Iron Mountain Trail near San Diego is a multi-use trail that is open year-round and features furtastic views, wildlife and wildflowers to feast your eyes on. Family- and dog-friendly, most of the elevation grades are mild, owing in part to switchbacks that bring you closer to the top without a steep upward climb until you find yourself at the peak, which is challenging.
This is a popular hike for many living in the San Diego area, and you won't find yourself alone, especially on weekends. Many folks hike it at sunrise or sunset to enjoy the sun's journey, and moonlit walks are not uncommon, although it's important to wear a headlamp after dark to avoid tripping on one of the many rocks on the path.
Although the final hike to the summit is arduous, you'll be rewarded for the effort by panoramic views of Northern San Diego County, Mount Woodson and the Catalina Islands 30 miles offshore to the west. You'll find picnic tables, logs and boulders at the top to sit and admire the view, have lunch or a snack and rest before the hike back down. There is always a lovely breeze at the top to cool you down.
There are also a couple of options for your hike, including a short side trail to Ramona Outlook. Or, take a longer, more gradual path to the base of the peak on a trail that circles around the mountain and meets up with the peak trail near the top. You'll still have that challenging peak to climb, but you may be more rested when you get there with the longer (about 2 miles) route.
Wildlife on this hike include coyotes, so be sure to keep your pup, especially if small, firmly leashed. Coyotes are normally shy, but will defend themselves, and they do hunt small critters, after all. Other animals include moles, squirrels and lizards. At the top, where you find yourself in the midst of wildflowers, you'll also see lots of butterflies. Pawsome!
Although this trail falls into the "not for everybody" category, it's do-able for all but the most sedentary of hikers and their pups!
Most of the trail is packed, but dusty dirt, and there are also many rocks and boulders along the way. Some require scrambling, others just climbing or stepping over, but it's easy to turn an ankle, especially on the way down. Wear sturdy hiking boots. There is virtually no shade, so bring sunscreen and a hat, perhaps hiking booties for the doggo as the trail gets hot mid-day. Beware of coyotes and fire ants.