El Cajon Mountain is known as the most difficult mountain to hike in San Diego. Not only is it an 11.3-mile hike with a 3,500-foot elevation, but the place also has intermittent uphill and downhill slopes. These slopes are spread evenly throughout the downhill traverse, so it’s not a place where you can put your guard down for 6-7 hours.
At 6 am, the party gathered on the trailhead and prepared to hike the mountain with a slightly flushed face. Going through the streets of autumn with the gloomy sky, the group walked slowly intending to finish the hike within five to six hours for experienced hikers, and seven to eight hours for inexperienced hikers.
Contrary to scary rumors, the entrance to the mountain begins very safely. After about 30 minutes of a small switchback, the panoramic view of Mt. El Cajon spreads far away and a neat trail begins turning into a sloped section. The scenery in this part was especially so beautiful that the group couldn't help but admire the sunrise.
With the beginning of the sloped section, the mountain hiking becomes rough. First of all, there is no doubt that the slope made it harder to hike and the trail made of rock made it even harder to hike. It was hard to find any shade that we could use to cool off the sweat like other mountains in San Diego, but the breathtaking scenery kept the group up.
Arriving at the top after 3-4 hours of hiking, the scenery it presented was so spectacular that it made us forget all of the hardships. The word El Cajon means "box" or "drawer" in Spanish and the name is derived from other large mountains surrounding the mountain like boxes. As the name suggests, the view from the top gives us the pleasure of being surrounded by beautiful nature that is cut off from the noisy world.
The trail downhill is as hard as going uphill. After going through four small and large peaks, the party arrived at the parking lot and enjoyed pre-prepared ice cream and drinks and the sense of accomplishment of conquering San Diego's hardest mountain. If you're looking for something challenging, consider visiting El Cajon.
Trailhead: 12640 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040
Length/Est/ Difficulty: 11.3 mi (6 h +/-) / 3,576 ft / hard
El Cajon Mountain | AllTrails
Hiking | Cocktail | Outdoor | Photography