Snow and winter beauty at Cuyamaca.

Early this morning I headed to the mountains east of San Diego. I yearned to see the new snow.

I departed before a crowd of families and kids, eager to sled and throw snowballs, might jump into their cars. It doesn’t snow in a city whose climate is said to be the best in the world. For many San Diego residents a journey to the snow is a rare treat.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a little less than an hour east of downtown San Diego. I drove from Interstate 8 up Highway 79 and lingered in several spots, crunching crackly ice and crisp snow under my shoes. Good thing I dressed warmly!

Here are a few photographs of winter’s beauty in the meadows and mountains of Cuyamaca.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Late autumn’s beauty at Mission Trails.

Winter arrives in less than one week.

Today I enjoyed a late autumn walk in Mission Trails Regional Park, a large open space preserve located in the City of San Diego.

I moved along the Visitor Center Loop Trail, gazing at mountains and trees and fluttering yellow and brown leaves.

The relatively easy 1.5 mile trail follows the San Diego River for a short distance. Just right for a thoughtful little hike through nature’s infinite beauty.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A beautiful walk along Big Laguna Trail.

Stepping from the Penny Pines parking area on Sunrise Highway to the Nobel Canyon trailhead.
Stepping from the Penny Pines parking area on Sunrise Highway to the Nobel Canyon trailhead.

This morning I went on a walk in the Laguna Mountains. The pine-covered Lagunas, about an hour’s drive east of downtown San Diego, reach just over 6000 feet in elevation.

After parking at the Penny Pines area on Sunrise Highway, I began west down the Noble Canyon Trail, then turned south onto Big Laguna Trail.

A morning walk in the mountains is so quiet and beautiful.

Come along with me! In these photos we’ll be heading a couple miles or so to Big Laguna Lake, a temporary body of water that appears in the winter and lingers until summer.

During my walk I saw many broken trees and stumps, victims over the years of bark beetles and periodic wildfires. At first the air was very chilly, but as the sun slowly rose its warmth felt good on my face. I heard plenty of birdsong, knocking woodpeckers, and the soft mountain breeze in branches. I smelled new green grass and the towering pine trees.

My eyes noted many signs of early spring.

Part of a posted Map of Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Big Laguna Lake forms during rainy season in Laguna Meadow.
Part of a posted Map of Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Big Laguna Lake forms during rainy season in Laguna Meadow.
Horses share the path with hikers and mountain bikers.
Horses sometimes share the trail with hikers and mountain bikers.
Many fallen tree limbs and trunks were along the trail. Victims of wildfires, beetles, and violent mountain storms.
Many fallen tree limbs and trunks were along the trail. Victims of wildfires, beetles, and violent mountain storms.
We've turned left onto Big Laguna Trail. Many of the hiking trails on Mount Laguna connect to the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.
We’ve turned left onto Big Laguna Trail. Many of the hiking trails on Mount Laguna connect to the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.
A swinging gate on the trail. Sometimes cattle are herded up in these mountains.
A swinging gate on the trail. Sometimes cattle are herded up in these mountains.
A beautiful early morning. The sun is still low and obscured by clouds and hills.
A beautiful early morning. The sun is still low and obscured by clouds and hills.
I saw a few small flowers along the trail scattered by spring's fingers.
I saw a few small flowers along the trail scattered by spring’s fingers.
Jumbled sawn trunks often appear like abstract works of art.
The jumbled broken trunks often appeared like abstract works of art.
Inner beauty exposed.
Inner beauty exposed.
Wild, delicate beauty.
Wild and delicate.

Moving forward.
Moving forward.
A tale of many seasons.
A tale of many seasons.
Winter's remnant.
Winter’s remnant.
Many elements.
Many elements.
About to enter the edge of Laguna Meadow.
I’m about to enter the edge of Laguna Meadow. Around here a small group of Red-winged Blackbirds were jumping about tree branches and cheerfully talking to each other.

Some collected rain and snowmelt have formed a small green pond.
Some collected rain and snowmelt have formed a small green pond in the meadow.

I spy Big Laguna Lake ahead.
I spy Big Laguna Lake ahead.
Turning my camera to the right, looking backward a bit.
Turning my camera to the right, looking backward a bit.

A friendly mountain biker approaches.
A friendly mountain biker approaches.
Like a silver dream on the mountain.
Like a silver dream on the mountain.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Photos from 14 nature hikes around San Diego.

I didn’t walk yesterday. I gave my legs a rest, watched football, did some work on the computer. I really missed being outside.

While Cool San Diego Sights tends to concentrate on walks in the city, I’ve taken quite a few photographs while journeying through or near natural beauty. My hikes are generally easy. Their central purpose is stimulate the mind and senses.

Here are photos from 14 nature hikes all around San Diego. Click the following links to discover trails of wonder near and far. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to see what’s out there.

Every walk in one’s life can open unexpected vistas. Natural beauty and adventure await in every direction…

A hike from Kumeyaay Lake to the Old Mission Dam.

A hike down to the grinding rocks at Mission Trails.

Beautiful San Diego hiking trail welcomes wheelchairs.

Views of San Diego from a hike up Cowles Mountain.

Photos of a nature walk in Tijuana River Estuary.

Photos from a short hike through Sweetwater Marsh.

Nature and history on a walk in Los Peñasquitos Canyon.

A walk along rocks south of the OB Pier.

An amazing walk from Point La Jolla to Cuvier Park.

A short hike along Lake Poway Trail.

Beautiful photos of sunrise on Mount Laguna.

Flowers along a trail into Balboa Park’s Florida Canyon.

Hiking Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Beach Trail.

Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Guy Fleming Trail.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of fun stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Beautiful photos of sunrise on Mount Laguna.

The sky turns red and yellow just before sunrise on Mount Laguna. Photo taken at the Storm Canyon Overlook on the Sunrise Highway.
The sky turns red and yellow just before sunrise on Mount Laguna. Photo taken at the Storm Canyon Overlook on the Sunrise Highway.

This morning I left downtown San Diego very early and drove an hour east to Mount Laguna. I wanted to see sunrise from a mountaintop.

I began taking photos from the Storm Canyon Overlook a bit north of the Laguna Mountain Lodge and Store. Breathtaking views of the desert below can be enjoyed at various points along the Sunrise Highway.

I then drove a short distance farther north to the Penny Pines Trailhead, parked, and hiked about a mile and a half northward along the Pacific Crest Trail. I didn’t go all the way to Garnet Peak, because the sun came to me!

Looking down toward a section of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park northeast of the beautiful Laguna Mountains, which rise to around 6000 feet in San Diego County.
Looking down toward a section of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park northeast of the beautiful Laguna Mountains, which rise to around 6000 feet in San Diego County.
Sign at the overlook explains Trails Through the Ages. Storm Canyon below was used by the Native American Kumeyaay for thousands of years for seasonal migrations.
Sign at the overlook explains Trails Through the Ages. Storm Canyon below was used by the Native American Kumeyaay for thousands of years for seasonal migrations. (Click photo to enlarge for easy reading.)
Trees west of the Storm Canyon Overlook are still a bit dark before sunrise.
Trees west of the Storm Canyon Overlook are still a bit dark before sunrise.
I've started toward the Pacific Crest Trail from the Penny Pines trailhead. The eastern sky is slowly brightening.
I’ve started hiking toward the Pacific Crest Trail from the Penny Pines Trailhead. The eastern sky is slowly brightening.
A chilly early November morning in the Cleveland National Forest near the top of Mount Laguna.
A slightly chilly early November morning in the Cleveland National Forest near the top of Mount Laguna.
I'm now heading north along the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. I'll go about a mile and a half toward Garnet Peak before turning around. Sunrise is imminent.
I’m now heading north along the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. I’ll go about a mile and a half toward Garnet Peak before turning around. Sunrise is imminent.
Many of the trees in the Penny Pines grove have died due to an ongoing bark beetle infestation. The recent drought caused many trees in the Cleveland National Forest to struggle, too.
Many of the trees in the Penny Pines grove have died due to an ongoing bark beetle infestation. The recent drought caused many trees in the Cleveland National Forest to struggle, too.
Looking roughly northeast as color creeps over the desert below.
Looking roughly northeast as color creeps over the desert contours below.
Miles of beauty, to the horizon.
Miles of beauty, to the horizon.
The trail here is still in shadow.
The trail here is still in shadow. Not for long…
Early sunlight touches a rocky rise.
Early sunlight touches a rocky rise.
That shiny strip in the distance is light reflecting from the inland Salton Sea.
That shiny strip in the distance is light reflecting from the inland Salton Sea.
The sun is about to clear a rocky desert mountain.
The sun is about to clear a rocky desert mountain.
The sun appears.
The sun appears.
Sudden morning light brightens vegetation near the trail.
Sudden morning light brightens vegetation beside the rough trail.
The sunshine is warm. I will soon have to remove my light jacket. Even though it is late November, the dry air from the desert is very pleasant.
The sunshine is warm. I will soon have to remove my light jacket. Even though it is late November, the dry air from the desert is very pleasant.
Slanting sunlight on small leaves.
Slanting sunlight on small leaves.
Looking down into a small canyon beneath the trail that descends toward the desert.
Looking down into a small canyon beneath the trail that descends toward the desert.
I'm rounding a corner, approaching a light-splashed peak.
I’m rounding a corner, approaching a light-splashed peak.
Garnet Peak, on the left, rises into the morning sunlight. A short trail leads to its summit from the Pacific Crest Trail.
Garnet Peak, on the left, rises into the morning sunlight. A short trail leads to its summit from the Pacific Crest Trail.
Light on one side of a boulder above me.
Light on one side of a boulder above me.
A beautiful view. I encountered nobody else on the trail this morning. Perhaps because today is Thanksgiving.
A beautiful view. I encountered nobody else on the trail this morning. Perhaps because today is Thanksgiving.
I am thankful that I saw this.
I am thankful that I could pause for a moment and enjoy this.
New light all around.
New light all around.
The smooth, dry contours of one part of Anza-Borrego State Park become more apparent. I believe the bulky mountain on the left is Whale Peak.
The dry contours of one section of Anza-Borrego State Park become more apparent. I believe the bulky mountain on the left is Whale Peak.
Looking east, shadows are retreating from mountain green.
Looking east, shadows are retreating from fresh mountain green.
Looking south, bright light on a broken boulder.
Looking south, bright light on a broken boulder.
Leaves feed on sunshine.
Leaves feed on sunshine.
I'm now headed back south toward the Penny Pines Trailhead. One last look north at Garnet Peak.
I’m now headed back south toward the Penny Pines Trailhead. One last look north at Garnet Peak in full daylight.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! Occasionally, when I get the itch, I travel to more distant parts of San Diego County. You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A short hike along Lake Poway Trail.

Bronze sculpture of a mountain lion and cub near the Lake Poway concession building. Pride of the Wilderness, Richard Becker, 2007.
Bronze sculpture of a mountain lion and cub near the Lake Poway concession building. Pride of the Wilderness, Richard Becker, 2007.

This morning, before checking out the new Tony Gwynn statue, I took a short hike up the Lake Poway Trail.

Here are some photographs…

Sign near beginning of Lake Poway Trail shows how to continue on to the summit of Mt. Woodson, location of the famous Potato Chip Rock.
Sign near beginning of Lake Poway Trail shows how to continue on to the summit of Mt. Woodson, location of the famous Potato Chip Rock.
On a Sunday morning some people along the shore are trying their hand at fishing.
On a Sunday morning some people along the shore are trying their hand at fishing.
Starting up the Lake Poway Trail. The natural scenery is beautiful.
Starting up the Lake Poway Trail. The natural scenery is beautiful.
A trail marker.
A trail marker.
I believe this is wild mustard. Various flowers could be seen along the trail.
I believe this is wild mustard. Various flowers could be seen along the trail.
Bright green foliage above silver water.
Bright green foliage above silver water.
Hikers climb the Lake Poway Trail on an overcast weekend morning.
Hikers climb the Lake Poway Trail on an overcast weekend morning.
Looking back at how far I've come so far.
Looking back at how far I’ve come so far.
Several boats containing fishermen were floating on the lake below.
Several boats containing fishermen were floating on the lake below.
More hikers climbing skyward.
More hikers climbing skyward.
This is as far as I came. I enjoy a breathtaking view as a ray of sun comes through and touches a hill.
This is as far as I came. I enjoy a breathtaking view as a ray of sunshine comes through and touches a hill across the lake.
As I head back down, my eyes feast on more beauty.
As I head back down, my eyes feast on more beauty.
A small bunny is out on the trail.
A small bunny is out on the trail.
Almost back to lake level.
Almost back to lake level.
Some kids were fishing.
Some kids were fishing.
These kids who are fishing huddle together to check out something on the lake's shore.
These kids who are fishing huddle together to check out something on the lake’s shore.
Someone caught a huge fish! One of the kids runs over to see!
Someone caught a huge fish! One of the kids runs over to see!
During my short hike I turned around at this bench. It's dedicated to John Finley McMinn, naval aviator who won the Distinguished Flying Cross.
During my short hike I turned around at this bench. It’s dedicated to John Finley McMinn, naval aviator who won the Distinguished Flying Cross.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Views of San Diego from a hike up Cowles Mountain.

Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego's San Carlos neighborhood.
Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego’s San Carlos neighborhood.

Please enjoy the following photos. They are from a hike that I took yesterday to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park. Cowles Mountain, elevation 1,593 feet, is the highest peak in the city of San Diego. Because it’s located near so many urban residents, hundreds of hikers can be found on its trails on any given day.

Yesterday, around noon, I started from the trailhead at the Cowles Staging Area on Golfcrest Drive, and I slowly climbed the zigzagging trail to the summit. It’s a fairly steep ascent–one gains 950 feet in just 1.5 miles. Furthermore, yesterday the footing was more difficult than usual. A small stream was flowing down much of the muddy trail, due to the recent rain.

But the climb was definitely worth the effort!

The higher I ascended, the more fantastic the views became. At the top I could survey nearly all of San Diego and much of the surrounding region. From mountains to ocean, Mexico to North County and beyond–the spectacular views stretched in every direction!

Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be somewhat crowded on weekends.
Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be very crowded on weekends.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His two ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance experience of other hikers.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance the experience of other hikers.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is required. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is entailed. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
A group hikes up the trail.
A group hikes up the trail.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren't prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate those in distress.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren’t prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate people in distress.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it's possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it’s possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer cone-like peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego, very faint in the far distance.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
The trails zig-zags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
The trail zigzags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day (see the previous blog post) was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870's.
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870’s.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could just barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, distant San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue thread.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue line.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in amazing views.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in some amazing views.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.