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Hiking San Diego

Hike Garnet Peak via PCT

  • 4.2 miles - Moderate Effort
  • 2 Hours (Total)
  • 650 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 5,900 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

Garnet Peak offers commanding views from the Laguna Mountains over the Borrego Desert and surrounding mountains. It's one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the area. In this hiking guide, we'll take the PCT to the Garnet Peak Trail, the most scenic route that offers plenty of parking at the trailhead. Don't let the short distance fool you; the views on this hike are worth it.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for Garnet Peak via PCT
  • Where to Park for the Hike
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

Where is the Garnet Peak Trail?

We're not going to take the Garnet Peak Trail directly to the summit. The parking for that trail is limited, and the approach lacks views. So instead, we'll park a short way down the road at the Penny Pines Trailhead, follow the PCT along the escarpment to the Garnet Peak Trail, and then climb to the summit. Use this trailhead address:
Penny Pines Trailhead, 12031 Sunrise Hwy, Mt Laguna, CA, 91948

Don't confuse Garnet Peak with Garnet Mountain, which is about 3 miles north of the trailhead and lacks a trail. You can still scramble to the summit there if you'd like, but I won't cover it in the guide here.

Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 1
Penny Pines has a wide parking area on both sides of the road. I usually park on the west side.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 3
The east side generally gets tourists pulling in and out to look at the interpretive display.

You need a National Parks Pass or Adventure Pass to park here.

Gear For the Hike

If you're not familiar with the Laguna Mountains, they can be extreme. In the winter, there can be snow and cold temperatures. In the summer, it can get pretty warm (but usually there's a breeze). So check the weather before you go. You can do this short hike in fitness or light hiking gear. The summit of Garnet Peak can be extremely windy.

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Garnet Peak Trail Maps

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Elevation Profile

Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Elevation
The first half of the hike along the PCT is rolling, and then you have a steep 500 foot climb to the summit. Then you follow the same path back to the start.

3D Map

Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct 3d Map
This hike route is an out-and-back from Penny Pines Trailhead to the summit. You can see Garnet Peak's position on the edge of the escarpment between the Laguna Mountains and the Borrego Desert.

Garnet Peak Trail Hike Directions

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Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 4
There are several trailheads at the parking lot. Look for this one at the southeast edge of the parking area.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 2
We'll be following the PCT until we reach the Garnet Peak Trail. The PCT is well marked.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 5
When you get to the first junction, shortly after the start, bear to the left.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 6
There are several cutoffs and unofficial trails in this area. Just stay on the PCT.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 7
And soon, BOOM, you are treated to views across Storm Canyon.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 8
The high point across Storm Canyon is Monument Peak.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 9
And as you continue you'll get views into the Vallecito Valley and Borrego Desert.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 10
And then the PCT winds uphill to crest a ridge.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 11
At the top of the ridge you'll see Garnet Peak ahead of you.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 12
Continue hiking on the PCT toward Garnet Peak.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 13
Off to the left (west) is Cuyamaca Peak.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 15
You'll see several side trails to tent sites along this stretch. These are some of the nicest camping spots along the PCT.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 14
You can explore the views from some of these tent sites and viewpoints.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 17
When you reach the junction with the Garnet Peak Trail, at about 1.5 miles, make the hard right.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 19
You'll see a sign for the Garnet Peak Trail.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 18
Start the steep climb.
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The views from the climb are great.

Garnet Peak first appeared on the USGS topographic map in 1942. The peak is named after the gemstone, commonly found in red, that was mined in the area.

Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 21
It gets rocky as you approach the summit.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 23
And here you are at the summit. Here you can see to San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in the distance.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 25
There's a small sheltered area at the summit where you can escape the wind.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 24
To the south you can see Monument Peak and the area where you started the hike. On a clear day you can see from the Salton Sea to coastal San Diego.
Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct Directions 26
That's the hike. Try to make sure your head doesn't blow off and just head back the way you came.

Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
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!).

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