Black Mountain Summit Hiking Trail

High Fiving at Black Mountain Summit

Black Mountain Summit is perfect for beginners looking for a bit of a challenge. Located in Rancho Penasquitos, Black Mountain Summit is only 4 miles roundtrip making this hiking trail a shortie but a goodie! With an elevation gain of about 800 ft, Black Mountain Summit makes for a great transition hike into more difficult hiking trials.

Black Mountain Summit is only 20 minutes away from Encinitas and 25 min away from downtown San Diego. This hike is not only convenient but awesome! With clear skies, you can see the ocean from the summit. I really don’t know why this trail isn’t more popular. It definitely beats Cowles Mountain hiking trail.

How To Get To Black Mountain Summit

There are 2 different hiking trails to get to Black Mountain Summit. You can take the Nighthawk Trail or the Service Road.

They start at different locations. The Service Road is my preferred hiking trail when hiking Black Mountain Summit, because the hiking trail is wider and less rocky. Below are the details for both hiking trails.

Nighthawk Trail Details

  • Trailhead: Hilltop Community Park- 9711 Oviedo Way, San Diego, CA 92129
  • Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
  • Estimated Time: 2 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes 🙂
  • Parking: There’s a parking lot at Hilltop Park and street parking is available.
  • All Trails Map

Tip: Watch your back- there are a good amount of mountain bikers using this trail too.

As usual, the earlier the better. Miss the heat and the crowds by getting an early start on this hiking trail. There are tons of other hiking trails in this same park too. I encourage you to come back after this one and explore different paths.

This trail is well marked with signs. Parts of this trail have a lot of gravel and loose rocks so be careful not to roll an ankle.

Service Road Trail Details

  • Trailhead: 9600 Laurentian Dr, San Diego, CA 92129
  • Distance: 3.8 miles roundtrip
  • Estimated Time: 2 hours
  • Dog Friendly: Yes 🙂
  • Parking: in the residential neighborhood
  • All Trails Map
Service Road Trailhead

If you’re using the service road, your hike will start at this gate located next to the address above- 9600 Laurentian Dr

I like taking the Service Road up to the summit rather than Nighthawk Trail. The Service Road is wider making it easier for mountain bikers to pass you. It’s also less rocky compared to Nighthawk Trail.

Pro Tip: All Trails takes you to a different starting point. I had some trouble finding the trail from the trailhead listed on All Trails. Start from this address instead: 9600 Laurentian Dr, San Diego, CA 92129.

Hiking Black Mountain at Sunset

Black Mountain Summit Sunset Hike

I’ve hiked Black Mountain several times now, and my absolute favorite time to do this hike is at sunset. With clear skies, it’s absolutely beautiful. The last time I went it was a little cloudy but still a great hike.

You can see the hot air balloons that take off from Del Mar, and the Pacific Ocean from the summit. This is one of my favorite sunset hikes. Kwaay Paay in Mission Trails also makes for a great sunset hike.

Post hike beer

After hiking Black Mountain, head to the Knotty Barrel (less than 10 minutes away from the trailhead) for some good brews and eats. They have some fire places that you can sit around and enjoy. This was perfect after a sunset hike.

If you want to know what other hiking trails in San Diego are open- click here.

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