Key Hike Statistics:
Distance, Trail Style: 5-8 miles (depending on your route up Cowles), Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Elevation Gain: ~2000 feet
Popularity: High to Cowles; Low to Pyles
Best Time: Morning, October through June
Bathrooms: At Trailheads
Parking: See Chosen Start Point Write-up
Trailhead: Any Cowles Mountain Trailhead
Pyles Peak is another summit within Mission Trails Regional Park and is accessible only from the trail that begins near the summit of Cowles Mountain. For this reason, you’ll need to hike to the top of Cowles Mountain before you are able to head over to Pyles. For write-ups of each of the Cowles Mountain starting points you can choose from the leads below.
Once you’ve arrived at the Cowles Mountain summit you’ll need to locate the start of the Pyles Peak trail. If you’re standing at the concrete monument that marks the top of Cowles Mountain you’ll head north (towards the radio antenna). Follow the steps in this direction and then bear left (again, towards the radio antenna). A sign marking the Pyles Peak trail will become visible on your left hand side where you will see a trail leading down in elevation (image above)
The first section of the trail to Pyles descends away from the Cowles Mountain summit until you reach a small saddle where it bends around and begins to climb slightly again. You’ll contour over the rolling hills that form the spine between Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak following a well maintained trail the whole way.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at the second of two viewing areas (the first is marked by a sign should you want to take a minute to enjoy the scenery). At the second view deck is where you will begin the final ascent to the top of Pyles Peak. The final push starts with a few switchbacks that give way to the last and steepest of the day’s climbs. When the trail levels out again you’ll find yourself in an open area with some flat rocks scattered about. Don’t stop here, continue ahead until you find the sign marking the summit of Pyles Peak.
Congratulations, you’ve reached the hardest of the 5 peaks within the Mission Trails Regional Park 5 Peak Challenge! Once you’re ready to head back to your car, just follow your footsteps back the way you came (yes, back up Cowles Mountain again, too).