Viejas Valor

Hike to the summit of Viejas Mountain near Alpine in San Diego County

Pining for something short, sweet, and steep? Head to Viejas Mountain, just 3 miles north of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest, for a 3.2-mile out-and-back that gains nearly 1,500 feet in elevation and rewards with the sweetest of vistas.

 

At 4,189 feet, the Viejas summit sits prominently above the trailhead, a narrow path that starts on the right side of Anderson Road shortly after it becomes unpaved (find plenty of parking on the shoulder of this wide dirt road). Start early or late in the day to avoid peak sun and heat, as very little shade is available (and on really hot days, we recommend you avoid it altogether). As you begin your gut-busting ascent (you’re gaining nearly 1,000 feet per mile after all!), views to the west are already outstanding, stretching over Alpine and other towns along the I-8 all the way to Mission Trails Regional Park.

The trail is actually quite technical and not well-maintained despite the foot traffic. Expect a rocky, slippery climb that is often overgrown with resident chaparral and may have you sliding on your butt on the descent—that is, if you don’t bring poles. On the way up, it’s grueling, but the ever evolving views are certainly worth it. At the 1.3-mile mark, you finally reach the ridge, marked by a cross made out of rocks by previous hikers. Here you can peek to the east and see the Viejas Casino grounds; a trail to the right leads you to more views, but this isn’t the true summit. 

Head left for another quarter mile to reach the summit, marked by a geological survey marker, a couple of logbooks, and rock walls serving as wind barriers (and it does get windy!). Most importantly, you’ve got 360-degree vistas that are nothing short of stunning. Panoramas stretch west to the Pacific Ocean, south to Mexico, and north to the San Gabriels and San Bernardinos. Close by, you can catch Cuyamaca Peak to the northeast, San Miguel mountain to the south, and the distinctive El Capitan (El Cajon Mountain) to the west. It’s hard to leave these views, but when you do, remember to watch your footing on the steep descent. 

BONUS BEER: Hikes as challenging as Viejas Mountain should follow up with a refreshing reward. Head to the charming town of Alpine, once home to the ever popular Alpine Beer Co., to find a delicious newcomer: McIlhenney Brewing Company, which serves up a huge variety of IPAs for hops lovers (we like Wizards Wand) and a multitude of unique blondes (try Apricot Bells Bluff). Cheers!

To get to the Viejas Mountain trailhead, take the I-8 to Tavern Rd. and exit south. Turn left onto Alpine Blvd., which meanders east through town for 1.6 miles. Take a left onto East Victoria Dr. and after 1.1 miles, turn right onto Anderson Rd. The trailhead will be on your right after 0.8 mile, shortly after it becomes a dirt road. Adventure Pass Required. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Camp and Kayak at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest

    Sleeper Hit

    It's all about the water, and the camping, at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest, a High Sierra reservoir perfect for kayak explorations and pitching your tent with the lake in the background.

    View
  2. Wapama Wows

    Hetch Hetchy can be overlooked in Yosemite National Park because of its more remote location and limited facilities. But this is where you’ll also find one of the best day hikes in the park: Wapama Falls.

    View
  3. Sheep Tight!

    You’re not going to have to count sheep to get a good night’s sleep at Sheep Dung’s beautiful property in Anderson Valley near Boonville. Four modern cottages—tucked far apart from each other among 500 acres of rolling hills—are designed for blissful solitude. And it’s dog-friendly!

    View
  4. Hike Mount Tamalpais into Muir Woods

    Muir Woods Through the Backdoor

    A backdoor entrance into Muir Woods? Hike a tranquil trail that starts in Mount Tamalpais State Park and quietly leads into Muir Woods, letting you avoid the busyness of the main parking area.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. All the Wright Stuff

    Avoiding drama? That’s a good thing. Unless you’re talking about campsites. In that case, the more dramatic the better! And Wright’s Beach on the Sonoma Coast is quite the drama queen—27 campsites sitting smack dab in the middle of the wild and raging Sonoma Coast State Beach.

    View
  2. kirk creek campground big sur

    Sur Bet!

    You can spend $1,000 a night for an ocean-view room in Big Sur. Or you can spend $45 and wake up to the sound of crashing waves and incredible views of Big Sur’s coastline when staying at Kirk Creek Campground.

    View
  3. Secret Redwoods + Camping by the River

    Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park is a little-known gem where skyscraping reds (the tallest living trees in the world!) fly under the radar. Grizzly’s ironically small size and location off the beaten path provide near total seclusion, not to mention relaxing camping!

    View
  4. Three Falling

    Three waterfalls, and fewer people. McCloud Falls might be the best waterfall hike in Northern California. There are bigger waterfalls in the state, but it’s the whole package that makes this 4-mile (round-trip) hike truly memorable.

    View