Middle and Cuyamaca Peaks

View from Cuyamaca Peak


View from Middle Peak

Cuyamaca and Middle Peaks are two prominent peaks featuring spectacular views of most of Southern California. Pick a clear day to climb one, the other, or both, and see how many landmarks you can pick out.

Distance: 16.1
Elevation Gained: 3,100′
Difficulty: Strenuous
Time: 6:45
Critters: 11 deer, ravens, quail, hawks, rabbits

Get there like this.


I am satisfied to say that I’ve hiked in just about every corner of Cuyamaca State Park. This sprawling park offers great views, a nearly infinite trail network, backcountry camping, car camping, wildlife viewing, and, of course, lots of good hikes. One can busy one’s self for a week trying to catch all of the different trails here and still have to leave a lot out. On my 8th trip here and on yet another long walkabout, I think I’ve finally covered all of the bases.

Cuyamaca has a lot of highlights, and I always succumb to the temptation to try to squeeze three or four into one hike. This generally leads to long, rambling loops, which means that there also tend to be tedious stretches of hiking through burnt forest or succession scrubs between highlights. Today was no exception, as I summitted Middle Peak, attempted to find Sill Hill Waterfall, and summitted Cuyamaca Peak. Inbetween all of that was burnt forest, although there were a lot of great views as well.

If you’re the sort of hiker who likes to stand atop a peak and survey the views for miles around, this, or some variation of it, would probably be a good hike for you. While Palomar has lush forests with subtle shades and colors, and Mt. Laguna has vast, forest-fringed meadows, neither of those locales offer views as panoramic as Cuyamca Peak. Strategically located in the center of San Diego County, the only county landmarks it misses is the low-lying portion of Anza-Borrego Desert. Combine a trip up Cuyamaca Peak with a trip up Garnet or Monument Peak near Mt. Laguna, and you can honestly say you have seen the entirety of the county.

Cuyamaca Reservoir

Of course, the burnt forest is a constant reminder of the tragic 2003 Cedar Fire. The long stretches of ghost forest do get a little tedious here. I can’t think of a single long hike that I’ve taken here that didn’t have its tedious stretches. Then again, it’s very rare for a 16 mile hike to not get tedious at some point. I’m finding it more and more worth it to set aside my sadness over the wasted forest as Cuyamaca still has a lot to offer, starting with the views.

Here is a gallery labeled with some of the landmarks visible from Cuyamaca Peak.










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