Take I-8 east out of San Diego for 16 miles. In El Cajon take Hwy 67 another 6.2 miles north and turn off on Willow. Go east on Willow 9/10 mile and turn left on Wildcat Canyon Road. After 3.4 miles find the small parking area on the right. There is no parking farther up the gravel road.
From the parking area, go due east, ½ mile up the gravel road and find the trail on the left. After a dozen or so switchbacks, the trail emerges onto an old gravel/dirt road and continues up the hill. Stay on this another 4.6 miles until you reach the saddle with the obvious summit to the left and a short spur road up to a high point on the right with a small building on top. The trail east to the summit is an un-maintained path through the brush but is fairly easy to follow for the remaining 1/2 mile or so up the summit rocks.
This is the Long Way to El Cajon's summit but it's also a great conditioning hike with great views in all directions. The trail passes through scrub forest and well-toasted brushland for most of its 5.6 miles and there's even a short section of mature Live Oak forest where you get about a quarter mile of most welcome shade on this otherwise hot and dusty route. About 3.6 miles in, as you come to a saddle on the trail, take a look at the three old mine shafts off to the left. There is also a spring off a side trail a little farther along but the water smells of sulfur so I wouldn't want to try it.
Trail head elevation: 1,543'. Summit: 3,675'. Total round-trip gain and loss due to ups and down in the route: At least 4,000 vertical feet. Round-trip distance: 11.2 miles.
Sunscreen, more sunscreen, LOTS of fluids. Virtually no shade and no water.
This area can be brutally hot and due to the considerable elevation gains and losses plus the 11.2 total round-trip mileage should not be taken lightly.
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