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Bi-Annual Warrior Hike Challenge

Warrior Hike Challenge

NOTE: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, our spring Warrior Hike Challenge has been canceled. We look forward to meeting you in the fall.

County Parks’ Warrior Hike Challenge launched in 2015 as a way to celebrate the athleticism and mental stamina that’s required to climb what’s arguably the toughest hike in San Diego County – El Cajon Mountain in the El Capitan County Preserve.

El Capitan is popular among active and retired military personnel. So we designed an  event that could "wow" and challenge them as well as their friends and family. Warrior Hike Challenges take place twice a year on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day weekends. 

By breaking the hike into three levels, participants can choose their own adventure; navigating the length of trail that matches their individual interest and ability. Celebration stations sit at the 1-mile and 3-mile turnaround points. Extreme hikers will push their limits to climb to the summit for a 12-mile trek through the scenic, undulating preserve.

  • BOOT CAMP (Moderate): 
    Families and beginning hikers will enjoy a quick, 1-mile uphill jaunt to the ridge for a beautiful view of eastern San Diego. This trail is 2 miles round-trip and is open to all ages. 
    Duration: Approx. 1 hour | Start between 7 and 11 a.m.
  • RECON (Moderate-Difficult): 
    Skilled hikers can continue on to the next peak for just over 6 miles round-trip. This hike is best suited for teens and adults in good shape. 
    Duration: Approx. 3 hours | Start between 7 and 11 a.m.
  • WARRIOR (Difficult): 
    This trek is not for the faint of heart or ability; Warriors will hike 12 miles, traversing multiple inclines and declines with several hundred feet of elevation gain and loss. Be like this local Warrior – who has hiked to and from the summit 100+ times! 
    Duration: Up to 7 hours | Start no later than 9 a.m.
  • EXTENDED HIKE (Extremely Difficult):
    Interested in an extended hike? Join San Diego River Park Foundation (SDRPF) for a strenuous, yet extremely beautiful hike to the summit - an ecologically sensitive area that is usually closed to the public. Hikers will learn about local ecology, conservation efforts and species on-site. Spots are limited to just 15; RSVP at or 619-297-7380.

Events are free and registration is not required. All ages were welcome.

Hikers should bring ample water (1+ gallons for Warriors), and wear sturdy hiking boots. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a walking stick or poles are also recommended.

Healthy refreshments are available at celebration stations, including the staging area at the base of the preserve, located of Wildcat Canyon Road at 13775 Blue Sky Ranch Road in Lakeside. Park staff are always on site and along the trail to answer questions and lead groups. 

The Warrior Hike Challenge event is hosted by County Parks in partnership with VALOR, the official veterans’ resource group for San Diego County employees, with support from the San Diego River Park FoundationREI San Diego and other sponsors.

2020 Sponsorships are available. For more information, contact Jessica Geiszler at or 858-966-1331.

  • hikers en route
    Made it through the first few climbs, onto station #2
  • staff pic
    Let our staff show you the way - we're here all day.
  • military salute
    We salute our military volunteers and hikers!
  • summit seekers
    Some of San Diego's very own Summit Seekers at the 3-mile station
  • well done
    Heading back, after successfully conquering mile 9

About El Capitan County Preserve:

El Capitan Preserve has views of three reservoirs from one location in the park. On site are roughly 8 miles of trails across 2,619 acres of open space. The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset (except during the month of August, when it is closed due to extreme heat). The parking area and trailhead are located at the intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road and Blue Sky Ranch Road. Take Highway 67 north. Turn right at Willow Road. Turn left at Wildcat Canyon Road. Turn right at Blue Sky Ranch Road. Read the  feature article by the County News Center. Or,  view one hiker's trekked route on 

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