Black Mountain via the Miner’s Ridge Loop

2016BlkMtnDSC_9058Black 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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5639

The wide dirt and gravel path was lined on either side by a wooden fence.2016BlkMtn_DSC5641-Edit

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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5642-Edit

The trail began to climb uphill.2016BlkMtn_DSC5645-Edit

At .4 miles we came to the start of the loop portion of the hike. We took the right fork.2016BlkMtn_DSC5650

The trail wound up the hillside, surrounded by tall brush on either side.2016BlkMtn_DSC5654-Edit

Periodically, the brush thinned out a bit, giving us some nice views of the surrounding area.2016BlkMtn_DSC5656-Edit

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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5668

We continued up the narrow, rocky slope, with tall growing chaparral on either side.2016BlkMtn_DSC5680

At 1.3 miles, we found the turn-off for Black Mountain Summit, and turned right to make our way to the peak.2016BlkMtn_DSC5685

Once again the trail was narrow and lined with tall brush, but we did find some monkey flower still in bloom.2016BlkMtn_DSC5699

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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5712

We climbed a short, but steep and rocky slope.2016BlkMtn_DSC5714

At 1.58 miles we met the service road and turned right.2016BlkMtn_DSC5718

As we made our way up the wide, gravel service road, the morning clouds were beginning to burn off.2016BlkMtn_DSC5722

The road wrapped around the mountain, and we soon saw the antennae that marked the peak.2016BlkMtn_DSC5731

The road passed through an open metal gate and continued winding around the peak.2016BlkMtn_DSC5738

The road circled around the fenced-off antennae and came to a wide open spot where we walked around and admired the views.2016BlkMtn_DSC5747

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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5783

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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5794

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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5796

We returned to the main trail and continued along the loop.2016BlkMtn_DSC5802

Around 3.7 miles we found the turn-off for the second view point, and headed down the short spur trail.2016BlkMtn_DSC5805

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.2016BlkMtn_DSC5809

Back on the main trail we were beginning to get pretty warm as the morning clouds had almost completely dissipated.2016BlkMtn_DSC5823

Around 4.2 miles we were back at the start of the Miner’s Ridge Loop.2016BlkMtn_DSC5825

We turned right and retraced our route back to the parking lot.

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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

Total Distance: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 1000 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes Allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
City of San Diego Parks & Recreation: Black Mountain Open Space Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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