Lucky 5/PCT Loop

The Lucky 5 Ranch area is a relatively recent addition to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, thanks to the efforts of the Anza Borrego Foundation. The land lies on the western edge of the park along the Sunrise Highway, so its actually more mountainous than desert. Its location between Anza-Borrego, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and the Cleveland National Forest makes it an important wildlife corridor.

The Lucky 5 trail runs for about a mile on the southwest side of the Highway, starting from the Sunrise Trailhead and leading to the gates of the Lucky 5 Ranch. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) conveniently runs just along the other side of the road, so you can combine the two for a nice little loop.

We decided to ditch the May Grey permeating the coast and head up to the mountains to check out this trail. Arriving at the Sunrise Trailhead we were pleased to find blue skies, and eagerly set off on our hike. The Lucky 5 trail began at an unmarked break in the fence just beyond the bathrooms at the southeastern end of the parking lot.20160501_DSC5791-EditLucky5

The narrow single track ran parallel to the highway, just to our left. Cars passed somewhat infrequently, leaving us with several minutes of quiet interrupted only by birdsong between the occasional passing vehicle.20160501_DSC5795-EditLucky5

After about .25 mile, the trail bent away from the highway for a short distance before turning southeast again, putting a little distance between us and the road. 20160501_DSC5799-EditLucky5

We had been climbing gradually since starting out. It was a very gentle incline, and we probably hadn’t gained more than 50 feet, but it was enough to get us above the road and provide some great views towards Anza Borrego. Oriflammme Mountain rose up in the east.20160501_DSC5803-EditLucky5

The trail quickly bent back towards the highway again. We were able to catch some views of our return route, the Pacific Crest Trail, across the highway.20160501_DSC5813-EditLucky5

It clearly wasn’t peak wildflower season for the area, but we did spot a few splashes of color here and there, and found the occasional flowering yucca.20160501_DSC5816-EditLucky5

Around .6 mile, we once again moved away from the highway, and we soon were able to see into a beautiful valley to the southwest where the Lucky 5 Ranch is located, but is unfortunately not open to the public.20160501_DSC5827-EditLucky5

The trail began heading towards the highway again, and after a few switchbacks we found ourselves along the road just outside the Lucky 5 Ranch gates. We were just over a mile from our starting point.20160501_DSC5833Lucky5

On the other side of the highway was a gated off fire road, which would eventually connect to the PCT. But we also found a narrow use trail which led directly to the PCT a couple hundred feet down the hill. 20160501_DSC5837-EditLucky5

We took the shorter route, and turned left upon reaching the PCT.20160501_DSC5841-EditLucky5

It was just as beautiful on this side of the road.20160501_DSC5845-EditLucky5

And the views were still fantastic.20160501_DSC5850Lucky5

The trail stuck pretty close to the highway until about 1.8 miles when it veered away from the road and began a short ascent.20160501_DSC5870Lucky5

We crested the rise and wound our way downhill again. At 2.4 miles we came to a “Y” junction where the PCT continued on to the right, eventually making its way down to the desert floor. We turned left, following the sign for the Sunrise Highway.20160501_DSC5891Lucky5

The chaparral brush faded away as the trail passed through an open grassy area.20160501_DSC5900Lucky5

We quickly came to the highway and found the parking lot just across the road.20160501_DSC5901Lucky5

View the full photo gallery

Take I-8 East to the CA-79 N/Japatul Valley Road exit. Turn left and follow 79 north (towards Julian). After 2.7 miles, there is a sharp left to stay on 79 – make sure not to miss this turn (follow signs for 79 and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park). Continue on 79 for about 14 more miles, and turn right onto the Sunrise Highway. Follow the Sunrise Highway for approximately 3.3 miles to the Sunrise Trailhead on the right side of the road. map

Total Distance: 2.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 332 feet
Dog Friendly?: Dogs not allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes not allowed on PCT segment
Facilities: Vault toilets at trailhead, no water
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
California State parks: Anza-Borrego State Park
View route or download GPX in CalTopo

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