Hiking the Laguna Hills via the PCT

Rate this Adventure San Diego Laguna Hills Trail via the PCT

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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

Pack List

  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking clothes
  • Water (filter as well)
  • Snacks/ food
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses & hat
  • Gloves
  • First aid kit
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How to Get There

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Activities:

Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

20 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2000 Feet

Features:

Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Scenic

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