San Diego Trail Tramps

  Stonewall Peak

Date:  Sunday, April 20, 2014  Time: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Location: ..... located about 40 miles east of San Diego, in the beautiful forests of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Directions: Follow Highway 79, 11 miles south from Julian, or 12 miles north from Interstate 8 at Descanso, to reach Paso Picacho Campground. Pay the day-use fee at the entrance, and park at the picnic area just beyond. To get exact directions from your location, plug this data into Google Maps: Stonewall Peak @32.96103587295474,-116.57183736562729

Background info.: 5730' Stonewall Peak is just east of 6512' Cuyamaca Peak (San Diego County's 2nd highest mountain). Stonewall's angular summit of white granite is a conspicuous landmark throughout the area. Its unique position and steep, south exposure provide a spectacular 360 degree view from the top. From there you'll see the Cuyamaca massif to the west, the Laguna mountains to the east, Mt. Palomar to the north, along with the nearby Cuyamaca Reservoir.

Swallows, swifts, ravens, hawks, and even bald eagles may cruise by. On a hike there in 2000, we even spotted several hang gliders riding the currents. After the wildfires that swept thru the area in recent years, most of the old growth trees are gone now, although much of the low growth vegetation is rebounding.

One of the most popular hikes in the park, Stonewall Peak is named after the Stonewall Mine located just north of of the peak. Since much of the tree cover is missing, it's mostly a sunny hike, but the trail to the top is still intact and well marked. Stonewall Peak was included on the original 1946 Sierra Club Hundred Peaks list.

Hike Description:
Hike distance will be about 4.5 miles roundtrip, up and back, with a total elevation gain/loss of 850'. The hike will take about 2 1/2 hrs. roundtrip, plus breaktimes. For more detailed info. on the area, refer to "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County" by J.Schad, 2012 Edition: Cuyamaca Mountains, Stonewall Peak, Trip 8, p 234.

The trailhead is across the road from the entrance to Paso Picacho campground at the picnic area. The trail itself is moderately difficult and is well graded, traversing through chaparral, oaks and incense cedar to the summit. The last section is on exposed ridge but has steps and a handrail. The top offers great views! Click HERE for an awesome 360° panorama from the summit and select "fullscreen" at the top of the page, to the right of the photo. Roll your cursor over the photo to more left or right. (Thanks to Neil Watkins.)

Sorry, no dogs allowed on this hike.

History: This area was originally inhabited by the Kumeya'ay Native American Indians as far back as seven thousand years before the Spanish explored the region in 1782. Some estimates place them here for 12,000 years. That's 600 generations! They referred to the area as Ah-ha-Kwe-ah-mac – “the place where it rains.” For a fascinating history of the Kumeyaay Timeline, click HERE.

The area was part of a Spanish land grant in 1845. When gold was discovered in the Julian area in 1860 the area was subjected to heavy mining interests. Stonewall Mine, for which the peak is named, employed as many as two hundred men in its heyday. The mine yielded over $2 million when prices were less than $20 per ounce and was permanently sealed in 1892.

The surrounding property changed hands several times until it was sold to the state in 1933, becoming what we know of today as Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs) built the first trails and campgrounds. It is unclear who built the trail up Stonewall Peak but there is some evidence that Harvey Moore, the park’s first ranger, built it with the help of the CCCs.