Parks and Rec

Step Up to the Warrior Hike Challenge

Hikers on the trail at El Capitan County Preserve

Conquer what is arguably the toughest trail in the county this Veterans Day weekend. Trek up El Cajon Mountain in El Capitan County Preserve during the Warrior Hike Challenge on Saturday, Nov. 9.

County Parks’ Warrior Hike Challenge launched in 2015 as a way to celebrate the athleticism and mental stamina shown by members of the armed services and that’s required to climb El Cap. It now takes place twice a year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends. It is free and open to veterans and civilians of all ages.

There are several levels to this “warrior” journey. Participants can choose their own adventure, navigating the length of trail that matches their individual interest and ability.

BOOT CAMP (Moderate)

Families and beginning hikers will enjoy a quick, 1-mile uphill jaunt to the ridge for a beautiful view of eastern San Diego. This trail is 2 miles round trip and is open to all ages.

Duration: About 1 hour | Start between 7 and 11 a.m.

RECON (Moderate-Difficult)

Skilled hikers can continue to the next peak for a hike that’s just over 6 miles round trip. This hike is best suited for teens and adults in good shape.

Duration: About 3 hours | Start between 7 and 11 a.m.

WARRIOR (Difficult)

This trek is not for the faint of heart or ability. Warriors will hike nearly 12 miles, traversing multiple inclines and declines with several hundred feet of elevation gain and loss.

Duration: Up to 7 hours | Start no later than 9 a.m.

SPECIAL OPS (Extremely Difficult)

Extend your Warrior trek another 1.2 miles with a guided hike into an ecologically sensitive site atop the mountain. This area is usually closed to public access. Reservations for the special outing are required. It is open to the first 15 people to RSVP by email with their first and last name, and a phone number.

Duration: Up to 8 hours | Starts promptly at 7:15 a.m.

Two hikers on the trail at El CapitanAll hikers should bring ample water (1+ gallons for Warriors and Special Ops participants) and wear sturdy hiking boots. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a walking stick or trekking poles are also recommended.

Healthy refreshments are available at “celebration stations,” including the staging area at the base of the preserve, located off Wildcat Canyon Road at 13775 Blue Sky Ranch Road in Lakeside.

Park staff will be on site and along the trail to answer questions.

The Warrior Hike is hosted in partnership with the San Diego County Parks Society, VALOR—a San Diego County employee resource group, the San Diego River Park Foundation and REI San Diego. Learn more about El Capitan County Preserve.

Michelle Mowad is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact