Stonewall Peak is one of the most popular hikes in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and with good reason. The trail is easily accessible, beginning just across the street from the park’s main campground, and it provides some amazing views. If you’re looking for a new twist on this popular hike, you can try this variation. After summiting, continue along the Stonewall Peak Trail as it descends the back side of the mountain to meet with the California Riding and Hiking Trail, then continue on the Cold Stream Trail to loop back to the start. This adds about 1 mile to the hike, but will offer significant solitude compared to the busy trail that leads up to the Peak.
We arrived at the park in the morning and found it was already pretty busy. After parking in the Day Use area of the Paso Picacho Campground, we walked back out past the Ranger’s kiosk, and carefully crossed the Highway to the trailhead just on the other side.
A short distance ahead, the Cold Stream Trail crossed our path, paralleling the highway. Our loop would have us returning along the Cold Stream Trail on the left, but for now we followed the Stonewall Peak Trail as it turned right and began ascending.
Its no wonder why Stonewall is such a popular hike, with amazing views in all directions. To the north was North Peak with Lake Cuyamaca at its foot, and Anza Borrego in the distance. We could just barely make out the Salton Sea far to the northeast.
We didn’t linger long at the top, making room for new arrivals to enjoy the view, and eager to explore the quieter backside of the mountain. We retraced our route back to the last junction and continued straight.
We crossed a ridge and soon found ourselves heading down another relentless series of switchbacks. The views and scenery were very similar to the path we’d taken up, however the trail seemed rockier and more rugged.
The pine trees became much more sparse, evidence of fire still evident. But I was happy to see some small saplings here and there along the trail, and envisioned a day far in the future when this was a shady, wooded trail.
Around 3.9 miles we came to another “Y” junction. The California Riding and Hiking Trail turned right, crossing the highway a short distance away. We turned left onto the Cold Stream Trail to begin the final leg of our hike.
We spotted a cluster of pine and oak trees around the road in the distance, and knew we were getting close. Sure enough, before long we found ourselves at the base of the Stonewall Peak Trail where we had begun.
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Take I-8 East to the CA-79 N/Japatul Valley Road exit. Turn left and follow 79 north (towards Julian). After 2.7 miles, there is a sharp left to stay on 79 – make sure not to miss this turn (follow signs for 79 and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park). Continue on 79 for about 9 more miles to Paso Picacho campground on the left. Pay the parking fee at the kiosk and park in the Day Use parking on the right. map
|Total Distance:||5 miles|
|Total Ascent:||1085 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Dogs not allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes not allowed|
|Facilities:||Restrooms and water available at campground|
|Fees/Permits:||$10 per vehicle parking fee|