible from the greater LA and San Diego areas. The trail is open year-round and allows dogs. 

The parking lot is half a mile from the bathrooms and trail head. At the trail head, you'll have the option to take the road or the trail. They are about the same mileage and elevation gain. The trail typically has better views. After 2.2 miles, you'll begin to descend into a drainage area for surrounding peaks. The vegetation in the drainage is quite lush in comparison to the surrounding canyon walls. After another .5 miles, the trail begins the climb back up and becomes quite rugged. You will notice that another trail/road heads to the left - either work, but it is recommended to stay right for a more controlled trail with spectacular views (sometimes all the way to the ocean). When you reach the old jeep hulk, you'll know you are getting close. The saddle is a good place to take a break and have some food and water before the final push to the summit. You will have to bush wack for a short period of time, but the trail is not hard to follow. 

In the winter, the park gates close at 4:30pm. Plan your day accordingly. Bring lots of extra water and wear sturdy hiking boots. 

Pack List

  • Water
  • Sturdy hiking boots or trail runners
  • Camera
  • Snack 
  • Trekking poles 
  • Sun protection
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RT Distance 11.1 Miles
Elevation Gain 3533 Feet
Activities Running, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Expert
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking


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