Monument Peak in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area may not be the most pristine peak, topped with numerous antennae and towers – not to mention a satellite laser facility – but it is still a beautiful destination. The peak sits along the edge of the Laguna Mountains, with the Anza-Borrego desert lying below to the east.
We did a previous write-up of Monument Peak starting from the Desert View Picnic Area, but this time we took the shorter, more direct route starting from the Big Laguna trailhead.
We set off along the Big Laguna Trail, heading northeast towards the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
The trail wound through mixed oak and pine forest. We’d been expecting some cooler weather, given that it was Christmas Eve, but it was actually pretty warm.
As we neared the PCT, we caught glimpses of the Laguna Observatory in the southeast.
At a little over the .5 mile point, the Big Laguna Trail ended at a “T” junction with the PCT. We turned left onto the PCT, heading north.
The trees were a little thicker here, at least for a bit.
Before long the forest receded and we found ourselves amid thick chaparral growth including mountain mahogany and manzanita.
We caught a glimpse of Cuyamaca Peak to the west through a break in the brush.
As the trail wound around the mountain, we spotted the antennae atop Monument Peak.
At .9 mile we located the turn-off for the use trail to the peak. It can be a little challenging to spot if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, but at this point the PCT makes a sharp left turn and there are PCT trail markers on either side of the turn. There’s a similar bend in the trail about .1 mile before this point, so make sure you look for the bend with the two trail markers. Instead of turning left to stay on the PCT, we continued straight on a narrow use trail through the brush.
We carefully threaded our way through the thick brush for a short distance before emerging into a grassy field.
The trail use trail was well established and easy to follow. Soon it bent south, winding uphill through an enormous field of manzanita.
At 1.15 mile we emerged from the thick growth. Here, we found a chain link fence surrounding a NASA satellite laser ranging facility. We turned left to make our way around the fenced off area.
We followed the fence around to the road, and once again turned left for the final stretch to the peak.
The views from road were fantastic, and included some interesting features you don’t find on every hike.
We followed the road as it wrapped around to the peak. At the top, a dirt path led off to the peak on the right.
The views from the rocky summit were breathtaking. We could see the transition from the green mountaintop to the arid desert far below.
And due east was the breathtaking expanse of Anza-Borrego desert and the Salton Sea in the distance.
We found a benchmark marker near the edge of the rocky outcropping, as well as a peak register buried in the rocks.
After enjoying the views and having a break at the summit, we retraced our route back to our starting point.
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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 11.6 miles to the Big Laguna trailhead on your right. map
||Easy – Moderate
||Leashed dogs allowed
||Bikes not allowed on PCT
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View route or download GPX from CalTopo