Garnet Peak Trail – Catch a Sunrise on the Summit in the Laguna Mountains

If you’re looking for a moderate hike with breathtaking panoramic views of San Diego County, then Garnet Peak Trail in the Laguna Mountains is a must-see. At 5900 feet, Garnet Peak is the seventh-highest peak in San Diego County. It offers spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountains, the Pacific Crest Trail, and beyond. Although summiting for sunrise is the ultimate goal, even a mid-morning hike promises an unforgettable experience. Read on to learn more about the trail, the views, and what to expect on this popular San Diego hike.

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I set out early for the Garnet Peak trail with the hope of catching the sunrise over the Sawtooth Mountains. I had heard stories and seen pictures, and this was one opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on.

Despite an early start, I arrived late to the trailhead, which meant a summit sunrise was out of the question. Even so, the early morning hike and views from the summit did not disappoint.

Pine trees silhouetted by the sunrise on Garnet Peak Trail.

Hiking Garnet Peak Trail

Starting at the trailhead on Sunrise Highway, I hiked northeast on the flattest section of the trail. About two-thirds of a mile later, I crossed the Pacific Crest Trail

While I’d hiked small sections of the PCT previously, this was my first time crossing its path in San Diego. As I crossed the PCT I thought about all the thru-hikers who had spent months of their lives traveling its 2600-mile course from the Mexican to Canadian borders. I wondered how many had taken the time to make this short trek up to Garnet Peak.

After shooting a few pictures, I picked up Garnet Peak Trail again and resumed hiking the remaining two-thirds of a mile to the summit. Soon, the trail offered panoramic views, and I felt the anticipation building. The sun was rising quickly and I wanted to get to the summit before the bright morning light washed out the desert mountains.

The junction sign for Garnet Peak Trail and the PCT.

On The Summit of Garnet Peak

I reached the rocky summit just as the sun had broken free of the horizon. A couple sitting on the edge looking out over the desert and enjoying the warmth of the sun. I greeted them as I passed and took a spot on the south end of the summit. From there, I worked my way toward the edge and found a spot to enjoy the view.

My timing was perfect. The sun was sitting in the distance just above the eastern horizon offering a silhouetted view of the Sawtooth Mountains for as far as my eyes could see. Nearby, I could see the neighboring summits of Garnet Mountain and Monument Peak. To the west, Stonewall and Cuyamaca Peaks stood tall behind Pine Mountain’s pine tree-covered summit.

After spending a few minutes taking in the moment and enjoying the views I set out for my return trip following the same route along back to the trailhead.

Looking northeast from Garnet Peak Trail towards the Sawtooth Mountains.


Garnet Peak Trail is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the Laguna Mountains. With its stunning views, this hiking trail is sure to impress even the most seasoned hikers. Whether you’re looking to catch a breathtaking sunrise over the Sawtooth Mountains, or simply to enjoy a moderate morning hike with friends and family, Garnet Peak Trail is the perfect destination.

2 thoughts on “Garnet Peak Trail – Catch a Sunrise on the Summit in the Laguna Mountains

  • Rogers1911

    I just hiked this day before yesterday on a camping trip in Burnt Rancheria. It was hot and the gnats were kind of bad at the top, but the view was very worth it!

    • It’s that time of year, the bugs are out in abundance. I’m glad you enjoyed the hike. Thanks for sharing!


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