Mother Miguel Mountain Trail

Mother Miguel Trail (some locally call it Rockhouse Trail) is a medium-challenging trail with an 870-foot incline over a 1.6-mile distance to the peak from the official trail head.

The trail is multiple use: friendly to hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and dogs (but please keep them leashed at all times, and carry your dog waste out!).

We ask that you do not use the trail when it is wet from rains, and do not cut the switchbacks as erosion is a major problem on this mountain. Please see before and after photo below (2016 on the left, 2019 on the right).

“The scar” that formed in recent years eroded badly from exploding popularity on social media and trail apps, coupled with the recent public use pressure from nearby housing development. This changed the course for how Mother Miguel would be managed in the future. Photo on the left is in 2016, photo on the right is in summer of 2019. Credit: Jill Terp and Lisa Cox/USFWS.

This trail currently undergoing a sustainable redesign over the next few years, due to the massive erosion that has taken place in recent years. 

Thank you to our amazing volunteers and leaders with the San Diego Mountain Biking Association, Bonita Bikers, and others for contributing over 1,300 hours of volunteer service so far!

The official refuge property boundary and trail head location is not near where parking is available. Most park at the end of the residential street Paseo Veracruz, which is just behind the Mount San Miguel Park

Mount San Miguel Park is community sports park open from 7am - 10pm (however Mother Miguel Trail is only open from sunrise to sunset), and the only place where there are restrooms.

When you're ready to hit the trail, turn right past the big metal gate, and head approximately 1/2-mile on the County Trail Easement (the wide fire road) to the official refuge trail head. Please restrain from taking the smaller trail that points straight north from the gate. This is not a sanctioned trail, and is on SDGE property. Please study the map:

As you can see, the trail itself is 1.6 miles to the peak, but add .5 miles to that distance for hiking the County Trail easement, and that totals 2.1 miles to the peak, making that a round trip hike of 4.2 miles.

Mother Miguel Trail has unique and rare wildlife species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to protect, such as the Quino checkerspot butterfly, coastal California gnatcatcher, and Otay tarplant. 

The federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher, endangered Otay tarplant, and Quino checkerspot butterfly. Both the gnatcatcher and tarplant have designated critical habitat boundaries on Mother Miguel Mountain, which guides much of the management priorities for the wildlife refuge. Credit: Coastal California gnatcatcher by Kevin Hamm/USFWS; flowering Otay tarplant by John Martin/USFWS; Quino checkerspot butterfly by Lisa Cox/USFWS.

In 1997, the San Miguel Conservation Bank (which includes Mother Miguel) was established as “Very High Quality” habitat as defined by the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program, and was inducted into the National Wildlife Refuge System to offset impacts to sensitive species on adjacent lands. Mother Miguel was also located within designated Critical Habitat footprints for the coastal California gnatcatcher and Otay tarplant.

Now, the trail has become an opportunity for people to learn about and appreciate these special resources that help make San Diego County the most biologically diverse county in the United States.

We hope you enjoy your hike on the refuge, and connect with the beautiful wildlife and habitats of South San Diego County. And remember to always stay on trail, and leave no trace! 

If you have any further questions/comments or would like to report illegal activity or vandalism taking place on the trail (this includes painting rocks), please contact the Refuge Manager at (619) 385-1190 or

Recreational Activities