Sunset hike to Cuyamaca Peak

Cuyamaca Peak is the second highest peak of San Diego County, at 6512 feet (1985 meters). It is easily reached via an old (and mostly paved) fire road that leads all the way up to the peak. It’s not a strenuous hike in my opinion – the road is a little steep in some spots, but there are really no difficulties whatsoever if you just find your pace and take your time. It is also the only “serious” hike at Cuyamaca Rancho where you can bring a dog, since it is on a road. Dogs are not permitted on the hiking trails there.

It’s a bit sad of course to walk on that road through what once must have been a wonderful and quite lush forest that has been ravaged and damaged so severely by the 2003 Cedar Fire – but that’s just the way of mother nature… she gives, and she taketh away. It’s only sad and wrong in our human perception.

But, what’s really nice about the peak is that the views to the west, ie. towards the Pacific Ocean and sunset, are mostly unobstructed. Except for the clouds, that is! I was hoping for far less clouds and more views of the open landscape below when we hiked up there, and it was a bit of an (unpleasant) surprise that the marine stratus had pushed so far inland already when we got up there. We were also a bit late and I just didn’t make it up to the proper peak for sunset – I stopped at the first lookout to the west (with the bench, quite lovely) to watch the sunset, and then headed up an additional 10 minutes to the actual peak to take advantage of the precious light in the short time after sunset and before it gets too dark.

On the way back down, thanks to the limited light pollution in the back country, we were treated with wonderful views of the night sky and the Milky Way. I didn’t make any photos because it was getting surprisingly cold (46F when we were back at the car) but the dead trees against the night sky looked quite interesting, and eerie at the same time.

Surely a hike worth repeating!

For those who wish to try – park at the day use parking lot of Paso Picacho campground ($8 fee), off of Highway 78. Then walk through the campground, southward. Near the restrooms at the southern end is the actual trailhead that connects to the old fire road.

2 thoughts on “Sunset hike to Cuyamaca Peak

  1. Interesting….my friend has a photo he made from this peak and just put it up as his screensaver. I insisted he tell me about the location. Very cool.
    I wondered how you fared on the return trip since the trip back is about 2 miles (?) ….in the dark as I thought. I guess that’s what you have to do to make the shot.
    Well done!


    1. It wasn’t really a problem, Mark. There was still some faint light (nautical twilight) in the sky, and it’s a paved road for the most part – you can’t possibly get lost. I don’t know how far it is exactly, I forgot to charge my GPS logger and it stopped recording about halfway up. 😛


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