For hikers it’s exercise rewarded with 360º panoramic views. For Cowles Mountain it’s trail damage and habitat destruction.
Hikers anticipating a challenging spring break hike up Cowles Mountain at the Golfcrest trailhead in San Carlos were disappointed to discover signs announcing its closure for repairs from March 25 through April 17. Park and Recreation staff, volunteers, and Urban Corps employees will rebuild and improve the trailhead during these eight weeks.
The daily drumming and trampling of the trail by thousands of feet take their toll each year. According to Senior park ranger Matt Sanford, the “trail tune-up” will include more lodge pole fences and signage so hikers remain on the dedicated trail. Additional trail enhancements are decomposed gravel to level sections and natural rock or soil berms to redirect rain run-off for erosion prevention.
Ranger Sanford noted that many hikers don’t understand the significant damage that occurs to the adjacent sensitive habitat. Hiking off-trail into the native shrubbery tramples native plants, disturbs nesting birds, and animal dens. Dead plants cannot hold the soil so rain run-off and intense foot traffic slowly erode the native. Close observation of the mountainside reveals these bald spots. Workers will barricade these trails with rocks and dead shrubbery to discourage entry.
Hikers can still access Cowles Mountain from other directions. Alternatives are the Big Rock trailhead, Big Rock Park trailhead, Lake Murray Boulevard trailhead, and the Barker Way trailhead and the Barker
Way Service Road. All of these trails go to the Cowles summit and are in good shape.