Without a doubt the most popular hiking trail in San Diego is Cowles Mountain. Not only is the highest point in the city and a quick drive from any where in town, its 900 feet of elevation gain and relatively short length make it an excellent afternoon escape or workout. Unfortunately, until May 17, 2013, the main trail and parking lot located at Navajo and Golfcrest in San Carlos is closed to the public.
The good news is that the mountain is still open. The alternative access can be reached by heading further east on Navajo Road, making a left on Cowles Mountain Blvd and then another left on Boulder Lake Ave. The trailhead is just off to the right at the end of the road. I actually much prefer this trail and, because of the construction, the trail is much less crowded. Instead bumping elbows with the constant stream of people packing the trail from top to bottom, on a recent Saturday afternoon, I enjoyed the rare and pleasant experience of having the summit all to myself .
Don't let the construction scare you off though. The Spring flowers are in full bloom. The weather is sunny but not too warm. The views, as always, are 360 degree and gorgeous.
This has nothing to do with the closure, but I thought I'd jump in on the debate about the pronunciation of the name "Cowles Mountain." Every written source I've seen indicates that it's pronounced "Coles" as in that lump of combustible rock that Santa leaves in your stocking each Christmas. On the other hand, every person I've ever heard make mention of the name, pronounces it "Cowles" as in the large farm animal that goes moo. Regardless of what the written sources say, the crowds win in this case. I say pronounce it as Cowles and not worry about any official pronunciation.
If you're looking for something adventurous and free to do, lace up those trail shoes and head on over to Cowles Mountain. Don't miss this rare opportunity to enjoy San Diego from on high and without the crowds.