Hiking El Cajon Mountain

other wise known as “mini El Cap” in the Cuyamaca Mountains.

Hike Stats:

  • 12.1 miles round trip
  • 3,909 ft of elevation gain
  • 4:45 moving time

Map to trailhead


Click for more trail info

I’m told this is one of the most difficult hikes in San Diego County. I would agree with that..

El Cajon Mountain

Hike Recap

Looking at the Elevation map above you can see that on your way back from the top of El Cajon Mountain there is still some elevation gain on your way down. You’ll want to make sure you save some energy for this. I hadn’t been on this trail for several years and  forgot how steep some of the sections of the trail can be. Definitely a good leg burn if you want to attack it or trail run it. The trail starts on a nice single track trail and zig zags up a short climb. After that you are on two track for most of the trail with some steep ups and downs as you make your way up. Until the final mile or so, then your back on a vague single track to lead you to the top. As you make your way to the top look green navigation pylons to help guide you.


We were fortunate to have relatively cool temperatures for our hike (upper 70’s / low 80’s). It can get very hot in east county and this hike is very exposed there is no water and practically no shade, this is not a summer time hike. I use weather.gov   for all of my weather forecast information, definitely check before you go and know what you are getting into. On the flip side if your making your way up El Cajon Mountain in the winter time make sure you check summit temperatures. The last time I was up this trail we had some light rain and 60 degrees at the parking lot and 40 degrees at the top. Weather.gov allows you to highlight an area to get a specific forecast of areas like mountain tops.

El Cajon Mountain

 some great panoramic views.

El Cajon Mountain Hike

Things to remember

  • Pack enough water, food and sunscreen!
  • I used 70oz of water and 10oz of electrolyte replacement. When we hike at the hottest part of the day was in the upper 70’s / low 80’s and I consumed all of my water with .25 miles left to go.
  • As far as food and sunscreen bring adequate half day rations.
  • I had a proper breakfast (burrito) in the morning. during the hike I had some dried mango and cliff bars, they filled the gap until my next burrito..

for more hiking hydration info click here

And Always

respect the trail and others around you, uphill has the right of way and be happy. After all your not at work..

if you have any questions shoot me an email click here