San Diego Trail Tramps

Eagle Peak

Date:  Saturday, February 19, 2017  8:00 AM - 5:00 PM - Meet at the trailhead by 10:00 AM to begin the hike.

Location: Cuyamaca Mountains, East of San Diego

Distance from downtown San Diego: 65 miles. Allow about 1.45 hours driving time (Cleveland National Forest). From I-8, exit north on SR-79 towards Descanso, and then west on Riverside Dr. Turn west on Viejas Grade then make an immediate right past the store onto Oak Grove Dr. Turn right on Boulder Creek Rd. and drive 13 miles (7 miles is on a well-kept dirt road) to a hairpin turn that intersects Cedar Creek Rd. and the trailhead.

The well-marked trailhead is for both Three Sisters Falls and Eagle Peak with Cedar Creek Fire road slightly to the north. Park near the hairpin turn. The Boulder Creek Rd. trailhead also can be accessed via Engineers Road from Lake Cuyamaca. It is a shorter route but has many hairpin turns.

Background info.:
Eagle Peak is not the highest peak in the area but it has a commanding 360-degree view of the San Diego River canyon, the river’s main tributaries, and all of the surrounding peaks. Much of the hike goes through grassy fields with scattered Engelmann oaks or relatively open chaparral.

It is a popular destination for local area rock climbers, but this particular hike does not require any special climbing skills. The shear portion of Eagle Peak is closed to rock climbers during raptor nesting season for falcons, hawks and eagles. Advisories at Eagle Peak and Corte Madera Mountain are in effect as of March 1, 2017. This is in effect for all usage including hiking, biking, equestrian, or other trail usage such as bird watching or photography.

Trailhead to Eagle Peak and Three Sisters Falls

Hike Description:
Length: 4.2 miles out-and-back. Difficulty: Moderately strenuous. Elevation gain/loss 1,000 feet.

Most of the hike is on an easily followed trail. However, the last 0.4 mile up to the peak is over more difficult terrain and requires some bushwhacking where navigation skills will come in handy. There are no facilities or water.

The trail leads straight ahead from the trailhead, passing through chaparral dominated by chamise. From the top of the hill, the trail decends to a saddle .66 mile from the trailhead, where the trail to Boulder Creek’s Three Sisters Waterfall splits off to the left and goes down to the south. The trail to Eagle Peak goes straight ahead (west) from this point and continues up the side of a south-facing slope.

Beyond the Three Sisters Falls trail split, the trail is less traveled and can be narrow in places, so there is a chance of ticks hitching a ride. Light colored long pants and sleeves help keep them at bay. At 1.35 miles from the parking area, the trail crosses a saddle and begins a slow descent into a shallow valley, while staying on its north-facing slope.

There is a second fork in the trail 1.7 miles from the start. The trail to the left goes about 0.2 mile to a lookout with spectacular views of the rugged Boulder Creek and Eagle Peak cliffs. The trail straight ahead continues 0.4 mile with about 300 feet of elevation gain to the peak.

The trail becomes increasingly difficult to follow from here, with several false peaks to surmount before actually reaching Eagle Peak itself, and care is needed due to the sharp drop off. However, the climb is worth it for the perspective it gives you on this whole area that includes views of San Diego to the west and Cuyamaca Peak to the east. Sign the hiker’s register before returning to your vehicle the way you came.