Garnet Peak

20150829_DSC5172-EditGarnetPeakThis year, the August full moon had the courtesy to not only occur on a Saturday, but at a very convenient time of approximately 7:20 in the evening. Not to be outdone, the sun was scheduled to set just a few minutes earlier. We knew we had to take advantage of this celestial concurrence and settled upon Garnet Peak as our vantage point. Garnet Peak offers beautiful panoramic views under even the most ordinary of circumstances, so we were confident the evening would not disappoint.

When we last hiked Garnet Peak, we’d taken the longer route from the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area. Since our primary goal for this hike was to be at the summit in time for sunset and moonrise, we elected to take the very short, direct route that begins at a small, inconspicuous trailhead along the Sunrise Highway.

We stepped over the metal guardrail and set off down the trail. We had a little over an hour before sunset, plenty of time to reach our destination. The trail passed through a small stand of dead, burnt trees and we could see the peak jutting up in the distance. Once past the handful of dead trees, the landscape before us was a wide open carpet of dry grass and green chaparral. While the trail was a bit rocky, it was straightforward and easy to follow, which would make getting back in the dark easy.


Behind us, the sun was sinking lower on the horizon, and the surrounding mountains hills were illuminated in the warm, diffuse light of the setting sun. The Golden Hour was living up to its name.20150829_DSC5184-EditGarnetPeak

We passed a another copse of burnt pine trees, these ones were much smaller than the previous ones, and still had clusters of pine cones affixed.20150829DSC_2866-EditGarnetPeak

Soon the trail narrowed as the surrounding grass and brush grew thicker.20150829_DSC5188-EditGarnetPeak

Around .25 miles, we passed through a cluster of unburnt, healthy pine trees as the trail began to ascend.20150829_DSC5192-EditGarnetPeak

Just beyond, we crossed the PCT and continued straight ahead up the hill, following the sign for Garnet Peak.20150829_DSC5193-EditGarnetPeak

Here the trail grew rockier and steeper as it wound along the side of the mountain.20150829_DSC5198-EditGarnetPeak

As we climbed, we had fantastic views of the valley to the west.20150829DSC_2892-EditGarnetPeak

There was a short, level stretch of trail just before the final climb to the peak. To the right of the trail was a small clearing where we could get some views the Laguna Observatory and Monument Peak to the south.20150829_DSC5217-EditGarnetPeak

From there, it was a short climb to the top. We spotted a few clumps of what might have been Poodle Dog Bush on this final stretch. The leaves looked a little darker than I normally associated with Poodle Dog, but it was much easier to avoid it than to find out our plant identification skills were lacking, so we stepped carefully around it.

The trail made an abrupt right turn, and we scrambled up the final rocky ascent.20150829_DSC5222-EditGarnetPeak

The summit itself was a bunch of rocks and boulders, although there was ample room to sit comfortably. It was extremely windy, but after the heat wave we’d been having it felt very refreshing. At any time of day, the views from atop Garnet Peak are breathtaking. To the south was Monument Peak and the golf-ball like shape of the Laguna Observatory beyond.20150829_DSC5242-EditGarnetPeak

Looking west, we could see Cuyama Peak, Middle Peak, and North Peak. The sun was slowly sinking down behind Cuyamaca Peak.20150829_DSC5253-EditGarnetPeak

To the east, the Anza-Borrego Desert was illuminated by the setting sun. A hazy layer of low clouds on the horizon threatened to ruin our moonrise.20150829DSC_2914-EditGarnetPeak

We settled in among the rocks and waited for the sun to finish setting. As it dropped behind Cuyamaca, the western sky glowed in constantly changing shades of orange and pink.20150829_DSC5304-EditGarnetPeak

As the light began to fade away, we turned our attention eastward towards the desert to await the moonrise. As the minutes ticked by and there was still no moon, we began to think the clouds were going to win this evening. But at last, a pale, glowing orange disc poked above the top of the line of clouds.20150829_DSC5317GarnetPeak

As the darkness began to settle upon us, we made our way down the mountain and returned to our car. The moonlight was just bright enough to help us find our way back without the use of our headlamps. Once back at the road, we took advantage of the opportunity to practice a little night photography before making the drive home.20150829_DSC5351-EditGarnetPeak

View the full photo gallery

Take I-8 East to the Sunrise Highway. Head north on Sunrise Highway for approximately 14 miles. The trailhead can be found at a small, dirt turnout on the right just past mile marker 27.5. map

Total Distance: 1.7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 530 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes not allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Laguna Mountain Volunteer Association – Garnet Peak Trail


3 thoughts on “Garnet Peak

  1. Love that final night photography shot!