Hike the Garnet Peak-Champagne Pass Loop

San Diego Penny Pines Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    10.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    900 Feet

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby

Distance: 10.5 mile loop. Elevation gain: 900ft. total. Transition from forest to desert in the Laguna Mountains. Adventure Pass required.

Fresh mountain air, shrub-covered backcountry, jagged peaks, and a killer climbing workout aren't this route's only perks. An hour's drive from downtown San Diego, this solitude-inducing day-hike tours pine and oak stands, recovering burn zones, wildflower meadows, and far-stretching canyons in the Laguna Mountains.

Call it a life-list loop for the SoCal workingman. As you head north, look west to see San Diego's second highest mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, jutting 6,512 feet skyward. At mile 5, step onto the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Watch in awe as the Laguna's begin to take up the entire eastern horizon. For an optional side trip, the short but strenuous 2.4-mile climb to the summit of Garnet Peak (5,800 feet) lets you eat your lunch guilt-free while savoring the best Anza Borrego Desert views in San Diego County.

More views wait ahead as you continue southbound on the PCT. Walking across a 5600-foot-high ridge-line, look left to see the mountainside drop thousands of feet into the valley. Storm Canyon lies 3,000 feet below you to the east; Monument Peak (6,200 feet) becomes more and more visible to the south as you get closer to Oasis Springs and the finish.

Photos: Eric Gorski, concep007, Eric Gorski

Pack List

  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking clothes
  • Water (extra depending season)
  • Snacks
  • Trekking poles
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses/ hat
Backpacking overnight:
  • All of the above
  • Food
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove
  • Gloves
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Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

It can get super hot, bring water

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Is there any water on this loop or should we carry it all with us?

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Grant NyquistAdmin

I'm basically awesome, more basic though

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