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El Cajon Mt.

 

Trail Stats

 

Distance - 11.2 Miles

Elevation Gain/Loss - 4100 ft.

Max Elevation Reached - 3657 ft.

Difficulty Level - Strenuous

Trailhead - Link

 

Track

 

  

Download Google Earth KML - Link

Download GPX - Link

 

Description

   

This is probably the toughest hike in San Diego! It is ideal training grounds for any major day hikes that you might be planning. In retrospect, you might even rate this "training hike" harder than the hike you were training for!    

 

This hike leads to three possible destinations - the El Cajon Mt. summit, the El Capitan drop off and another lesser known summit. Almost the entire stretch of the trail is contained within the El Capitan Open Space Preserve. The El Cajon summit is technically within the boundary of the Cleveland National Forest.

   

The trail starts of fairly steeply along the Blue Sky Ranch Rd. from the trailhead on Wildcat Canyon Rd. After negotiating some quick switchbacks, you find yourself on a wide abandoned fire road that seems to be flattening out. The rest of the hike is on this fire road which by no means if flat. As the elevation profile indicates, this hike is an excellent cardio workout with continuous ups and downs.

       

Some 5.5 miles into the hike, the trail forks in three. Turn left and you can climb 0.4 miles to the summit of El Cajon Mt. Continue straight for another 1.4 miles to reach the edge of the El Capitan drop off. Turn right to get to the unnamed summit that is lower than the El Cajon peak.

   

The last bit of the trail up to the El Cajon peak is quite obscure, even non existent! Follow these carefully arranged stones to find your bearing and head in a direction that is generally correct. When you get to what seems to be the highest point on the peak, look for two separate summit markers. Also, find the trail register in a Danish Cookies can hidden away between huge boulders.

 

At this point, unlike many other hikes, you are not done yet. You still have to get back to your car. All those comfortable downhill stretches on your way in must be negotiated in reverse order ... all uphill in other words. While you lose altitude on the whole, the return trip does involve some serious uphill segments. And these monsters can seriously slow you down. Consider the fact that on your way back, you are already tired from having walked anywhere from six to ten miles. Consider also the fact that the sun is much higher in the sky now and the heat is really turned up. All of this can pose a formidable challenge all the way up to the last mile out of this hike. 

 

So plan carefully. Pick a cool day and still start early. Pack a decent lunch. Carry more water that you think you might need.


Elevation Profile

 

 

Trail Log

 

March 28th, 2009

    

Started from Trailhead - 6:30 am

Reached El Cajon Mt./El Capitan Trail Jct. - 10:30 am

Reached El Cajon Mt. Summit - 11:00 am

Lunch and Photos - 1 hour

Started back - 12:00 noon

Reached El Cajon Mt./El Capitan Trail Jct. - 12:30 pm

Reached Trailhead - 3:30 pm 

Tech Analysis - Link

  

Photos - Link, courtesy Sachin. D

     

Notes -

This was my second time on this trail. The last time I did this hike was on 31st Dec, 2008 in much cooler weather. We covered El Cajon Mt. and El Capitan that day. 

 

Three of us set out on this hike. Our destination - El Cajon Mt. The weather was not exactly suitable. The daytime highs were predicted to be 80 F. That, in my opinion is the maximum temp that one can tolerate on this hike. Since there is not shade, the effective temperature in direct sunlight is probably much higher.

 

It was because of this weather report that we started way early. The parking lot at the trailhead opens only at 7am. We were there by 6:15 and parked outside the gates of the parking lot. Of course, we made sure that we weren't blocking anything/anyone. There were no issues/complaints/comments with parking outside the designated parking lot. So I guess this works!

 

Despite the non-ideal weather, we spotted several other groups hiking. Mostly singles and duos, totalling about 15. A very large crew from California Conservation Corps was working on building a new dirt road. They had camped at the park's gate and at a location along the trail some four miles in.

 

An additional interesting aspect of this hike was witnessing a friend fly an airplane right over El Capitan Lake. We had planned on trying to spot each other during our hike. We used our cellphones to coordinate the timing. We were able to spot the plane, but our friend wasn't able to spot us at the summit.

  

    

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