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Three Peak Out-and-Back



5.8 mile 9.4 kilometer out and back
72% Runnable


Ascent: 1,772' 540 m
Descent: -1,772' -540 m
High: 1,567' 478 m
Low: 669' 204 m


Avg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 28% (15°)


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Trail shared by Elana Stahl

An out-and-back route across Cowles Mountain, Pyles View Peak, and Pyles Peak.

Elana Stahl

Features Birding · Views · Wildlife

No music. Dogs on leash.


A run to panoramic view from Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak.

Need to Know

Bathrooms and water fountains at the trailhead. Trash cans for trash and recycling and dog waste bags. Be sure to bring water.


At the base of the trailhead there are restrooms, a water fountain, trashcans, and dog waste bags. The way up Cowles Mountain Trail to the Pyles Peak Summit Trail junction is about 1.25 miles. You'll be going up a relatively steep incline, with switchbacks and uneven terrain riddled with rocks. You'll see Laurel Sumac, Chamise, and California Buckwheat to name a few.

Be cautious of going off trail and keep your eyes open as there are snakes on this trail including the Red Diamond Rattlesnake. You might also spot the California Towhee and Wrentit (voice of the chaparral) in the trees and scampering across the trail. The trail up to Cowles Mountain Trail is well-marked with signs which include mileage. It would be hard to lose your way on this one.

Around mile 1.25, you'll reach the peak of Cowles and turn left; there will be a set of wooden stairs next to an interpretive sign. This will lead you to the junction to Pyles Peak Trail. The terrain is the same as coming up Cowles Mountain except for the next 0.5 miles there is a steady, relatively straight descent.

At mile 2.67, you'll see a sign that points left to go up to the Pyles Peak Viewpoint. The viewpoint is about 0.16 miles out and back. At the end of the viewpoint, there is a wooden fence that overlooks Cowles and Mission Trails Regional Park below. From the Pyles Peak Viewpoint sign, it is another 0.25 miles to the summit. The terrain going up to the summit is similar to the way up to Cowles Mountain albeit a little steeper and the trail is not as wide. You reach the summit at mile 2.91.

Flora & Fauna

Chaparral and coastal sage brush habitat including yucca, figwort, red monkey flower, California buckwheat, white, black sage, laurel sumac, and yucca.

History & Background

Cowles Mountain was once mined “unofficially” for tourmaline. Cowles is pronounced KOHLZ and was named after George Cowles a rancher who lived in the area.

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Nov 2, 2018
Ernesto Llanes
Jun 16, 2018
Brian Schroth
Jun 6, 2018
Don H
clear trails 6.6mi
Dec 21, 2017
Brett Shangold
combined with cowles mtn backside 7mi
Jul 22, 2017
Jared Tebbs
Jun 28, 2017
Jared Sartini

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 15 votes


  4.2 from 15 votes
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in California


68 Views Last Month
1,858 Since Oct 25, 2016



Partial panorama at the top of Pyles Peak. You can see Cowles Mountain at the right side of the photo.
Jun 29, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
Looking North East from the top of Cowles Mountain. The trail that can be seen is the service road.
Jun 29, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
View of San Diego
Jul 1, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
View from Cowles Mountain
May 5, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
San Diego morning - get above the smog!
May 12, 2015 near La Mesa, CA
Cowles Mountain Trail.
May 12, 2015 near La Mesa, CA


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