This is a hike of contrasts: tall mountains towering above canyons, riparian shade and exposed slopes, suburban and rural. In Alpine, development that has extended east from San Diego meets the rustic landscape of small houses and trailers scattered through valleys in the foothills of the Cuyamaca Mountains and the smaller local peaks such as Scuyan and Lawson. Mainly using the California Riding & Hiking Trail, this is a reverse hike and since most of the terrain is exposed, plan accordingly, especially on warm days. Much of the trip is on an eastern facing slope, so if you start in the late afternoon, the ridge will block out the sun for a substantial portion of the climb out of the canyon.
Begin by heading uphill and south on the dirt Sequan Truck Trail. At 0.2 miles, pass through a gate and almost immediately, look for the yellow California Riding & Hiking Trail decal stuck to a post on the left side of the road. Follow the trail as it makes a steep descent over loose and sometimes rutted out terrain. Scuyan Peak dominates the landscape directly in front; below, the Sweetwater River cuts its gorge as it makes its way from its Cuyamaca Mountains headwaters to San Diego Bay.
At 0.7 miles, you meet a dirt service road as it makes a hairpin turn. Continue downhill at a more moderate grade, passing a few rural homes and the remains of an old jalopy (1.4 miles from the start). The trail continues winding its way down into the canyon, finally reaching the river at 2.2 miles. An old bridge crosses the river, but because it is considered unsafe, this is a good turnaround point. You can relax in the shade of several impressive oak trees before making the climb back to your starting point.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.