Hauser Canyon Trail: Exploring the PCT in San Diego, CA

Hauser Canyon Trail is a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) near Campo, CA, in Cleveland National Forest. This 13.5-mile round-trip adventure is tailor-made for outdoor enthusiasts seeking an exhilarating hike with numerous points of interest.

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Trailhead Information and Facilities

The Hauser Canyon trailhead is located near the entrance of Lake Morena County Park, close to the village of Lake Morena. Ample parking is available at the starting point, just southeast of the entrance to Lake Morena County Park. Parking within Cleveland National Forest generally requires an Adventure Pass. The trailhead doesn’t offer any facilities, but restrooms and picnic tables are available nearby in the park for a small entry fee.

About Hauser Canyon Trail

Hauser Canyon Trail offers an authentic wilderness experience with breathtaking scenery and varying landscapes. The hike along the PCT treats you to awe-inspiring views of the ancient volcanic formation of Morena Butte.

This challenging hike features a considerable total elevation gain of 2,883 feet. The trail starts at around 3,075 feet and quickly reaches a peak elevation of 3,515 feet near Morena Butte. After passing the Butte, the trail descends into the canyon to a low point of about 1,700 feet at the memorial. The estimated time to complete this round-trip is about 8 hours, including ample breaks to soak in the beauty of the surroundings. The trail is generally well-traveled, but the lower portion of the canyon may become overgrown and challenging to navigate. While dogs are allowed on the trail, bear in mind that it is not a walk in the park. So, assess your furry friend’s fitness, and plan accordingly.

Hiking Hauser Canyon Trail

To start your journey, follow the well-marked trailhead through a diverse landscape of lush vegetation, open meadows, and rocky terrain. Approximately 4.5 miles in, you’ll leave the PCT and head west on an old dirt road into the Hauser Wilderness. As you hike deeper into Hauser Canyon, watch for the remnants of an old concrete dam, a testament to the area’s rich history.

A plaque dedicated to 9 marines who died in 1943 fighting a fire in the canyon

Around the 6.75-mile mark, you’ll encounter a moving tribute—the Marine Memorial dedicated to nine Marines who bravely fought a fire in the canyon in 1943. Take a moment to pay your respects before continuing your hike back out of the canyon.

What to Expect on Hauser Canyon Trail

Hauser Canyon Trail in Cleveland National Forest offers an array of wildlife and plant species for hikers to discover. Birdwatchers will delight in spotting Western bluebirds, hawks, and the occasional peregrine falcon soaring above. The area is also home to mammals like bobcats, coyotes, black-tailed deer, and the rare mountain lion. Be on the lookout for reptiles such as the California kingsnake and amphibians like the Pacific chorus frog. Colorful wildflowers like California poppies and lupines adorn the trail during the spring, complementing the aromatic chaparral vegetation featuring manzanita and chamise. Oak woodlands and patches of cacti and succulents add to the trail’s picturesque beauty.

Hauser Canyon Trail offers an invigorating journey through San Diego’s picturesque wilderness. With its captivating views, historical landmarks, and challenging yet rewarding terrain, this hike promises an unforgettable experience for outdoor enthusiasts seeking an escape into nature’s embrace.

When to Go

  • Fall
  • Spring
  • Winter

What to Bring & Wear

  • Adventure Pass is required in most areas around Cleveland National Forest
  • Plenty of water
  • Topographic map
  • Hiking shoes or boots with plenty of traction
  • Sunscreen & hat