The Warrior Hike Challenge at El Capitan County Preserve includes treks from a mile to more than 8.
The Warrior Hike Challenge at El Capitan County Preserve includes treks starting at a mile. Photo via County News Center

A 12-mile trek that takes as long as 7 hours is among those being offered as the Warrior Hike Challenge returns to San Diego County parks on the Veterans Day weekend.

Arguably the toughest trail in the county goes up El Cajon Mountain in El Capitan County Preserve. That hike takes place Saturday, Nov. 9.

The free event, open to veterans and civilians of all ages, launched in 2015 as a way to celebrate the athleticism and mental stamina shown by members of the armed services.

Several levels of the “warrior” journey are offered at the same site and date.

BOOT CAMP (Moderate)

Families and beginning hikers enjoy a quick, 1-mile uphill jaunt to the ridge for a beautiful view of eastern San Diego. This trail is 2 miles round trip and is open to all ages.

Duration: About 1 hour | Start between 7 and 11 a.m.

RECON (Moderate-Difficult)

Skilled hikers can continue to the next peak for a hike that’s just over 6 miles round trip. This hike is best suited for teens and adults in good shape.

Duration: About 3 hours | Start between 7 and 11 a.m.

WARRIOR (Difficult)

People will hike nearly 12 miles, traversing multiple inclines and declines with several hundred feet of elevation gain and loss.

Duration: Up to 7 hours | Start no later than 9 a.m.

SPECIAL OPS (Extremely Difficult)

This extends the Warrior trek an extra 1.2 miles with a guided hike into an ecologically sensitive site atop the mountain. This area is usually closed to public access. Reservations for the special outing are required. It is open to the first 15 people to RSVP by email with their first and last name and a phone number.

Duration: Up to 8 hours | Starts promptly at 7:15 a.m.

All hikers should bring ample water (1+ gallons for Warriors and Special Ops participants) and wear sturdy hiking boots. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and a walking stick or trekking poles are also recommended.

Healthy refreshments are available at “celebration stations,” including the staging area at the base of the preserve, off Wildcat Canyon Road at 13775 Blue Sky Ranch Road in Lakeside.

Park staff will be on site and along the trail to answer questions.

The Warrior Hike is hosted in partnership with the San Diego County Parks Society, VALOR—a San Diego County employee resource group, the San Diego River Park Foundation and REI San Diego.