Bernardo Mountain

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Bernardo Mountain summit
Bernardo Mountain summit

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Bernardo Mountain

  • Location: Escondido.  From I-15 (if you are coming from route 78, go south, not north–guess how I know) take the Via Rancho Parkway exit.  Go east (right) on Via Rancho Parkway and take a quick right onto Sunset Drive.  Follow Sunset to the end and park for free on the street.
  • Agency: San Dieguito River Park
  • Distance:  7.4 miles
  • Elevation gain:  750 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance)
  • Suggested time:  3.5 hours
  • Best season: September – May
  • USGS topo maps: Valley Center
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here
  • Rating: 7

You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you can’t always judge a hike by its trail head, which in this case is situated right next to an I-15 overpass.

But it doesn’t take long for the scenery to get better.  After crossing under the freeway, you arrive at Lake Hodges, cross wooded, year-round Felicita Creek and begin the climb up Bernardo.  Take a right at a junction just past the creek (straight = stay on the lake; my buddy and I managed to work our way almost to the other side of the lake before we realized we might be off track) and begin switchbacking up to the summit.

As you climb, you still see the suburbs all around you, but the noise from the freeway is more distant, and the views get better.  Stay left at the two junctions you will come to (in both cases, keep heading up-hill).  At 3.2 miles, you pass by a water tank, and at 3.6 miles, you arrive on the 1,150-foot summit.

From the top, the lake is spread out below to the south.  To the west, you can see the ocean on a clear day.  To the east, you can sometimes pick out the Cuyamaca Range, and usually see the summits of Woodson and Iron Mountain.   For being as close as it is to civilization, Bernardo Mountain offers a nice get-away into nature, and a climb that is fairly doable for beginners while still being interesting and challenging for veterans.

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