Distance: 5.5 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 2696'
Elevation Gain: 1101'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.88
Round trip time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Hwy 67 and Poway Road parking lot
When I left my house in the morning, my plan was to climb El Cajon mountain. However, that plan was shot down by a Park Ranger when I parked on the side of the road and was preparing to go. He told me the trail was closed in August due to the heat and would re-open in September. Had I not stopped for coffee on the way, I would have been well down the trail by the time he rolled by, but there was no heading up after getting warned. I had no back up plan, so I pulled up the Sierra Club San Diego Peaks List to try to find something else close. I settled on Iron Mountain, a short 7 miles away. While it has the same name as my blog, it has nothing in common with Big Iron Mountain in the San Gabriels. There are actually three Iron Mountains in the San Gabriels, but Big Iron is called that for good reason.
I got to the Iron Mountain trailhead off highway 67 at 7:00 AM and the parking lot was already 3/4 full, on a Friday. It is probably completely full on weekends. There were restrooms in the parking lot and trail maps, which I was glad to see since I only came prepared for El Cajon. The trail map listed the distance at 6.5 miles and gain at 1800', both of which turned out to be exaggerations, unless the brochure was for the Ellie Lane trailhead. My GPS measured 5.5 miles and gain of only 1100'. Other GPS trip reports are in the same ballpark.
The beginning of the trail had a nice entrance and a little shade, but only at the beginning. The trail itself was sandy and despite some rocks, easy to navigate. It almost seemed like a trail you would find in Disneyland, and with almost as many people. I got to the top in just under an hour. The summit register was a mailbox with loose leaf notes stuffed inside. I decided not to leave a note in the mailbox and I did not see a benchmark. There is a free viewing telescope on the summit and a couple of picnic tables. That completed the Disney feel. Views were pretty good in all directions. I took a couple of pictures, then headed back down determined to find something else to climb. While I was at the top, I spotted Black Mountain in the distance, having remembered it as a smaller peak in the area. Back at the car, I searched for the Black Mountain trailhead and set my phone navigation to take me there. I wasn't done for the day.
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