Mt Gower Open Space Preserve is located southeast of Ramona at the end of Gunn Stage Rd back in the Ramona Country Estates. I think it is one of the better kept secrets for those who want to enjoy a challenging hike with amazing views, it’s like Iron Mountain but way cooler. The preserve its self is 1,574 acres with around eight miles of trail.
Driving up there was a large parking area at the end of Gunn Stage Rd and I pulled up along the other cars and broke out my gear. As it turns out that is not the parking lot and the actual parking lot is .3 mile up a gated road. The gate was open and there is a pedestrian trail along it as well but as it would happen I was glad I staged outside the gate that gets locked at sunset. The parking lot at the top is quite nice and there is plenty of room, this is a popular equestrian trail as well and there is buckets for horse poop and an area to water them as well, although the sign says non potable.
I was happy to see the vault toilets, always better than port-o-johns. And a nice staging area with trash cans and recycling as well. There is a large kiosk with a map of the park as well as trail map tri folds you can grab before heading out. Another interesting part of the park is what a appears to be a caretaker who lives on premise and a primitive camp ground which is open to groups of ten or more and by reservation only, think scout troops.
The trail system its self is pretty simple and straight forward, there are three distinct sections. Section A go left and that will take you to the Western View Trail that runs along a ridge to a view point, the brochure says it’s moderate to difficult and comes in at 1.78 miles each way. I went right into Section B Swartz Canyon Trail this trail is part of the trip to Mt Gower and wasn’t too bad I didn’t break off to explore the view point because I was on a mission but this section comes in at .88 mile each way. When you keep going you head into Section C the Mt Gower Trail with about 3.58 miles left to got to the summit. This is the magical part where you start to decent into the canyon probably saying something like “this isn’t so bad”. The trip down is not bad it is wooded at the bottom with some shade and there was even a little water flowing in the creek, at the bottom it was 1,460 feet above sea level. I mention this because while I did not grab all of the gain and loss I did want to capture the macro.
And there was a macro gain… hiking out of the canyon you are immediately greeted by a steep trail leading to a water tank. This trail is a lot like Iron Mountain in the vegetation and exposure this is not a noon hike in July trail. But it is a fun challenge, you can see the peak as you walk the ridge and head towards it. The terrain get really neat the closer you get. There are meadows and in parts the brush grows in really tight. Like all cool mountains you kind of loos the summit as you get closer and step through the vegetation onto the granite.
The last tenth of a mile actually kind of reminded me of the sierras where you have to slow down and route finding becomes part of your hike. Don’t expect to see a ton of obvious signs, while the trail is obvious there are a couple spurs it’s easy to get pulled onto. But that’s what makes this a big kids hike and that’s what makes it fun! The rock formations and views are spectacular.
Speaking of this being a big kids hike, probably not a bad idea to leave the little ones and fur kids at home. I say this because the last bush is a scramble up the mountain and you are already a little tired at the half way mark. Remember we want to have fun on both directions of the hike. When I made to the top the views did not disappoint and I was greeted by a little sculpture and nothing else. That was actually kind of refreshing from the usual picnic table and litter, this mountain top was pretty untouched. I sat down and had a quick trail lunch at 2,920 feet (remember the lowest was 1,460). Then headed back down the way I came. I made pretty good time over all and did it in around four hours, but was very glad I parked outside the gate as I watched them lock it on my way down.
This has become one of my favorite hikes for the challenge and distance as well as being secluded. I don’t think I saw more than ten people on the trail. I definitely suggest being prepared for the sun, heat and no water. Pack accordingly and be ready for a long strenuous hike with some amazing pay offs! As always thank you for taking the time to check out what we have to say and I hope this helped you out, hope to run into you on the trail soon!