Goat Peak Trail Guide - San Diego
Goat Peak is an awesome "little" hike across the highway from the more popular Iron Mountain. Where Iron Mountain is a much more well known popular 5 mile out and back with a dedicated trail parking lot, Goat Peak is not as polished but very fun.
Goat Peak does not have a dedicated parking lot, and starts out in a cul de sac of a residential neighborhood. If you are used to the crowds on Iron Mountain, my wife and I had Goat Peak all to ourselves one Sunday afternoon.
Goat Peak is roughly a 3 mile out and back just about straight up. Despite being "only" 3 miles it has 1,200 ft in elevation change which is similar to Iron Mountain. If you are taking note here, that's about 2 miles shorter than Iron Mountain but has just about the same elevation gain! Needless to say this is a steep hike, and involves portions of light scrambling, which is what makes Goat Peak a fun day hike!
Goat Peak Map
The caltopo map above can be viewed and downloaded from Caltopo here.
Goat Peak Trail Guide
On the drive over to Goat peak I was excited, and a little uneasy, not knowing what I was getting myself into. It was either going to be a fun good workout up 1k feet to a pretty view or it was going to be a fun challenging, route finding experience. When I did the research for this hike, I noticed there was no trail shown on the topo maps I was looking at. Since there wasn't a trail listed, I thought to myself, "I better have good maps for this hike, I might get to do some real land navigation here". Also since the hike looked like it started in a neighborhood, I wasn't sure if it was going to have to be awkwardly looking between people's private homes for the trail.
Luckily when we arrived at the col du sac in the neighborhood the trailhead was very obvious and throughout the entire hike there was a decent trail you could follow. I didn't have to pull out my map since the trail was pretty much defined the entire way. One thing to note is that the last stretch to the peak is light bouldering so there is no trail to follow there.
ℹ️ Gear Recommendations
If you would like expert gear recommendations for your next adventure check out the Ten Digit Grid Gear Locker. I detail why each item has a spot in my backpack!
The hike started following along a dried out creek bed that had some pretty lush vegetation and even some trees. As someone who grew up on the east coast it's always nice to see some trees while hiking out here in southern California. Goat Peak trail also crosses the dried out river bed a few times, so watch your footing on the big stones in the creek bed. I suspect this creek would flow after some big rains so take that into account when planning your own trip. I would not recommend hiking this trail after or during a big storm since it crosses the creek a few times. Additionally it gets pretty steep which would be a challenge when muddy.
While hiking along Poway Creek it's pretty flat and Goat Peak trail starts out pretty easy, but don't let this fool you. Pretty quickly the trail starts to climb out of the Poway Creek and the rocky steep sections start to appear.
At first the sections are just rocky and slightly steep, but the higher your climb on Goat Peak trail the more steep and fun the trail becomes.
These first couple semi steep sections may be rocky but you can still easily walk up them on your own two feet. At this early point there is on need to start using your hands yet…but don't worry that will come soon enough.
Just as quickly as the steepness increased as we left Poway Creek, it quickly leveled out for a short distance again. The best part of elevation gain while hiking is the view gets better and better. I say this a lot in my articles where you are hiking upwards, but don't forget to take a break and look behind you as you traverse up the trail. Often hikers are super excited for the "final" view at the top of the peak and miss out on other great views as you slowly meander your way upwards!
After briefly stopping for pictures and taking a nice swig of water there was one more steep spot that was our first hint of scrambling up some rocks.
After this very short easy scramble the trail leveled off briefly again just before the first mile of hiking. At this point we did encounter a fork in the trail, which we stayed left at. It did look like they quickly came back together but we did not explore the other part at all.
After this fork, the trail is flat for a short period while you crest a finger and then a slight downhill before you start trekking back up for the final push up towards Goat Peak.
Next up in the final sections toward the peak, the trail gets pretty fun. Usually when I say "Pretty Fun", it means it got gnarly and challenging but, I wouldn't say the trail to Goat Peak ever got gnarly. I never thought I was pushing my boundaries on this hike, but it was a nice change from the simple clear paths a lot of the well maintained trails have out here in southern California.
The last two images above are at one of the steepest locations where it has you going up a mini rock wall. Again not too challenging but just be aware, you will be on all fours scaling this small section.
After conquering a steep section of hiking with some mini scrambling it always good to stop for a quick selfie. Tactical selfie breaks are a great way to stop and catch your breath before moving on to the next section.
At this point we could also very clearly see the top of Goat Peak, it felt as if we could almost touch it, but we would have one more small obstacle to get through before reaching the summit.
Once you get to the very base of the Goat Peak summit, it's all large boulders and is pretty much all scrambling up to the very top. The scrambling is not too sketchy at all, just be careful and watch your step. If you plan your route and have decent balance, you won't have to use your hands and can probably make it to the top without any physical climbing.
Congratulations if you made it to this point, you have made it to the top of Goat Peak! The mileage wasn't too long, but it was a pretty steep climb the entire way! While you are at the top, keep your eyes peeled for the summit register where you can sign your name and write a note of encouragement for other San Diego Hikers!
I really enjoyed the Goat Peak summit. I am not sure if we just lucked out because it was a Sunday afternoon, but we had the entire hike and peak all to ourselves to just relax and enjoy the views. From the top of Goat peak if you look closely back down where you hiked up you can see the neighborhood and col du sac where you parked. Looking back out the other direction you can see Iron Mountain.
🗺️ Other Nearby Adventures
Find more adventures based on activity or mileage on our Adventure Map.