San Diego Hikes: Hiking Black Mountain from the North Side

Hiking Black Mountain


If Black Mountain were 40 feet taller it would be the highest point in the city of San Diego.  As it is, it must settle for second place behind Cowles Mountain.  However, unlike Cowles Moutain, Black Mountain remains relatively uncrowded.  This is especially true for hiking Black Mountain from the north side.


Starting Point: Glider Point Parking lot Carmel Valley Rd, east from Black Mountain Rd (note Google Maps incorrectly labels it as Glider Port Trail) 
Length: 6 miles
Elevation: 750 ft gain and loss
Type: Loop with out-and-back section to top of mountain

Hiking Black Mountain

Black Mountain Open Space Park is owned by the city of San Diego and operated by its Parks and Recreation department.  The area is in the process of being developed with formal trails.  For many years, most trails were informal trails carved out by hikers.  Now there is a complete trail system on the mountain, with many of the newest trails on the north side.

From January 2017 to July 2018, access to the top of Black Mountain from the north side was limited by the closure of Miner’s Ridge Loop due to high arsenic levels from the old mine.  Now that the trail is open again we have developed a complete 6-mile hike that goes on most of the trails on the north side.

Our hike starts from the Glider Point Trail parking lot.  The Glider Point Trail parking lot is down a dirt road turnoff heading east on Carmel Valley Rd.  If you are heading west on Carmel Valley Rd you need to make a U-turn at the Black Mountain Rd intersection.  Note you could also start this a short way down the road at Miner’s Ridge Trail parking lot (this requires a similar U-turn).

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The hike from the parking lot goes up Glider Point Trail until it hits Miner’s Ridge Loop.  There will be a clearly marked sign at this point (there are a few confusing turnoffs on older trails).  Basically, you want to head to the actual Glider Point.  Follow the trail up to the left.  When you get to a fork bear left and in a short distance it will end at Miner’s Ridge.

Hiking Black Mountain
The spot where the gliders launch from
Hiking Black Mountain
The trail heads up from the top of the launch area
Hiking Black Mountain
This area is not marked. Go left to reach Miner’s Ridge Loop

Hiking Black Mountain

Hiking Black Mountain
You want to ge left at the unmarked junction, slightly downhill
Hiking Black Mountain
Going right at the unmarked junction does take you to a nice view of the mountain
Hiking Black Mountain
The right turn at the unmarked junction leads to this open space that had broken glass and other trash. It will probably either be closed off or made into an official trail.

Miner’s Ridge is a 2.5 mile loop trail that provides a nice workout.  By turning right on the trail you will continue uphill until it starts to level off and head downhill.  About a half mile in you will come to the turnoff off for the Black Mountain summit.

Hiking Black Mountain
Meeting with Miner’s Ridge

Hiking Black Mountain

Hiking Black Mountain
The right turn for the top of Black MOuntain. Going left continue of Miner’s Ridge Loop

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You can do a shorter 4-mile hike by simply continuing on the Miner’s Ridge Loop.  Our climb up Black Mountain adds another 2 miles out and back that returns to this spot.

The trail to Black Mountain is fairly level until it meets up with the Nighthawk trail.  Once again this is clearly marked.  The short uphill climb on Nighthawk takes you to the Black Mountain service road.  Turn right on the service road and you will loop around to the top of Black Mountain.

Hiking Black Mountain
The short, steep, rocky section goes to the service road

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At 1,554 ft Black Mountain does not sound very high but the 360 views are down to sea level.  This is San Diego’s version of the Empire State Building or Eiffel Tower (but even higher).  On clear days you get a great view to the mountains to the north.  In winter they are likely to be snow-capped.  The view to the south stretches toward downtown San Diego and even Mexico.  This is a hike we do year-round.  However, it is generally better on a clear day in winter or fall. 

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When you are done with the views simply retrace your steps to Miner’s Ridge Loop.  Just don’t miss the turn-off to Nighthawk trail from the service road and the second turnoff as you head downhill on Nighthawk.  Both are clearly marked with signs.

When you reach Miner’s Ridge Loop head to the right to complete the loop (this hike does about 80% of Miner’s Ridge Loop).  The loop ends at a fork where the trail has a spur bearing to the right towards the parking lot.  Heading left will take you back on the loop towards Glider Point Trail.  That of course is an option that will shorten the hike but add some more uphill (and downhill).

Hiking Black Mountain
Go right to complete Miner’s Ridge Loop
Hiking Black Mountain
The Miner’s Ridge parking lot is home to the Trail for All People and connects with Lilac Canyon Trail on the right,
Hiking Black Mountain
Lilac Canyon Trail is a one-mile hike to the Glider Point parking lot

When you reach the Miner’s Ridge parking lot on your right will be the Trail for All People and straight ahead will be Lilac Canyon Trail.  Both are new trails in Black Mountain Open Space.   Trail for All People is only 1,100 feet and worth a quick trip around.  When you are done simply head on Lilac Canyon Trail, one-mile to the Glider Point Trail parking lot.

Hiking Black Mountain

Of course, this is only one of many possible hiking combinations in the area.  For more hikes in Black Mountain Open Space Park go to our overview.

For more detail you can look at our guide to the following trails you go on during this hike:

Glider Point Trail

Miner’s Ridge Loop

Nighthawk Trail

Lilac Canyon Trail

Jas Arnold Trail for all People

For our overview of Black Mountain Open Space Park go here 


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