Hello everyone! This is a friendly reminder that any of these fun places we may visit, we are a guest at. Please treat both businesses and trails with the utmost respect. We here at Hidden San Diego follow the 'Leave no Trace' mantra, meaning whatever you bring with you comes back with you. If you see trash on a trail, please do your part to help remove it. Remember, we are not picking up trash from another person but instead cleaning up for Mother Nature. Happy adventures!

Share me!

7001 Golfcrest Dr.

San Diego, CA 92119

(619) 668-3281

Trailhead: 32.804674, -117.037224   Peak: 32.820673, -117.029338

Hike: 2.9 miles out & back    Level: Moderately Strenuous

Dog-Friendly: Yes    Kid-Friendly: Yes


About Cowles Mountain

Cowles Mountain has a Kumeyaay Winter Solstice observatory site, located along the trail. From the eastern horizon, at dawn on the days surrounding the solstice, a peak splits the rising sun. The original stone arrangement pointing to the peak was destroyed many years ago.

The mountain is named after George A. Cowles, a 1870s-80s rancher and early businessperson in southwestern San Diego County.  For many years Cowles Mountain was locally known as “S” Mountain. In 1931, 500 students from San Diego State University, painted a 400-foot-tall letter “S” on the side of the mountain, after which it took on its popular name.

In April 1942, during World War II, the local military ordered the S covered up for the sake of national security. After the war the painting tradition was resurrected.

In the 1970s, the annual repainting tradition was ceased for environmental and habitat protection, but suffered a brief resurgence in the late 1980s. The “S” has not been repainted for nearly three decades.

Hike Cowles Mountain at night and not only have the entire mountain to yourself but be greeted by other-worldly views at the top!

Personal Experience

If you decide to do this hike at night make sure to have a flashlight or headlamp and good shoes!  This is a jagged trail and it’s easy to twist your ankle!  I speak from experience.  With that aside, night hikes are so special.  Besides the fact that you have the entire mountain to yourself, those views at night are next level!

While you’re in the area, make sure to visit the Old Mission Dam nearby!

I want to give a shout out to Cowles Mtn. Coffee which is right across the street from the trailhead.  The coffee and drinks are SUPER good here and they have a ton of healthy and unique options.  The owner is such a sweetheart too. I love to stop by here if I’m in the area.  They’re open 7:30am-2pm daily:

We headed out about 30 minutes before sunset.  We probably should have started a little earlier, but it definitely made for less foot traffic!

There’s a little monument at the top:

The view at the top is other-worldly!Cowles Mtn (8) We came across a tarantula!!

Share me!

Subscribe to our E-mail Newsletter


1 Review

Rating 0
Overall Rating 0
Difficulty Finding 0

1 Review


  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    Hardly hidden, but one of my favorite spots in San Diego!

    October 26, 2018

Write a Review