Black Mountain Open Space Park offers a number of trails for hikers, trail runners, bicyclists and equestrians. There is also an abandoned mine to check out, and a glider port that has been in use since the 1920s. Look out for hang gliders coming down the mountain!
Climb Black Mountain
The 20 miles of trails vary greatly in length and difficulty, winding through dense chaparral covered canyons, riparian areas and grasslands. All the trails center around the heart of the park- Black Mountain.
This mountain is the second tallest peak in San Diego, falling short only to Cowles Mountain. If you’re looking for other hiking opportunities, check out our article on the Best Hikes in San Diego!
If you accept the challenge to reach the summit of Black Mountain, hikers and cyclists will enjoy a picturesque 360-degree view of the surrounding areas. The summit of the park can be found at the end of Oviedo Way near Hilltop Community Park.
The City of San Diego offers numerous volunteer opportunities for people to get involved in Black Mountain and other open space parks. Volunteer opportunities include cleanup projects, habitat restoration and trail maintenance projects.
Nighthawk Trail to Black Mountain- voted most popular!
There are many trails in the park that lead to Black Mountain, but the Nighthawk Trail is the most traveled. This is a 3.9-mile trail, which can also be made into a loop by accessing the service roads.
The trailhead starts at Hilltop Park, which can be very muddy after the rain. Restrooms and water and located here- what a bonus!
Then head up the Nighthawk, which is very well marked throughout. When you see the antennae and satellite dishes, Black Mountain's hallmark, you'll know you're almost at the peak!
You can also combine the Nighthawk Trail with the Miner’s Ridge Trail Loop for a 6.5-mile hike or bike ride to the summit. This is a popular trail for mountain bikers, and can be narrow with limited visibility at points, so stay aware of your surroundings!
Miner's Ridge Loop Trail
The Miner's Ridge Loop Trail is a 2.5-mile trail, with many rocks and intersecting trails along the way. You can choose to stay on the loop, or combine with another trail to scale Black Mountain. The trail gets its name from the abandoned arsenic mine, which is located just off the trail.
The mine was used in the 1920s, when there was a demand for arsenic. This mine was also used to search for gold. Although the trail was temporarily closed in 2017-2018 for abnormal arsenic levels, it has since been remedied and is perfectly safe to enjoy.
The dirt and gravel trail is well marked, and climbs uphill on the way out, and downhill on the return. There are wooden fences on either side, and beautiful wildflowers, fragrant sage and chaparral bushes throughout. Watch out for mountain lions- they've been known to enjoy this trail as well!
Rolling Hills Trail
One of the tougher trails at the park is the Rolling Hills trail. It is approximately 6.5 miles through forest-like terrain. The start has a steep incline, and fairly rocky ground. If you attempt this trail make sure to wear good hiking shoes.
In 2016, the Jas Arnold Trail for All People was opened. This is an 1,100-foot loop trail that is flat and wide and able to accommodate people in wheelchairs. This trail was named after Rancho Penasquitos resident Jas Arnold, who was passionate about the trail, after he lost his battle with multiple sclerosis.
In addition to the Nighthawk Trail, mountain bikers also love the Lilac Miner’s Peak Loop. The trail runs about 8 miles long, and is well marked to help riders navigate through the area.
The trail has rugged ground throughout the trail. It is not only natural terrain, but there are some man-made sections that provide more challenges for the riders. The last part of the accent of the trail, there are lots of loose rocks that make the incline difficult.
The steep trails on decent make for a quick ride. Keep an eye out for large rocks and obstacles throughout the ride.
Horses are welcome too!
Black Mountain is also opened to horses. Equestrian Staging Area and Canyonside Ranch are both located on Black Mountain Rd. From here, you can gain access to the equestrian trails.
Black Mountain is also tons of fun for kids! Playgrounds are located throughout the park, and there are even a couple of basketball courts at Hilltop Park for those that want to play. Most of the trails also have exercise and stretching areas.
The park also has picnic areas scattered throughout. These are perfect if you want to have a quick lunch together, or even have an outdoor birthday party! Black Mountain is great for the whole family whether it is a quick couple of hours, or an all day exploration.