Eagle Peak

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Eagle Peak has been touted by many San Diego hikers as having some of the best views in the county. Rising just west of the Cuyamaca Mountains, Eagle Peak towers high above the surrounding Cedar Creek, Boulder Creek, and San Diego River Gorges, and does indeed offer some stunning views. However, this hike is somewhat overshadowed by the more popular Three Sisters Falls hike, which shares a common trailhead, so the chances are good that you can have this fantastic peak all to yourself.

The day of our hike, the trailhead was pretty crowded for such a remote location. There was room for a handful of cars in the dirt turnout near the gate, but that area was full and we ended up parking on the side for the road (along with many others). As we expected, it appeared that most everyone was there to hike down to Three Sisters, probably hoping that the small amount of rain we’d had the day before would mean the falls were flowing. We were pretty sure it was going to take more than the previous day’s drizzle to awaken the waterfall so were heading out to Eagle Peak instead. The cloudy skies threatened more precipitation, but after checking the forecast we were fairly confident that the rain wouldn’t start until much later in the day.

At the parking area, there were two gated-off dirt roads. Our route was the road heading west with a number of warning signs posted. Three Sisters, like neighboring Cedar Creek Falls, is the location of frequent rescues in the hot summer months when poorly prepared hikers find themselves unable to make the steep climb back from the falls with inadequate water and soaring temperatures.20151115_DSC8631-EditEagle Peak

We had no such worries on this cool and cloudy morning. In fact, we were much more concerned with the possibility of the rain hitting early, as the clouds were looking pretty dark and ominous. We had our rain gear in our packs though, and decided to persevere.20151115_DSC8635-EditEagle Peak

We set off along the old dirt road surrounded by seemingly endless fields of chamise and other chaparral plants. Around .3 mile we came to the top of a small rise adorned with a handful of Engelmann oaks. This idyllic scene would be a perfect spot to sit down and rest while enjoying the views of the surrounding valleys, but as we’d barely been hiking for 5 minutes we contented ourselves with pausing for a few pictures before continuing on.20151115_DSC8641-EditEagle Peak

Past the trees, the trail began to descend. To the right of the ridge line we were on we could see Cedar Creek Road and Sunshine Mountain, a target of future exploration.20151115_DSC8642-EditEagle Peak

About halfway down the hill we were on, we could see the shallow pools of Three Sisters below us to the left. As we suspected, the recent rain hadn’t done much.20151115DSC_5046-EditEaglePeak

We continued our  descent to a small saddle around .65 miles, where the trail for Three Sisters branched off to the left. The only trail marker here was a wooden post with “<- 3 Sisters” (and various other graffiti) emblazoned in black Sharpie.20151115_DSC8653Eagle Peak

We continued straight past the wooden post and began to climb uphill a short distance.20151115_DSC8654-EditEagle Peak

The trail had contracted to a narrow single track, slightly overgrown in patches. I was glad I’d worn long pants and it didn’t appear to be tick season as buckwheat and other branches brushed against my legs. We followed the trail as it ran along the left side of the oak-topped hill before us.20151115_DSC8659-EditEagle Peak

From here we had some impressive views of the Boulder Creek gorge below.20151115_DSC8662-EditEagle Peak

This side of the hill was pretty devoid of trees, and once again lush green fields of chamise dominated the landscape. Occasionally, the powerful scent of sage filled the air.20151115_DSC8666-EditEagle Peak

Around the 1.4 mile point we came upon some more oak trees. The trail had become a little eroded by this point too, but it wasn’t anything terrible.20151115_DSC8675-EditEagle Peak

At 1.7 miles, the trail began to climb uphill again, this time pretty steeply. We quickly came to a “Y” junction at the 1.75 mile point. We took the left fork for a small detour to a view point.20151115_DSC8686-EditEagle Peak

It was a short but steep 250 foot climb to a breathtaking view point, definitely worth the effort.20151115_DSC8696-Pano-EditEagle Peak

After enjoying the view, we went back to the main trail, and turning left, resumed our uphill climb.20151115_DSC8759-EditEagle Peak

Before long, we found ourselves ascending a rocky peak.20151115_DSC8762-EditEagle Peak

At the top, however, we realized that our Princess was in another castle. There were in fact several false summits to be navigated before reaching Eagle Peak.20151115_DSC8769-EditEagle Peak

So we continued up the rocky slopes. And up, and up. It wasn’t especially difficult but it definitely got our hearts pumping, and each time we thought we must be close, we found there was still more to go.20151115_DSC8773-EditEagle Peak

The awesome views soothed away any brewing frustration over the continual realization that we had yet another pile of rocks to ascend.20151115_DSC8777-EditEagle Peak

Finally, at 2.2 miles, we ran out of false summits and found the real one. We spied a small cairn atop a large rock and realized that we had last come to Eagle Peak.20151115_DSC8791-EditEagle Peak

We found a summit register buried in the nearby rocks, as well as two different benchmarks. Most rewarding though, were the amazing views.20151115_DSC8792-EditEagle Peak
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The clouds were looking a bit ominous though, so we didn’t linger too long before heading back.20151115_DSC8808-EditEagle Peak

View the full photo gallery

From I-8 East, take the CA-79 exit. Follow 79 North for approximately 1.3 miles, then turn left onto Riverside Drive. At .9 miles Riverside Drive turns into Viejas Blvd and you will see a market/gas station on the left. Turn left here onto Viejas Grade Rd, then make an immediate right onto Oak Grove Dr. Follow Oak Grove Dr for 1.6 miles and turn right onto Boulder Creek Rd. Continue on Boulder Creek Road for 13 miles until you reach a hairpin turn where you will find the small dirt parking area and trail head on the left. map

A note on road conditions: Boulder Creek Road is a beautiful and exciting mountain road. It is only paved for the first five miles or so, but the dirt portion is in very good condition. While the ride is a bit bumpy, you’ll be fine in a passenger car – just drive carefully.

Total Distance: 4.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Total Ascent: 1142 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fess/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
View route or download GPX in CalTopo

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