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After many years of awkward accessibility, or no access at all, the north slope of Black Mountain once again welcomes hikers (and their four-legged companions). The new, improved access to the Miner’s Ridge Loop Trail lies along the south side of a recently opened piece of Carmel Valley Road that spans the distance between Black Mountain Road and Bernardo Center Drive. Note that you can only turn onto the access driveway for the trailhead if you are traveling eastbound on Carmel Valley Road from Black Mountain Road. That accessway is 1 mile east of Black Mountain Road, and 2.5 miles west of Interstate 15 by way of Bernardo Center Road.

The short, uphill drive on the paved accessway leads to a parking lot and trailhead perched on a viewful, elevated flat spot, where you’ll find an informational kiosk detailing (among other things) plans for a future wheelchair-accessible path that will loop around the immediate area.

The Miner’s Ridge Loop Trail crookedly circles 2.5 miles around Black Mountain’s lower and middle slopes, which are thickly coated with mature chaparral vegetation — some of it as much as 15 feet tall. In spite of the many wildfires that have swept the county in recent years, this area still showcases the dense and diverse assemblage of chaparral growth that is sometimes referred to as the “elfin forest.”

Walk to the east side of the parking lot to find and follow the Miner’s Ridge Loop Trail.You start off on a wide, graded pathway graced occasionally with interpretive plaques detailing facts about the local plants and wildlife. After 0.4 mile, you reach a fork in the trail. Stay right (as suggested by the directional signs and mileage markers); you will return to this same spot later by way of the left fork.

The now narrower, rougher, and steeper trail takes you up the northeast flank of Black Mountain, with widening views of the newly minted 4S Ranch and Del Sur neighborhoods below. Beyond the carpet of houses you’ll spot mountain slopes in the Lake Hodges area that were swept by the 2007 Witch Creek Fire. These formerly ashen-looking slopes are temporarily turning emerald green in response to the recent rains and winter sunshine.

You continue working your way generally south, more or less heading in the direction of a large antenna facility on Black Mountain’s summit. (If you want to hike to the summit itself, trails originating at Stargaze Avenue and at Hilltop Park on the south slope provide that option). About half way around the loop, you reach a high point on the trail, 1230 feet in elevation and about 450 feet above where you started. You then descend east and later north until you reach the trail fork you encountered earlier, just 0.4 mile from the trailhead parking lot.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

North Slope Black Mountain
Explore the newly reopened Miner’s Ridge Loop Trail in San Diego’s Black Mountain Open Space Park.

Distance from downtown San Diego: 23 miles

Hiking length: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

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