On a cloudy, rainy day in the usually sunny San Diego, we made our way to San Marcos to do a bit of hiking. Our trail of choice was the Double Peak Trail, a 4-mile lightly trafficked trek up to Double Peak Park. This relatively short but moderately strenuous hike is known for its sweeping panoramic views of the city of San Marcos.
Unfortunately, the day we choose was not ideal for views with the fog-ridden sky. Despite the absence of impressive vistas at the peak, the hike was still one I’d recommend for its ease of navigation, decent workout, and accessibility.
The trailhead picks up at Lakeview Park in San Marcos. We arrived early and despite rainy conditions, the lot was packed. I imagine on clear days it fills even quicker. From the parking lot, head towards the metal gate and small yet beautiful Discovery Lake. Follow the wide paved road as it steadily climbs uphill.
After a short, quarter-mile climb, the trail will spit you out into a residential neighborhood. Continue along the dirt path to the right as it takes you up past rows of Spanish-inspired homes. Fear not, this stretch of urban hiking won’t last long and you’ll immerse back into nature soon enough. Cross the street at the crosswalk to return to the dirt trail and away from suburbia.
The trail slowly begins to wind uphill once again. The 2014 Cocos fire ran rampant through this area just a few years ago, but with the amount of rainfall San Diego has experienced this past year it was difficult to see any evidence of it. Green surrounded us at all times, only enhancing our overall experience.
You’ll encounter a “T” junction just a little bit after a mile of walking. Follow the signs for the “Double Peak Trail” to remain on course. Soon you will come across another junction. A narrow trail to the right will take you to an overlook area. Unfortunately, it was too foggy this day to see much. However, on clear days you can see a decent view of the city of San Marcos below.
Retrace your steps back to the junction to pick up the Double Peak Trail once more. At 1.65 miles, you’ll encounter another junction for the Ridgeline Trail. Turn left to continue on the Double Peak Trail.
A short distance further you’ll reach Double Peak Road. Turn left to follow the paved road uphill. There will be a narrow spur trail to your left. I wouldn’t recommend taking this path as it is comprised entirely of loose gravel and can be dangerous to climb with its steep drop off to the right. Instead, stay on the sidewalk working your way up to Double Peak Park.
Once you reach Double Peak Park (marked by a large, brown sign), stay to the left and walk through the large parking lot. You’ll pass several benches on the way to the summit, where you could stop to take a short break. You’ll know you’ve reached the summit when you see the large telescope plopped in the middle of the peak. Here you’ll also find picnic tables where you can stop and have a nice lunch while admiring the panoramic views.
Unlike other peaks, you don’t need to hike to get to the top of Double Peak. Instead, you can simply drive to the parking area at the top. In fact, you’ll likely encounter families or other individuals who did not hike to the summit.
After you’ve taken in the views, so long as it isn’t as foggy as the day we went, retrace your steps back down to Discovery Lake.
Double Peak Trail Tips
Tip #1: Wear sun protection. This trail is entirely exposed with no shade.
Tip #2: Be wary of snakes. Rattlesnakes are often spotted along this trail.
Tip #3: Arrive early in the morning. Parking spaces are very limited in the Discovery Lake parking lot.
Tip #4: Bring plenty of water. The first two miles are entirely uphill and its a moderately strenuous climb with no switchbacks.
Tip #5: Be courteous of residents. You will pass through a residential neighborhood on this hike. Be mindful of your noise level and pack out all your trash.
From downtown San Diego, take CA-163N for 11.2 miles. Merge onto I-15 N. Stay on I-15N for 13.3 miles. Take exit 32 to merge onto CA-78 W. Take exit 13 for Twin Oaks Valley Road. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto N Twin Oaks Valley Road. In 0.4 miles, turn right onto Discovery St. Continue onto Rush Drive. In 0.2 miles, turn right onto Craven Rd. Turn left onto Foxhall Dr. Drive 0.2 miles and turn right. Park in the parking lot for Discovery Lake.
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Total Distance: 4.1 miles
Trailhead Address: 950 Mendocino Dr, San Marcos, CA 92078