It was yet another ridiculously hot weekend, so we decided we’d head up to the mountains to try and escape the worst of it. Perusing our “to-hike” list, we found this loop in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area that appeared to have a decent amount of tree cover to help keep us cool.
We started off from the Meadows Information Center trailhead, so named for the informational kiosk on the east side of the highway. There are several great trails that all begin from this particular spot so it’s usually pretty busy, but there’s usually ample parking on one side of the road or the other. This loop would take us along part of the Big Laguna Trail complex, which is actually a large looping trail with 9 additional “spur” trails that spawn off and reconnect in various places. The many junctions and numerous different trails that all share the name “Big Laguna” can make navigation a little tricky if you’re not already familiar with the area. You might find it worthwhile to stop at the Visitor’s Centers a few miles further up the Sunrise Highway, where you can purchase a nice copy of this trail map for only $2.
We passed through the cattle guard on the eastern side of the Sunrise Highway. The Laguna Ranch is a working cattle ranch smack dab in the middle of our hike, so we expected to encounter some of the cows that openly graze in the area.
We set off in a northeast direction, following the dirt path that paralleled the Sunrise Highway just to our right. In a few hundred feet we came to a “Y” junction and stayed right, following the sign “To Old County Road.”
We were still right along the highway here, and the occasional car or motorcycle zooming by interrupted the otherwise peaceful stillness of the woods. At .14 mile we crossed a dirt road and continued straight ahead, still alongside the highway.
After another .25 miles or so, the quiet, abandoned roadway bent sharply to the right. We were well away from the noise of the highway by now, and the only noises were the occasional bird calls and the sound of our footsteps.
Just beyond the fence, another section of the Big Laguna trail (Spur 3 – the Gatos Spur) branched off to the left. We ignored the spur and continued along the gravel road as it continued straight and then bent to the right.
The trail continued its gradual descent until approximately 2.75 miles when we crossed the dry creek bed. A narrow single track branched off to the left, but we continued along the main road to the left.
Soon the surrounding trees opened up and a grassy meadow opened up before us. The road narrowed down to a single track, and just beyond the 4 mile point we passed through another barbed wire fence as we merged onto the Big Laguna Trail.
And just shy of the 4.5 mile point we came to pipe gate at the edge of more barbed wire fence. We were on the eastern edge of the Laguna Meadow. Just past the fence was a “Y” junction, and once again we took the left fork which would take us along the southern end of the meadow.
We followed this trail for less than half a mile back to our starting point, finishing well before any rain fell.
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From I-8 east take the Sunrise Highway exit and turn left onto Sunrise Highway (S1). Follow Sunrise Highway for approximately 5.5 miles to the Meadows Information Center trailhead where you can park on either side of the road, just past mile marker 19. The trail head is on the west side of the highway. map
|Total Distance:||6.2 miles|
|Total Ascent:||528 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Fees/Permits:||Adventure Pass required|