Distance: 4.2 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 1554'
Elevation Gain: 775'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.62
Round trip time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Hilltop Park
Black Mountain #2 is another small peak on the Sierra Club San Diego Peak list. There are four different trailheads, but I choose the Nighthawk Trail because it seemed the most interesting. It starts on the north side of Hilltop Park, where there is plenty of parking, clean restrooms, and water fountains.
The Nighthawk Trail is a wide dirt road that climbs a ridge adjacent to Black Mountain. Eventually, it winds back and connects with the main road to the summit along the only steep section of the trail. The climb to the top was uneventful. I met several groups on their way down and several groups arrived after I got to the top. These trails seem like they would be very crowded on weekends like Iron Mountain. Adorning the summit are a collection of dishes and communication towers, but the views are probably better than Iron Mountain. I could clearly see the ocean and surrounding suburbia.
This mountain was even shorter than the first, and my legs were ready for one more. I searched around for another local mountain and decided to head toward Mount Israel in Escondido. It was in the general direction of home and in the 5-7 mile range. It appeared to be in the Elfin Forest Reserve and I set my phone to take me there. It was a 40 minute drive. When I arrived at the Elfin Forest, I saw trails leading up, but stopped in the visitors center to see if there was a map. They had a map, but the elderly attendant had never heard of Mount Israel. Then, I went to Peakbagger and pulled up GPS tracks from other hikers. One path to Mount Israel appeared to start from Harmony Road, but at an undistinguished location that would require hunting to locate. After talking with the attendant for a while, I decided to abort the third mountain. The day wasn't a total loss, but I wanted a bigger challenge that would have to wait.
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