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Hike Garnet Peak Via Pct

Hike Garnet Peak via PCT

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for Garnet Peak via PCT
  • Where to Park for the Hike
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations
Total Distance (?)4.2 miles (6.8 km)
Hike Time2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)650 feet (198m)
Highest Elevation5,900 feet (1798m)
Fees & PermitsParking Pass
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Cleveland National Forest
Park Phone619-445-6235
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
Stay SafeCopy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.

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.

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.

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Penny Pines has a wide parking area on both sides of the road. I usually park on the west side.
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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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Joby GripTight Smartphone Flexible Tripod
Take your selfie stick game to the next level. Part of the fun of a hike is taking pictures, and a flexible JOBY smartphone tripod takes it to the next level. You can use it as a selfie stick, as a regular tripod, but more importantly, as a flexible tripod that can attach to tree branches and other objects. It’s not expensive, and it’s something you can use when not hiking too.

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Astro Headlamp

Black Diamond Cosmo 300 Headlamp
If something goes wrong and you get lost, sprain your ankle, or get delayed, you might be caught out after dark. And one of the top items that search and rescue departments recommend you carry is a light. Smartphones can work as flashlights, but that drains the battery quickly. It’s better to invest in a reasonably priced and high-quality headlamp like this Black Diamond. It takes AAA batteries, can last 200 hours, and has an emergency strobe. Carry it with you off the trail to use in emergencies as well.

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Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.

My June 2022 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Garnet Peak Trail Maps

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.


How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

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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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

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.
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When you get to the first junction, shortly after the start, bear to the left.
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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.
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The high point across Storm Canyon is Monument Peak.
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And as you continue you’ll get views into the Vallecito Valley and Borrego Desert.
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And then the PCT winds uphill to crest a ridge.
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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.
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Off to the left (west) is Cuyamaca Peak.
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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.
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You’ll see a sign for the Garnet Peak Trail.
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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.

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It gets rocky as you approach the summit.
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And here you are at the summit. Here you can see to San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in the distance.
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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.

This guide last updated on May 23, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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