Kwaay Paay Peak (Mission Trails Regional Park)
- Location: Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego. From Highway 52, take the Mast Blvd. exit (13) and head northeast for 0.1 mile (turn left if you’re coming from the west; right if from the east.) Turn right onto West Hills Parkway and go 0.7 miles to Mission Gorge Road. Turn right and go 0.3 miles to Father Junipero Serra Trail. Turn right and go 0.4 miles to a signed trail head on the left side of the road. Park where available, noting posted gate hours.
- Agency: Mission Trails Regional Park
- Distance: 2.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: November – May
- USGS topo map: La Mesa
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: San Diego County
- Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here (including Kumeyaay Lake and Mission Dam); Yelp page here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 6
Pronounced “kweye pie” (“leader” in Kumeyaay), this 1,194-foot summit is one of Mission Trail Regional Park’s “Five Peaks”, along with Cowles, Pyles and the two Fortunas. The view from the top isn’t as panoramic as that of Cowles but it still offers a rigorous workout and can be easily combined with other trails in the park.
From the signed trailhead, head south and quickly turn right onto the Kwaay Paay Peak Trail. After a no-nonsense ascent of almost 200 feet in 0.2 miles the trail levels out, passing junctions on both sides before beginning the bulk of the climbing. As you slug your way up the southwestern-trending ridge, you are rewarded with widening views. Cowles and Pyles dominate the landscape to the southeast while the Fortuna ridge lurks to the west. In the spring, yucca bloom adds to the appealing scenery.
At 0.9 miles, you reach a flat spot where you can catch your breath before the final steep push. Make your way up a staircase which, while not as severe as South Fortuna’s infamous “Stairway to Heaven” will still get your blood pumping. Thankfully chaparral provides some welcome shade. The stairs give way to steep and loose terrain (be careful on the descent) before the trail finally levels out.
From the base of Kwaay Paay’s summit, follow the trail to a clearing with a sign marking the peak. The true high point is blocked off (habitat restoration) but you can still enjoy views of the Fortunas, Mission Gorge and distant downtown San Diego. Several rocks make for good spots to sit and rest before making the descent.
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.