San Diego County, California

Hiking the Laguna Hills via the PCT

20 Miles Total - 2000 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Miranda Behrens

Sweeping views of San Diego and several mountains in the area and great for introducing people to backpacking (who love hiking).

This trail is well-maintained, but gets a little rocky on the PCT, and the Chariot Fire burn-zone between Penny Pines and Hayes peak will have a few downed trees and some overgrown grasses. On the other hand, the trail network of the BLT is confusing to follow as the entire network is named "Big Laguna Trail" and separate spurs are numbered. It's highly recommended that you follow the GPS track or purchase a map from the general store in town.

At the numerous trailheads, you will need an Adventure Pass. The PCT runs along the eastern crest of the Laguna's for four miles while hugging the Laguna Escarpment, which drops precipitously to the desert floor 3,000’ below. After connecting with the main BLT network, the remainder of the trail traverses oak and pine woodlands and forests, a vast meadow, and a lake, which seem out of place in San Diego’s semi-arid backcountry.

Heading east from the trailhead, follow a brief connector trail that quickly merges with the PCT. Turn right, and begin following the tread as it clings precipitously to the Laguna Escarpment above Storm Canyon. The stark, spring-carved canyon drops dramatically on your left, emptying into a wide alluvial plain above Blair Valley. The view here is startling, but it’s an appetizer compared to what’s to come in a few miles.

Even in a dry year, the display is pretty impressive and should be there through the end of April, and perhaps longer if a little more rain falls in the Spring. As it crosses through burnt forest onto a now-barren flat, the PCT eventually reaches a vista point that contains an expansive and illustrative view of the Peninsular Ranges stretching out to snow-capped Mt. San Gorgonio. An option to follow a use-trail toward Foster Point is present nearby, although the view point on the shoulder of Hayes Peak is more satisfying.

This is a fine trail for any season. In Fall, the black oaks flash gold and the lake shimmers in the crisp air. Spring brings wildflowers, while summer features humid episodes of monsoonal moisture and the accompanying thunderstorms rising up from the Gulf of California. Snow can blanket the meadow in winter, although it rarely lasts long. The trail is at its best in the early morning, especially if you come early enough to catch the sun rising over Anza-Borrego. If you come in April, you can also offer support and encouragement to PCT through-hikers who are a mere 40 miles into their 2,650 mile trek.

Photos: lhogue46, lhogue46, lhogue46

Read More

Tags

Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Scenic

Reviews

Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

Stay Nearby

Campo, California

Boulder Oaks Eqst

Mount Laguna, California

Wooded Hill Group

Mount Laguna, California

Burnt Rancheria

Nearby Adventures

Win a Vacation Getaway to Santa Cruz!

Experience all Santa Cruz County has to offer this season! Enter to win a customized “Let’s Cruz” vacation getaway and choose from an array of activities to enhance your visit. 

Grand prize includes a 2-night stay at a three-bedroom condo at Pajaro Dunes Resort, a $150 “Capitola Dine & Shop Experience” gift certificate in Capitola Village, a Craftbar Experience at Annieglass Studios for four guests, four tickets to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and four tickets to Roaring Camp Railroads.

Customize your “Let’s Cruz” vacation package entry by selecting four activities below to include outdoor adventure, dining, beer and wine tasting, family fun, spa treatments, and relaxation.