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black Cowles Mtn

  4.3 ( 16 )

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5.4 mile 8.6 kilometer loop


Ascent: 1,211' 369 m
Descent: -1,224' -373 m
High: 1,580' 482 m
Low: 376' 115 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 24% (13°)


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Trail shared by Doug Seybert Jr

This is a tough, technical climb!

Doug Seybert Jr

E-Bikes Allowed

Features -none-


Very technical singletrack up to the fire road, a very steep grade up near the top, then an awesome blast to the bottom.


This is one of the toughest, most technical singletrack climbs in San Diego. There are a few harder, but not many. Lots of railroad ties, chunky rock gardens, and steep rutted switchbacks. The best I've ever done on the singletrack is one dab, but I'm sure there are many out there that can do better.

I park on Mesa Road next to Big Rock Park. From there, follow the road south about a half mile, past the gate, and take the right-hand turn down across the wooden bridge over the creek. From here, there's just one left-hand turn between the trailhead and the fire road.

Once you reach the top of the singletrack, the fun continues. Hang a right on the fire road and follow it to the top as it progressively gets steeper and steeper until it's about a 25-30% grade at the very top. It's not very technical, but it's a TOUGH climb!

Take in some beautiful views of Sand Deigo at the top, and then turn around and bomb back down it, watching for hikers of course. This is a very popular trail with them, so keep your eyes open and be polite.

On the way down, after remembering to hang a left back onto the singletrack, I usually take the left at the split in the singletrack and take the Big Rock trail down. That's what's shown in this ride. Another option is to take the right and ride down Mesa Trail, the same way you climbed up. The Big Rock trail is quite a bit chunkier, whereas the Mesa Trail has better flow. Both are fun, and I've even done some rides where I do both!


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Jun 11, 2018
Allie S
Jun 1, 2018
Colby Tunick
Great trail! Very well maintained 5.2mi
May 17, 2018
Cesar Zamora
Apr 18, 2018
Joe Arrington
Up Mesa and down big rock. 39 min to the top of cowels. 5.6mi
Jan 6, 2018
Dan Pearson
Jan 1, 2018
Wesley Watson
Dec 9, 2017
Will Smith
5.2mi — 2h 00m
Jun 23, 2017
Ali Hummos
Way too hard 5mi — 3h 00m

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Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 16 votes


  4.3 from 16 votes
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in California


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11,036 Since May 22, 2013
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Technical single track that leads to a fire road that steepens as you climb to the top. Challenge yourself by making it all the way to the top without dabbing or for time. Too busy with hikers on the weekend, so best ridden during the week. Jan 22, 2019

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