Los Pinos Mountain is about an hours drive from downtown San Diego and is a very pleasant hike and peak with magnificent views. On top is a fire lookout tower that is operational during certain time of the year. The peak is at 4805 feet in elevation with a total trail gain of about 1250 feet. There are several trails to get to the top one from the east (about 6 miles round trip) and the other from the west (about 9 miles round trip).
Getting there requires some careful navigation and the last 4 miles is on fairly poor road although most cars should be able to get to the trailhead just fine. To get to the trailhead from the east side approach, travel the 8 freeway until Buckman Springs Road. Get off and go west. At mile marker 6.6 turn right onto Corral Canyon road and travel about 4.8 miles. When reaching a hairpin turn, pull off onto the shoulder which has room for about 4 cars. It is near a large steel gate. Park there and being hiking by going around the gate.
Hike up the private dirt road under a canopy of oak trees. About a half mile up the road, the "Espinosa" trail officially begins. It is noted by a wood sign attached to a steel trashcan. Proceed to hike up the trail for another mile until you reach a junction of dirt roads. Taking the right most road leads to the Corte Madre Peak trail. Taking the left trail leads to the Los Pinos Mountain. Taking the trail nearly straight ahead leads down the canyon to other destinations.
Taking the fire road to the top of the Los Pinos Mountain is about 1.5 miles. The views are great and there are some nice pines along this road. In fact the area is fairly remote and unobstructed by any man made structures. However, when almost reaching the top, one encounters a paved raod. And yes, it is a public road and popular spot for mountain bike dropoff. I choose to hike the trail because it has great views. Crossing the final gate to the top, one finds some communication towers and of course the fire look out tower. Great views all around.
This trail should not be advised during the summer months due to the heat. Spring and Fall are great times to hike this.