Black Mountain via The Nighthawk Trail

Black MountainBlack Mountain is a relatively small yet scenic peak in the Rancho Penasquitos area. It’s antenna clad crest stands out prominently amid its lower lying surroundings, and can be easily seen and identified from other nearby San Diego peaks like Mt. Woodson and Iron Mountain.

There are several possible routes up Black Mountain. For this trip, we began at Hilltop Community Park and climbed the southern slope of the mountain along the Nighthawk trail. We arrived at the park and found the trailhead on the eastern side of the park. Recent rains had left a rather muddy mess at the base of the dirt road we were starting out on, but the rest of the trail was in much better shape.
The Nighthawk trailhead at Hilltop Community Park leads to Black Mountain

We followed the dirt road uphill under a row of powerlines, and quickly found ourselves climbing a beautiful hillside covered in green grass and chaparral brush.
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At less than ⅓ mile, we passed some interpretive signs describing some of the local birds, then found some large rusted out metal objects that may have once been a car or other vehicle.
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Not much further beyond, we found an intersection with a path leading towards Sundevil Way, another possible starting point for our hike. There were a lot of junctions on this hike, but for the most part the trail was well marked and we rarely had any difficulties in deciding which way to go. With the exception of the service road almost at the top of the mountain, the correct path was always left. And it was always uphill.
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We continued on up the rocky trail and just over.5 mile came to a junction with the Little Black Loop, leading to South Point View. It soon became apparent that we’d have to make another trip out here sometime to check out all these side trails, but for now we continued left along the Nighthawk trail up a rocky incline.
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Around the 1 mile point, the trail leveled out somewhat and we had the opportunity to enjoy the views to the northeast.20141228Black Mtn_DSC8480-Edit

We soon came to another intersection with the Little Black Loop trail – this branch led the East Rim trail. We stayed left to the left to continue up the mountain.
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At 1.3 miles the flat section ended as we came to an intersection with the Miner’s Ridge Loop trail. Again, we stayed left to continue up the mountain.
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We climbed a short, rocky slope and came upon a fire road. We continued ever upwards to the right. The road wound through a deep cut in the mountainside.
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Before long the view on our left opened up and we could see a mixture of rolling green hills and sprawling suburban development.
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Continuing on up the gravel strewn road, we found ourselves looking up at an enormous array of dishes and microwave antennae above us, and knew we were almost there.
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The road made another 180 degree bend and we found ourselves passing through another deep cut in the mountainside.
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Man’s penchant for putting large quantities of antennae on top of perfectly nice mountain tops and fencing them in meant that we couldn’t actually stand atop the mountain and declare ourselves at the summit. We did, however, follow the road up and around the top of the mountain.
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The views were quite extraordinary for such a relatively short climb.
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After exploring the mountain top, we returned the way we had come.

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From I-15, take 56 West to the Black Mountain Road exit. Go north on Black Mountain Road for approximately 1 mile and turn right on Oviedo Street. Continue on Oviedo Street for approximately .2 miles, then turn right onto Oviedo Way. Follow Oviedo Way to the end (.6 miles) to Hilltop Community Park. map

Total Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 750 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Bathrooms and water available at park
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
City of San Diego Parks & Recreation: Black Mountain Open Space Park
Trail map
View route on Google Maps

2 thoughts on “Black Mountain via The Nighthawk Trail

  1. I hope you waved from the top. You were in my hood. 🙂