The Cuyamaca Mountains east of San Diego are well known as a wildlife haven, and outdoor enthusiasts know it. So how do you escape the crowds? Adventure up! To 5,737-foot Stonewall Peak. This 4-mile (round-trip) hike leads to a brilliant panorama. The trailhead is accessed from the popular Paso Picacho Campground. As soon as you step out of your car be on the lookout for the tiny pygmy nuthatch, a small round bird that moves vertically up and down the pine trees that distinguish the Cuyamaca Mountains from other parts of San Diego County. Cross the road to begin the hike, which starts as a gradually sloping trail before becoming a series of solid switchbacks about 2 miles from the top.
Golden eagles and red-tailed hawks frequent the airspace here. You’ll know you’re almost at the peak when you see a set of carved stone stairs, popular for photo opps. The official summit is distinguished by a lone stake, and an absolutely beautiful round-the-compass view of the Cuyamaca and Middle Peaks, as well as Palomar Mountain, San Jacinto, and the Anza Borrego desert. Holy Cuyamaca!
Directions: From San Diego, take I-8E to exit 40 for CA-79N/Japatul Valley Rd. towards Julian. Turn left on CA-79N and continue for 15.3 miles to Lookout Rd. Turn left to reach Paso Picacho Campground. Day parking is $8 at the campground. No dogs.