This "best of" loop on the Big Laguna Trail offers a little bit of everything, and is one of my favorites. You'll get scenic a mountain meadow and lake, a peaceful oak and pine forest, glimpses of the highest peaks in San Diego County, a climb to a mountain summit, a stretch on the PCT, and incredible views into the desert and high mountains beyond. Even though the hike is only about 12 miles through the Laguna Recreation Area, you'll feel like you covered more ground because of the tremendous variety.
In this Guide:
Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Big Laguna Trail Loop
As you might imagine from the distance, this is a proper hike and you will be best served by proper hiking gear. I bring 3L of water. A section of the hike takes smaller use trails, which can be overgrown, and having long pants will help protect your legs from scratches. Also trekking poles and good footwear will help through this part. If you don't feel comfortable on these smaller trails, you can also skip them. I'll tell you how in the directions section.
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First off, on this loop, we're not technically on the Big Laguna Trail the whole time. We'll take it through some of its more scenic spots, and then loop back on a spectacular stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). For the most part, all of the trails are well-marked and easy to follow. There is one stretch, a detour to Monument Peak and Hays Peak summits, where the trails are more primitive and harder to follow. The trails are there, and you can definitely see them, but they are not the well-worn thoroughfares that the PCT is. Having the GPX on your GPS unit will help.
We're hiking through the most southwest forest of Coulter and Jeffrey pine in California.
If you do this hike in the spring (March-May), you'll probably see a lot of northbound PCT hikers, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Most hikers have covered the 45 miles or so to this point in 2-4 days. Many of them did their first resupply at the Mount Laguna General Store, a fun place to stop for a bite. Say hello and wish them luck.
The area was originally populated by the native Kumeyaay, who would summer up here in the mountains, and then winter down in the lower elevations.
The cabins that you see as you drive in are leased for ten years at a time to private owners by the Forest Service. If you want to stay longer and explore this beautiful area, check out the lodge or one of the campgrounds. It's a great place to spend the weekend.
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).