Elevation: 2,345 ft
GPS: 32.904, -116.818 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 199,114 total · 1,230/month
Shared By: Marc Kajut on Feb 1, 2006 with improvements by Jacob Zehnder and 2 others
Admins: Marc Kajut, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
Access Issue: Current San Diego County Advisories Details


El Cajon Mountain is located in East San Diego County. The area is primarily a sport climbing destination, but hiking out with a few cams won't disappoint the discerning trad climber.  Although most will brave the long approach to have at the classics on the Main Wall aka The Wedge. An abundance of amazing single to three pitch routes exists on the surrounding mountainside.

Getting There

Take Hwy 67 or Interstate 8 to Lake Jennings Rd then continue heading east on El Monte Rd. Continue about 5.6 miles to an area along the north side of the road beside several 8' high telephone poles. If you reached the gate to El Capitan Reservoir you've gone too far. From the parking area on the north side, walk east a few hundred feet and you should see the wood plank foot bridge heading across the San Diego River. Follow the trail north. The first trail leaving the road leads to the Main Wall aka The Wedge, the second leads to The Mountaineers Wall.

70 Total Climbs

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Location: El Cajon Mountain Change
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Classic Climbing Routes at El Cajon Mountain

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Bright Eyes
Trad, Sport 2 pitches
5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c
Buffalo Brothers
Sport 2 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Sport 4 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Sport 3 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
The Swiftness
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Sport 2 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Black Castle
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Triton Tower
Sport 3 pitches
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Line of Fire
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Swiftness Direct
Trad, Sport
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Tears of Envy
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
The Commander
Sport 5 pitches
5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b
Pockets of Resistance
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Bright Eyes Wedge > Blue Sky Wall
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, Sport 2 pitches
Buffalo Brothers Wedge > Blue Sky Wall
5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c Sport 2 pitches
Meteor Wedge > Left Wall
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport 4 pitches
Leonids Wedge > Left Wall
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport 3 pitches
The Swiftness Wedge > Triton Tower
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad
Mañana Wedge > Left Wall
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport 2 pitches
Spitfire Wedge > Triton Tower
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad
Crackamite Wedge > Right Wall
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Trad
Black Castle Wedge > Center/Headwall
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Triton Tower Wedge > Triton Tower
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport 3 pitches
Line of Fire Wedge > Right Wall
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
Swiftness Direct Wedge > Triton Tower
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Trad, Sport
Tears of Envy Wedge > Center/Headwall
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
The Commander Wedge > Center/Headwall
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport 5 pitches
Pockets of Resistance Wedge > Triton Tower
5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b Sport
More Classic Climbs in El Cajon Mountain »

Weather Averages

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Prime Climbing Season
Just a warning, some one "don't want to mention any names" has been chopping bolts and anchors all over the place at El Cajone Mountain. Be aware of this and inspect a route before you start to climb. If the bolts looks disfigured, it is a good bet that the bolt has been smashed and rendered useless.

I have heard of one report (not confirmed) of someone starting up a route only to find the second half of the route was chopped. This person was forced to run it out in order to get to another set of anchors.

This is extremely disappointing to see one of San Diego Counties best climbing areas being destroyed but it is so be careful. Dec 6, 2006
Andrew May
Westminster, CO
Andrew May   Westminster, CO
Thats too bad. I'm heading out to visit in a couple weeks and really wanted to climb at El Cajon. I read about it in Rock and Ice and few months ago and it looks great. Anyone know how many routes are affected by the bolt chopping? Dec 8, 2006
Isaac T.
Oceanside, CA
Isaac T.   Oceanside, CA
Why are they chopping bolts do they want to keep it traditional? Can you place trad gear in place of the bolts? Or is someone doing this to prevent climbers from climbing here? Jan 12, 2007
Ryan Huetter
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Ryan Huetter   Mammoth Lakes, CA
I have been searching for a while now for current route conditions.

If you want the full on bolt chopping history, go to climbingsandiego.com. Read the first posted link, it lays it out there pretty well in a couple of letters from involved parties. Be prepared. This dude is psychotic.

If anyone has any current info on mutilated routes, it would be appreciated. We have been hearing stories of routes chopped after the 5th or 6th bolts, so it may not always be clear from the ground whether or not your route has been defiled. Very scary stuff indeed. Jan 17, 2007
The latest issue of Rock and Ice has an article on the bolt chopper. This is a very worrisome and very dangerous development. Aside from that, I'm sure this person could be held legally liable if someone gets hurt - there is a such a thing as tort law in this country. The dispute apparently also involves the theft of a drill and of bolting equipment, the trashing of other peoples' bolting equipment and of a trail, as well as the destruction of some holds. Some of these involve eyewitnesses. Theft and vandalism are illegal and could serve as the basis for legal action. Jan 22, 2007
San Diego, CA
mschlocker   San Diego, CA
Another guide exists. Check out CH's site at climbingtoposofsandiego.com/ for topos around San Diego. His ECM guide tends to be more accurate for the center routes than the other PDF guide. Mar 6, 2008
San Diego, CA
mschlocker   San Diego, CA
Now a new guide option is available. The Allied Climbers of San Diego have created a guide for El Cajon Mtn, Eagle Peak, and Corte Madera. It's quite good. I recommend you check it out at a local REI or better yet come to a member meeting. alliedclimbers.org . Nov 3, 2009
Hey CD the trail head is 100 yards east of the mile 5.5 parking. There is no P.O. on the trail. It seems you missed the trail. The rest of the riverbed is full of poison oak. Once you cross the river there isn't any and none at the crags. Jun 17, 2010
Chris DeWitt
Sacramento, CA
Chris DeWitt   Sacramento, CA
Oh dang! Thanks Hubbard. Next time I'm down in the area I'll have to check it out. Aug 23, 2010
Made it out to this crag for the first time in 6 years after climbing here a handful of times back in 2005/2006.

A few notes I wanted to add:

- This wall is almost directly south facing, and on warm days it gets flat out HOT up there. There is also little to no options for shade at the base or on the wall. Bring cool clothing (even if it's cold at the parking area, you're probably going to want to be in t-shirt and shorts), and LOTS of water. We got stuck here on an exceptionally warm day (for march) and ended up bailing after only 1 pitch of climbing as the sun was unrelenting.

- The approach is an hour for fit parties that don't take any breaks, more like 1.5 hours if you stop at the few shady spots on the way up. The trail also goes pretty much straight up (i.e little to no switchbacks, other than the final apron to the wall) so it's a workout both going up and down.

Great crag, but very weather dependent due to the aspect. Mar 4, 2012
Mary Moser
Joshua Tree, CA
Mary Moser   Joshua Tree, CA
Does anyone know the latest about the condition of bolts at El Cajon Mtn? Has the hideous chopping fiasco come to an end? Dec 10, 2012
I have been climbing at ECM for quite a while now. Recently it seems the squirrels at the base have figured out that packs left at the base while we climb often contain tasty snacks. This has lead to two of my packs being chewed completely through by the bastards. On one occasion I watched from two pitches up as one gnawed through my new climbing pack, and could do nothing about it at the time. To remedy this I packed in a large, green Rubbermaid storage tote. I brought this up so that other climbers like myself can climb without worry of losing our snack, and packs. I left the tote near the base of Leonids. Please use it with respect (i.e., don't leave garbage or food to spoil in it) and also...don't feed the squirrels. Climb on!

-Mike T. Jan 1, 2013
Mike, I admire your being proactive about _doing_ something about the squirrel problem at ECM.. The last time I went up leonids last year, there was this fat squirrel that just was certain I had food in my bag, and I couldn't chase it off... it would scamper away by about 10 feet and then wait until I gave up. Unless I was willing to do something permanent to it, I knew it was going to get into my bag, and sure enough, my bag had a hole, my apple had a bite out of it, and my buddy's bag was torn up (maybe it was tastier?). After my experience with this squirrel (among others), I asked around and was pointed to a company that makes a product called an ursack that's advertised as being bearproof (though I don't believe it's approved for yosemite). I carry all of my food in it now when I'm out climbing and car camping, and nothing's gotten into it yet.

Also, if we can keep the squirrels away from the base of the cliff, hopefully this will also imply that rattlesnakes will likewise follow them elsewhere, and not congregate at the base..... Jan 7, 2013
My vehicle was vandalized yesterday while I was climbing at El Cajon Mountain. I was parked at the trailhead near the reservoir. The passenger window was smashed when I returned. Just a friendly warning to climbers/hikers. Feb 16, 2013
Sdm1568   Ca
Unfortunately the squirrel problem still exists - Trango Splitter pack torn up... Wish I would have read this post sooner haha. Apr 3, 2013
I was just there on 4/5/13 and could not find that storage bin. Either it was moved, removed, or just hidden well, but we looked around Leonids and couldn't find it. Apr 7, 2013
Phoenix, AZ
gabemcg   Phoenix, AZ
To reach the wall, you have to take a trail that branches off the trail near the transmission lines. There are several--take the one that goes past an interpretive sign about raptors. The one shortly after that goes to the "mountaineer's wall." Jun 25, 2013
Because there is only a hand-drawn map of the trail to the base of wall available, I added both the wall itself and the access trail to the Openstreetmap database. I have not climbed on this wall yet, therefore I just used the Bing satellite images and the hand-drawn map to insert the trail to the OSM database. However, I could not finish the trail near the wall because the resolution of the Bing images are not high enough. I will fix this in April, using a GPS device or somebody else who is familiar with OSM, can do this in the meanwhile. Jan 4, 2014
Would love to get an update about bolt vandalism at El Cajon. Looks like the drama went down back in '06 - but I can't seem to find any information that would indicate if the damaged bolts have been replaced. Anyone out there know anything? Jan 4, 2014

jalbo, and anyone else who enjoys climbing established routes with fixed protection on El Cajon Mountain;

Considerable effort has been made over the past few years to repair the vandalism to the trail and the bolts that occured there in the past. And although there has been no assurance that the vandalism will not occur again, we can only hope that will not be the case. When the vandalism first occured relatively few climbers knew what was being lost, and little was done to put a stop to it. Eight years later, legal precedents have been established elsewhere in the country regarding similar situations since then, and San Diego's climbing community has grown tremendously in size and effectiveness in dealing with issues that have threatened access to the places we love to climb.

My main motivation for contributing El Cajon information here on this great website (Thank You, Mountain Project!) has been to share the climbs with as many of you as possible in hopes that you also find them worth fighting for.

Although there are several routes that are in need of having the vandalism dealt with (smashed bolt hangers, holes patched, etc.) there aren't many routes that still need to be rebolted. And whereas my energy and expenses are compelled else where these days, I'll continue to find ways to contribute to the hill.

Have you done anything recently to contribute to the places you love to climb?

Happy Trails, and a Happy New Year!
Brian Jan 6, 2014
Durango, CO
carl   Durango, CO
There are now a few tiny trees (only a few inches tall) planted around the base of the center wall and the Leonids area, with little signs explaining that they will grow up into shade trees for future climbers, and asking for your water at the end of the day.

I talked to the guy that had planted them, and he told me that there used to be a few trees around the base of El Cajon mountain but they were burned down when a fire moved through the area a few years ago. So be nice and give the trees your water, and maybe in 10 years we'll have shade again! Apr 21, 2014
BJ Cook
San Diego, California
BJ Cook   San Diego, California
Just did a full day this past Saturday and I love this place. One of the best climbing spots we have in SD. What types of things can be done or are needed for this area to help out? Noticed the little trees are basically dead or gone too. Most of the shade is due to overgrown willows and vegetation. Maybe a permanent beach umbrella bolted to a boulder on the ground :) Thanks to all who continue to work on this area. Apr 6, 2015
Dante B.
Costa Mesa, CA
Dante B.   Costa Mesa, CA
for anyone new. info for getting to the wall.

park where you see the sign "road ends 1000 ft"
cross the brdige, walk past the electrical tower (veering left), turn right where you see the sign for the trail. that should line you up with the wall for leonids Apr 23, 2015
Great spot with some great climbs! However, today we had a really negative interaction with two men up at the crag. Whoever these people were, they spent a good amount of time yelling up at us as we approached the second pitch of Meteor. They were saying some incredibly uncomfortable and offensive things, including a comment about how we would be raped had we not brought a dog with us (wasn't even our dog). Anyhow, there is safety in numbers and had my partner and i not been with a big group it would have been an uncomfortable hike back to the car. Be safe climbers! Apr 27, 2015
Kylie, were they climbers? Apr 27, 2015
I believe so. Jun 17, 2015
Safty Third
San Diego, CA
Safty Third   San Diego, CA
Hey, I am looking for any possible beta for the bluffs west of the quarry. Anything from route development to access issues would be awesome. Thanks! Jul 3, 2016
tom donnelly
san diego
tom donnelly   san diego
Poodle Dog Bush - very nice flowers but do not touch it.
There is some growing along the old quarry road.
bing.com/images/search?q=po… Apr 24, 2017
okay, i just went to el cajon for my first time, and lemme give you some much needed beta. the trail start is two hundred yards away from the parking area in front of the reservoir gate. walk on the road (back towards lakeview) until you are across from the next set of parking pull outs, or just park here to begin with. there are boulders which say "leonid" on them. then find the trail start--which dips down and crosses the river via a thick board which is semi-permanent. if you do not start here, you will bush whack and waste much effort and time, which will hurt you later. the hike to el cajon is about 1.5 hours, along a clear dirt path and gets steeper the further you go. if you are not much of a hiker or have a heavy pack, plan on close to two hours, with the hurt coming at the end. the trail is a nice dirt path the whole way and do NOT stray from it, or you will suffer needlessly. bring three liters of water per person and start early in the day. doing this when hot would be a sufferfest. have fun! Nov 29, 2017
Found a pair of Chacos at the bottom of the wall on December 28th. Let me know if they are yours. Dec 29, 2017
This is the ugliest rock I have ever climbed on but there's some good pitches up there. Jan 7, 2018
Kristian Andersen
San Diego
Kristian Andersen   San Diego
The hike in tho'... No joke. If you have trouble finding the trail, here's a GPX: gaiagps.com/datasummary/tra… Jan 21, 2018
Beware vehicle vandalism in this area! Went up the climber trail late morning for a quick hike and had my back windshield smashed in. Had 2 climbing harnesses (BD and a preggers Mountain Mama, in case they’re dumped/found nearby) and light gear stolen. First negative incident I’ve had in this area. Mar 31, 2018
Just had our car broken into in the parking pullout today Dec 10, 2018. They smashed out the passenger window. A kind hiker actually witnessed the event and said it was a tall white male driving a white Nissan Pathfinder, but unfortunately couldn't get the license numbers. Rangers and PD are aware but not much they can do without more concrete info. We were dumb a left a small key safe (empty) visible and I think that was what they were going for because the hiker saw the guy with bolt cutters. But anyway, be careful, be smart (unlike me) and don't leave anything visible in the car, and keep yours eyes peeled. Dec 10, 2018
Andre Mere
San Diego, CA
Andre Mere   San Diego, CA
Car break-ins seem to be increasingly frequent as of late! As far as I know the thieves have been motivated by possessions in plain sight so please do your best to coordinate gear prior to arriving at the pullout. They are clearly versed in the value of climbing gear. Your rack/rope is not safe in your car! Dec 15, 2018
CAUTION another recent break in (03.05.19) vehicle parked at pullout near the reservoir gate had a door that looked like a pry bar had been taken to it and was left ajar... had me paranoid all day... f***ing a**holes... leave an empty car or it will be emptied Mar 6, 2019