Garnet Peak (Laguna Mountain Recreation Area)

Garnet Peak, at 5,900 feet, is a great hike in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, as Garnet Peak marks the boundary between the alpine San Diego Mountains and the Anza-Borrego Desert below. Recently, Ashley and I had the chance to visit the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area where we hiked to the summit of Garnet Peak. This is a fun short day hike in the San Diego Mountains that offers stunning views of the surrounding Laguna Mountain Recreation Area and the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. For more pictures of this hike check out our Facebook Page

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead to hike to Garnet Peak, from Orange County, take the I-5 south to SR 78 in San Diego County. Go east on SR 78 through Escondido to the junction with SR 79 just past the town of Julian. Turn right (south) on SR 79.Go approximately 6 miles to the junction with Sunrise Highway (S1) on the left. Turn left. Note your odometer and go as follows: At roughly 7.4 miles, a paved road on the left with a sign "Kwaaymii Point". This is the turnoff for Garnet Mountain, not Garnet Peak. Keep straight. At roughly 9.9 miles (after mile marker 28) a parking area at a barricaded dirt road on the left. There is a small trail sign that says "to Garnet Peak". Park here. There is really only space for probably three cars at this location. You have gone too far if you hit the turnout with the Penny Pines display. You will need to have your Forest Adventure Pass displayed to park in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area.

Description of Hike: The hike to Garnet Peak is a great hike in the Laguna Mountain Recreation area as it is roughly 2.5 miles roundtrip and has roughly 500 feet of elevation gain. The trail to Garnet Peak was in great shape when we went on this hike. You can still see the damage from the 2003 Cedar Fire throughout this area. The evidence of the fire damage is seen through the loss of trees in the area, but many young trees have started to grow again. Give this area another 10 years and hopefully it will look more like it did before the fire. This hike is absolutely breathtaking the closer to Garnet Peak you get. At the summit, you are rewarded with sweeping views of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and views of the Salton Sea. You also have amazing views of the entire Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, as well as views of Palomar Mountain,  Mt. San Jacinto, and Mt. San Gorgonio. If you are visiting the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area (Which is the Descanso Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest), this is a great out and back hike and you might have the opportunity to view wildlife in this area as it is abundant.  Due to the fire damage there is limited shade, but this will all change in the future as trees continue to grow back.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I both really enjoyed our time hiking in the 8,000 acre Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. This area of the San Diego Mountains is a beautiful mountain area that ranges in elevation from roughly 5,000 feet to over 6,000 feet. The hiking trail to Garnet Peak was a fun hike and we were rewarded at the top with at least 60 mile views in all directions, in addition to the 360 degree panoramic view that is well worth the hike. The weather is always cooler up at Garnet Peak as compared to the hot desert below, which makes hiking here pleasant in most seasons. This hike is best done during the Fall, Winter, or Spring. However, if you go during one of the hot days of summer make sure to bring plenty of water and use sunscreen as there is limited shade.

When we did this hike, there was still water flowing in the seasonal stream that follows the hiking trail to Garnet Peak for a portion of the hike. It was neat to see the wide variety of animal tracks that were present in the mud on the trail. These wide variety of animal tracks showed that you might have the opportunity to view different types of wildlife if you are hiking here, so have your camera ready.
One of the neat things on the hike to Garnet Peak is that you cross the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes through the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. It is always neat to cross the Pacific Crest Trail when hiking in Southern California. The hike to Garnet Peak is the perfect hike to pack a lunch and eat at the summit, as there are plenty of rocks to sit on that provide an amazing view for those that hike to the summit of Garnet Peak. We would imagine this is a busy hike during the summer or weekends, but when Ashley and I hiked to Garnet Peak we were the only ones on the trail. Bottom-line is the hike to Garnet Peak is a fun day hike in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area in the San Diego Mountains.   

Rating: Elevation Gain: 500 ft. (Easy), Distance: 2.5 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 1- 2 hours.


Garnet Peak (This Post)

View Garnet Peak in a larger map


  1. This is one of my favorite hikes now along with Stonewall Peak (Cuyamaca Rancho SP) for the panoramic views in SD County! Some of the scrub has encroached the trail on the lower part, but pass through it as the rest is great! We hiked in the morning on 7/6/2012. We plan to go back many times, and I look forward to experiencing this trail and view in cool weather!

    1. Josiah, Thank you for the feedback on the hike and we are glad you enjoyed the hike as much as we did. It truly has amazing views!

  2. Just saw the wild fires tore up this mtn:


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