California, United States
Cuyamaca Peak is a mountain in San Diego County roughly 40 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Contained in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park east of San Diego, but southwest of Julian and Volcan Mountain. Its summit sits at 6512 feet above sea level, making it the second highest point in San Diego County, after Hot Springs Mountain (near Warner Springs, California)
Three fire roads lead towards the mountain, but merge halfway upon the mountain, generally a popular year round hike the most popular starting location at Paso Picacho Campground, starting at about 5000 feet in elevation. From there it is a 3.5 miles hike to the summit of Cuyamaca.
In October 2003, the Cedar Fire, the second largest fire in California, singed the once abundant Douglas Fir, White Fir, Incense Cedar, Jeffrey Pine, Coulter Pine, Gambel oak, Sugar Pine and other varieties of mixed conifer, what are left after the Cedar Fire patches of a once thriving forest, which primarily resided on the eastern/northern slope.
Snows in winter are common above 5000 feet on this mountain and surrounding regions in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. During summer, Bracken Ferns, a variety of wildflowers and grasses dominate mountain meadows and the forest floor. Fall colors of the Gambel oaks once lit up the mountain in fall colors prior to October 2003, limited displays can still be seen however during fall.
Small seedlings of new Douglas Fir, Limber Pine, Coulter Pine, Jeffrey Pine, Incense Cedar were seen within a year of the Cedar Fire, and as of 2007, some of these are now thriving saplings.
From the summit of Cuyamaca, unobstructed views north, east, west, and south can be enjoyed on clear days. To the west, the Pacific Ocean, the Coronado Islands of Mexico, the coast line of San Diego County, Viejas Mountain, and El Cajon Mountain can be seen. Looking north, one can see 6140 feet Palomar Mountain, the ridge of Palomar Mountain appearing in full frontal view. On very clear days 8716 feet Toro Peak, The San Jacinto Mountains, closer yet is Volcan Mountain, which is slightly to the northeast, Directly north and are the closest peaks, Middle and North Peaks, off before Volcan Mountain lay the former gold rush town of Julian. Directly east one may see the Anza Borrego Desert, including summits such as the Laguna Mountains and Whale Peak, Very far beyond one may see the Salton Sea, closer however one will see Stone Wall Peak, all areas to name a few. To the south one may peer to Lyons Peak, Lawson Peak, south of the Mexican border mountains such as Table Top Mountain, and the Sierra Juarez to the southeast. On clear days visibility ranges from 60-100 miles in nearly every direction.
Access is generally maintained through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park on other portions of Cleveland National Forest. Heading east on the 8 freeway, then up Route 79 (a little above Descanso, California) you will have to pay a $2.00 fee to get into the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. If you hike to the top of Cuyamaca Peak the United States Geological Survey Marker will register: 32 Degrees 56 Minutes and 80 Sec. N, 116 Degrees 36 Minutes and 40 Sec. W.
Cuyamaca Peak is place of weather, the forest contained on its slopes absorb the moisture readily with each passing cloud, average annual precipitation may vary from 32 - 20 inches. The significant elevation as compared to the surrounding landscape catches Pacific moisture easily, clouds forced to the heights of the mountain to let loose any moisture content. During the winter this precipitation may come as snow or frost, hoar frost upon the trees of the highest elevations is common during winter snow storms. Summer thunderstorms may account for about 30% of the total annual precipitation, winter/fall storms account for the other 70% percent, there is no exact median on this, drier years may change this statistic. A scenic, wildlife bountiful mountain, with unique scenery views across San Diego County and beyond. For more information on wildlife, fauna/flora, see Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.