Something is blooming nearly every month of the year on this network of trails to and around Double Peak in San Marcos’ Cerro de la Posas Hills. About 80 percent of the “trails” are fire or service roads, usually paved and up to ten feet wide. The main exception is the Secret Trail, a well-maintained footpath through the chaparral.
The trail to the peak crosses Discovery Lake dam and proceeds rather sharply up a hillside toward a collection of mini-mansions after hiking about 0.5 mile. The trail continues through the housing development, paralleling Stonewall Street, for 0.1 mile. When Stonewall turns right, the trail goes left, leaving the houses behind as it passes a large water tank, then resumes the climb up the mountain. At 1.15 miles into the hike, there is a brass plaque set in concrete, marking the start of the San Elijo Hills 10K. The trail forks here. Go right to take the direct route to the peak. However, the trail to the left, known as the Lakeview Trail, is more interesting. It is almost level as it contours around the chaparral-covered ridges, providing views of South Lake in one of the canyons below and of the more distant California State San Marcos, set in the rapidly urbanizing city of San Marcos.
The “single track” Secret Trail begins off to the right 0.5 mile after leaving the San Elijo Hills 10K plaque. It is steep for a short distance as it goes up a ridge, but then it reaches the end of the paved road heading to the left. The Secret Trail continues to the right from this point. It is well maintained and easily navigated as it passes through tall ceanothus, scrub oaks, and mission manzanita. In many places the chaparral arches over the trail, creating a shady tunnel through the mini forest. The Secret Trail ends just below Double Peak Drive, a newly built road that leads from the community of San Elijo Hills to Double Peak Park. To reach the peak, follow the trail that parallels this road for about 0.25 mile. On a clear winter day the ocean view from the peak may include Catalina Island, while to the north the snowcapped summits of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains may be visible.
After taking in the remarkable views from the peak, go 0.5 mile back down the trail alongside Double Peak Drive, past the Secret Trail, to another trail going off to the right. After going less than 0.1 mile on this trail, there is a dirt path leading off to the right. This leads back down to Discovery Lake and, if you take it, you will have gone 4.6 miles when you reach the lake. However, you could take the trail leading off to the left, known as the Ridgeline Trail, that follows the spine of the ridge to the microwave relay towers. This will add another 3 miles, out and back, to the hike. Take this side trail if your main goal is exercise. It is popular with mountain-bikers and runners as well as walkers. Look for mariposa lilies, roadrunners, and meadowlarks as the trail passes construction for a new San Elijo Hills development.
Canyoneers are San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks that teach appreciation for the great outdoors. For a schedule of free public hikes: