Black Mountain is a nice little peak in the Rancho Penasquitos area of northern San Diego. There’s a good network of trails that offer several different potential routes to the summit. We previously hiked Black Mountain via the Nighthawk Trail and have had this route on our list for awhile. The warm summer months seemed like a good time to get up early and tackle this relatively short hike before the midday heat set in.
This is a popular area for mountain bikers, and even with our early start we found a lot of cars at the trail head. While all the bikers we encountered were courteous, you’ll definitely want to keep your ears open as you hike. Sections of the trail are narrow and have limited visibility, so be aware of the possibility of a biker coming up on you.
The start of the Miner’s Ridge Loop was well marked. Turning left at the kiosk, we set off east along the trail.
The wide dirt and gravel path was lined on either side by a wooden fence.
The grass was already golden brown and most of the wildflowers had faded. There were still flowers on much of the chaparral bushes though, including buckwheat, laurel sumac, and chamise.
The trail began to climb uphill.
At .4 miles we came to the start of the loop portion of the hike. We took the right fork.
The trail wound up the hillside, surrounded by tall brush on either side.
Periodically, the brush thinned out a bit, giving us some nice views of the surrounding area.
At .85 miles we spotted the turn off for the Glider Port trail on the right, but continued on the main trail to the left.
We continued up the narrow, rocky slope, with tall growing chaparral on either side.
At 1.3 miles, we found the turn-off for Black Mountain Summit, and turned right to make our way to the peak.
Once again the trail was narrow and lined with tall brush, but we did find some monkey flower still in bloom.
At 1.5 miles we came to a “T” junction where we met the Nighthawk Trail – the same route we had taken on our previous hike up the mountain. From here, we turned right towards the summit.
We climbed a short, but steep and rocky slope.
At 1.58 miles we met the service road and turned right.
As we made our way up the wide, gravel service road, the morning clouds were beginning to burn off.
The road wrapped around the mountain, and we soon saw the antennae that marked the peak.
The road passed through an open metal gate and continued winding around the peak.
The road circled around the fenced-off antennae and came to a wide open spot where we walked around and admired the views.
After enjoying the summit, we headed back down, retracing our route to where we had left the Miner’s Ridge Loop. We turned right to continue the loop.
Just shy of 3.5 miles, we came to the first of two spur trails leading to viewpoints. We headed right to check out the scenery.
The trail was a bit overgrown but still easily discernible. After about 250 feet we found a wooden bench. The view here was largely obscured by overgrown brush, but the bench at least offered a quiet spot to sit down for a few minutes.
We returned to the main trail and continued along the loop.
Around 3.7 miles we found the turn-off for the second view point, and headed down the short spur trail.
This trail was a little less overgrown than the previous one, and a few hundred feet brought us to another wooden bench, perfect for a rest and a snack.
Back on the main trail we were beginning to get pretty warm as the morning clouds had almost completely dissipated.
Around 4.2 miles we were back at the start of the Miner’s Ridge Loop.
We turned right and retraced our route back to the parking lot.
View the full photo gallery
From I-15 take the Bernardo Center Dr exit and turn left onto Bernardo Center Dr. Continue straight as Bernardo Center Dr turns into Carmel Valley Road. Make a U-turn at Black Mountain Road and head east on Carmel Valley Road for approximately .4 miles to the Black Mountain Open Space Miner’s Ridge Loop Staging Area on your right (do not turn into the Glider Point Staging Area). Follow the road up to the parking lot. map
||Leashed dogs allowed
For more information, visit:
City of San Diego Parks & Recreation: Black Mountain Open Space Park
View route or download GPX from CalTopo