I have been talking about doing Garnet Peak with a couple of my buds off and on for years. The themes of the conversations have usually included phrases like ” Its worth checking out”, “Oh yeah it chunky” and “You will probably like it”. So while camping in the Lagunas over the July 4th weekend, I decided to give Garnet Peak a go. This is a short (2.4 miles out-and-bike) hiking trail that bikes are allowed on. The trail is accessed right from Sunrise Highway if you are on a bike. Hikers can additionally access it via the PCT trailheads at Penny Pines or Pioneer Mail.
The trail starts off easy enough and appears to be an old road bed. The trail supposedly gets lots of use but it was not too apparent on this day. The trail narrows way down and steepened up just before it crosses the
Perfect Cycling Pacific Crest Trail. The raw chunk factor steps up as well. I do enjoy this type of slow tech climbing…for a while. At some point I was “Yeah, I know how to climb this stuff but hiking it is easier. I feel I did climb a solid amount of this trail but with plenty of stops. Often times it was stop and eyeball the line for the descent. Sometimes I just told myself that knowing the real reason was I just did have the willpower to keep throwing down the grunt.
The chunk of the trail often dictated a climbing line not dead center of the trail. This is where the chapparral brush took its toll. I had some good exfoliation going on by the 2/3rds mark up. I highly recommend some knee/shin guards or pants for this alone.
The views expanded as a I neared the peak. First it was to the North and Northwest. The Palomar Observatory was easily seen in the distance. Closer is a prominent reddish rock formation that you can’t help but wonder what is out there. There is a barely discernable path out to it from the trail when the formation is right off your left shoulder. (Thats Port Beam for you Navy Schallywags). It’s worth a scramble around.
The last 50 feet to the summit are not what I call doable unless you are a trials rider. The juxtaposition of the Anza-Borrego Desert and Mount Laguna made for some impressive views. It was clear enough on this day to see the Salton Sea and beyond. This peak is known for being one of the windiest spots in the county and that certainly seemed to be the case on this day.
The descent was challenging with a high requirement for precision. Boy the exfoliation factor was climbing rapidly and becoming uncomfortable to distractingly painful everytime a brush touched already “treated” skin. I did not ride everything I put on my “ride list” while on the uphill scouting climb. The common theme with everyone of these balks was I would have to take an off center line than ensured more lower leg treatments.
This trail was fun, with momentary hints of Type II fun. The trail is really too short breech into full blown in the moment misery. Garnet Peak might end up as an annual affair but next time I will bring some lower leg protection. I would not come out to the Lagunas just to do this trail but if you are a regular you might want to spice up one of your loops by adding this trail.