Clearing Off the Hwy 15 Hikes

Black Mountain (the little one)
May 22, 2021
Miles: 4
Elevation Gain: 732ft
Gaia Track
100 Peaks Challenge #67
Afoot & Afield, 5th ed., Trip #63

Stanley Peak
May 23, 2021
Miles: 5.6
Elevation Gain: 762ft
Gaia Track
100 Peaks Challenge #68

Monserate Mountain
May 23, 2021
Miles: 3.1
Elevation Gain: 1,094ft
Gaia Track
100 Peaks Challenge #69
Afoot & Afield, 5th ed., Trip #29

Yay, another relatively cool weekend to knock a few more low-elevation peaks off the list before it gets too hot! All three peaks this weekend were up the 15, each progressively further away. On Saturday we started with Black Mountain in the Rancho Penasquitos area. I have dabbled near this peak before, once or twice bike riding in the area, and a couple of hikes – but never to the peak, at least as far as I can remember. There are multiple trails up to this peak, and we picked the Nighthawk trail starting from Hilltop Community Park. We made quick work of the gradual climb, reaching the antenna-covered top in no time. We encircled the summit, taking a little side slope back to the trail and were back at the cars in about an hour and a half. Peak #67.

(After the hike, I spent the next 1.5 hours trying on every mid-sized day pack at REI starting from right after they opened at 9am. I am still undecided.)

On Sunday we headed further up the 15 to hit Stanley Peak. This hike starts at Daley Ranch, which is a well-known San Diego hiking area… that I have never been to. Like yesterday, there are many trail options, and we chose the Creek Crossing Trail, heading up from the west side of the preserve near Dixon Lake. We arrived before 7am … and man, it’s the place to be! The parking lot – which was not small – was more than half full despite the early hour. It looked like mostly mountain bikers. We started up the trail and, despite the busy parking lot, we saw no one else on trail until we got closer to the summit. The trail was gradual and lovely until close to the summit when it got somewhat steeper. Arriving at the top we poked around the bushes, guessing where the high point was. Also at the top were some mountain bikers, and as we started back down, they flew – I mean FLEW! – past us. They were crazy!

On the way back we took a slightly different route, past Mallard Lake, and then to the parking lot – where waiting cars were happy to take our spots. Peak #68!

Kali & I continued northward up the 15, to Fallbrook and the Monserate Mountain trailhead. As the crow flies, this is one of the furthest peaks from my house, along with the other peaks along the northern border of San Diego county – so it was good to get it DONE. By the time we got to the trail, it was getting warm – there is a reason we usually hike so early in the day! There were plenty of people on the trail despite the blazing sun. We had heard that this trail was the Cowles Mountain of North County, so it was not surprising.

This trail was not kidding. If you look at the mileage versus elevation gain you’ll see that this trail is pretty freaking steep for a ho-hum urban hike. And it did not waste any time, I’ll tell you that. It was hard doing this after we’d already done nearly six miles climbing Stanley Peak. I was glad to have my sun umbrella with me and popped it up early in the hike to lots of admiring looks (and one child saying, “Oh! I wish I had that umbrella!!”). About a mile into the hike I bumped into a friend – yep that happens all the time when we hike! We finally got to the peak, took our pics and headed back down. (There was a huge ammo box with all kinds of junk in it, but I was not in the mood to paw through it and I opted not to sign anything.)

A cool thing about this mountain is that it’s a 9/11 memorial. As the trail climbs, at what would be the vertical distance of every ten floors in the World Trade Center towers is a marker. I have heard that on 9/11 the local fire department climbs the mountain in full gear. Sounds hot. On a related note, yesterday afternoon there was a brush fire not far from here, and on our way back we passed the fire fighters cleaning up – interesting.

We were done by around noon, which makes 8+ miles and a long drive feel like an accomplishment. Peak #69, baby!

Black Mountain

Stanley Peak

Monserate Mountain

About Erika Lawson

Blogging from El Cajon, CA, just east of San Diego. I mostly blog about hiking, but also traveling and family life as a working mom. I also have blogged about my experience dealing with (curable) breast cancer with as much humor and disdain as possible.
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