By Randy Zuniga
March 8, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Garnet Peak is a fun and easy hike with spectacular views. The amazing part about this hike is the amount of payoff for how short the hike really is. An “out and back” that is 4.4 miles long (roundtrip) with most of it along the beautiful Pacific Crest Trail. In this compact hike one experiences a picturesque summit overlooking the Anza Borrego desert, Imperial Valley, and on clear days even the Salton Sea.
The start of the trail is located at Penny Pines Trailhead at mile marker 27.8 on the Sunrise Highway. Once you park and load up on sunscreen, water, and whatever snacks you’ll need (especially during the summer months) -- you start hiking east until you intercept the Pacific Crest Trail. From there you head north on the PCT. The entire trail is delivers stunning views to the east. At this point, the actual Garnet Peak summit can be seen. That alone is beautiful and to some intimidating because of its rocky features. Don’t be intimidated! Keep going! It’s worth it! Believe me!
Eventually you’ll reach a fork in the trail with a sign that reads “Garnet Peak” along with an arrow. Follow it. The trail gets steeper here, but very doable for all levels of hikers. Again do not be intimidated. Towards the top it gets a bit rocky and you may have to navigate a couple of moves, but once you reach the top, I guarantee you this will be one of your new favorite spots in San Diego County.
Directions: Just drive Highway 8 East then get off on exit 47 and take The Sunrise Highway 14.6 miles until you reach Penny Pines Trailhead.
Randy Zuniga has a passion for hiking, mountaineering and trail running. He’s hiked and run trails across East County from Cowles Mountain to the Laguna Mountains. He has also climbed peaks in the Sierra Nevadas including Mt. Whitney and Mt. Muir. His quest for adventure has taken him to Nepal, where he trekked three weeks through Khumba Valley to the Mt. Everest Base Camp and participated in the Everest Marathon. In addition, he’s backpacked across Alaska, climbing and traversing glaciers, and climbed Orizaba in Mexico—an 18,500 foot high volcano.