Vien R. Guenther
Stonewall Peak Loop Trail – Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, California
Updated: Jan 8
Another great hike in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is the Stonewall Peak, located on the east side of the park. Stonewall Peak, known to the Kumeyaay people as Cush-Pi meaning “Sharp Peak” is one of the prominent landmarks in the Cuyamaca Mountains. The Kumeyaay people used to quarry steatite, or soapstone, on this mountain for variety of uses. It was later named after the Stonewall Mine (originally Stonewall Jackson Mine founded in 1870), one of the highly successful mining operations in all of San Diego County. We hiked Stonewall Peak prior to hiking the Cuyamaca Peak, at different times but both during wintertime. Although both offer great views, Stonewall peak has a 360 degree view of the surrounding area at the summit.
TO GET HERE
If you are coming from downtown San Diego, it’s about a 49-mile drive northeast to the park. It’s about an hour drive via I-8 E/Kumeyaay Highway, the fastest route. Then to CA-79 North all the way to Paso Picacho Picnic and Campgrounds.
Coming from Ramona it is about a 45-minute drive via CA-78 heading east. Then head south on CA-79 all the way to the park. It’s about 3 miles past Lake Cuyamaca to the park.
- THE HIKE -
The main trailhead to Stonewall Peak is across the roadfrom Paso Picacho Picnic and Campgrounds. If you haven’t hiked here, there is no parking at the trailhead, you have to park your car in the state park (after paying an entry fee of course) and cross the road to the trailhead. This is a popular trail, but then we usually hike on weekdays so we only meet few hikers on the trails.
STONEWALL PEAK LOOP TRAIL – 5.5 miles
This is a short hike, but you can make this hike even shorter by taking the popular 4 miles out-and-back trail. On this hike, we did the whole loop trail, about 5.5 miles. Just 1.5 miles longer. You can make the hike in either direction from the trailhead, but the easiest is clockwise, by following the Cold Stream Trail and Vern Whitaker Trail. This section of the loop trail is pretty much easy, like a "walk in the park", as my husband says. But it's just a warm up, it will start to meander upward later on as you reached the junction of the Stonewall Peak Trail.
As you reach the junction, the trail connects to other trails, follow the Stone Wall Peak Trail heading south, to your right. From here on, you will find interesting landscape, rocky formations that lend their own beauty. Looking up at Stonewall Peak you will probably think about the uphill climb ahead, but the switchback trail makes it fairly easy.
The view gets better as you get higher. Even before reaching the summit you will see Lake Cuyamaca, North Peak and Middle Peak. To the northeast is Granite Mountain, situated in the desert beyond.
To get to the summit, you have to climb a series of steep steps carved into the rock. The handrails will provide security if it's windy and you feel squeamish about the exposure. It's rocky all around the summit - and a long way down if you fall, so be careful where you step.
The 360 degree view is amazing at the summit. The surrounding landscapes varies as you look around. To the north is Lake Cuyamaca, North Peak and Middle Peak. To the west is Cuyamaca Peak and part of the Cleveland National Forest. On a clear day you can see the Pacific coast. Look to the east and you will find a desert landscape; the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park doesn't look that far.
The rocky summit does not lend much space for many hikers, but we had the place to ourselves when we hiked here so we were able to take our time. Not long enough to have lunch there though, the wind will chase you away. But we found a beautiful spot with fantastic view, just a little off the trail, below the summit.
To complete the loop. follow the Stonewall Peak Trail downhill on the west side. We didn't met any hikers coming up from the north side, but here is where you will find most of the hikers going up to the summit. The view is beautiful on this stretch of the trail as well, so whatever route you choose does not really make much difference.
Dogs are not allowed on this trail. Make sure to bring plenty of water and wear proper hiking shoes.
The Stonewall Peak Loop Trail captured from GPS and downloaded to Google Earth.