At 800 feet, Cowles Mountain won't attract many mountaineers, but it can attract crowds looking for a workout and a chance to get in touch with nature less than 10 miles from downtown.
The small parking lot on Golfcrest Avenue has bathrooms with running water and drinking fountains. If the parking lot is full, find a spot on Golfcrest Ave.
The trail is well marked and uses a series of switchbacks to keep it accessible to anyone with a decent supply of energy (One of the local elementary schools uses this trail to get a class of 1st graders to the top). After a mile or so, you'll pass the intersection with Barker Way Trail
on the right, continue straight to reach the summit.
The trail can be crowded, so plan to take your time and enjoy the views along the way. Signs at the summit help you identify surrounding peaks and you can easily see the Pacific Ocean, the Coronados Islands, and south into Mexico.
To return, simply retrace your steps back to the Golfcrest Trailhead.