El Cajon Mountain

Decided to knock out another of the Six-Pack of Peaks, this time El Cajon Mountain. Since it is starting to get hot and this is probably the hardest of the San Diego peaks, I thought why not try to hit the summit at sunrise? I have done this peak before—it was my final peak of the 100 Peak Challenge. I looked up the time of sunrise.

The car’s clock read 3:00 when I arrived at the trailhead. The parking lot was closed, so I parked on the street. I slipped on my headlamp and gathered the rest of my gear and set off.

I plodded along the misty dark trail, mostly up, but one of the joys of El Cajon is you get to go down sometimes as well. I kept a good pace, but night hiking is a bit slower, so I had a feeling I was going not make the summit before sunrise.

Just after the 4.5-mile mark, I was passed by a hiker, and soon after that his two buddies. The trail was nice and wide, so socially distancing was not an issue.

Soon after, I caught the sun rising over the Cuyamacas. I snapped a few photos and kept on climbing. As I approached the summit, the three of them were hanging out on the main summit block, so I plopped down near one of the reference marks.

After a snack, some Gatorade, and a few photos, it was time to head back down. Since time wasn’t a factor, I decided not to push it.

Making my way down, I could now see all the wildflowers that lined the side of the trails. As I made my way down, I started encountering hikers going up. All told, I think I passed about 15 people. The trail was nice and wide, so no issues. I usually told them the hiker count ahead of them. 

Got have a picture of the abandoned car!

The sun was starting to warm things up, so I was glad to have started when I did. I was feeling those uphills on the way back but kept plodding along. Soon, the trailhead came into view and another successful summit was in the books. All told it was 11.1 miles in 6:53 hours with over 3,591 feet of elevation gain. Not too bad…

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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