The Meadows Information Kiosk trailhead in Mount Laguna is the starting point for a number of great hikes. It’s an easy access point for the many interconnecting spurs of the Big Laguna Trail, so it’s highly popular with hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers. It’s also the starting point for the somewhat quieter Sunset Trail, a hiker-only trail that travels through dense forest and along some ridges, which as the name implies, provide some lovely west-facing views well-suited for watching sunset.
Since we were doing this hike in late November and a storm was slated to roll in later that day, we decided to get an early start. While I’m sure the winter sunset would be beautiful, snow is cold enough during the day – I didn’t relish the thought of a night snow hike. But since we had nice, cool weather, we decided to bring along one of the dogs. This week it was the ever-vigilant Apollo’s turn.
We arrived early enough that there were only a couple other cars parked along the highway. After donning our packs and cold weather gear, we stepped through the gate at the trailhead and set off down the path.
We admired the mature pine trees that surrounded us. So much of San Diego’s forests had been lost to fire in the past couple of decades, it is always nice when we can enjoy some of the trees that still remain.
At 1.67 miles we came to a “T” junction at Water of the Woods and turned left. This was the center point of our figure-8 loop. (If you’re looking for a shorter hike you can take a right turn here and head back to the highway).
Ahead lay the muddy depression known as Water of the Woods. In wetter times, this is a lovely little pond full of ducks and birds. Today however, there were just a few sparrows hopping around, and no water.
We followed the trail along the left edge of the watering hole for about .1 mile. Here there was another “Y” junction. We continued following the markers for the Sunset Trail and took the left fork. The right fork was the Big Laguna Trail upon which we’d be returning.
We climbed fairly steadily until around 2.4 miles. Here the trail leveled out for a bit. In spots where the brush thinned out, we were able to enjoy some awesome views. We spotted Pine Valley Bridge in the southwest.
Finally around 3.25 miles we reached the top of the ridge. There was a nice, rocky area just off the trail so we went over there for a short break to rest and enjoy the views. In the northeast we could see Garnet Peak.
And to the west, the presence of antennae marked Monument Peak.
While we had only encountered one other group of hikers on the Sunset Trail, the Big Laguna Trail was much busier. Big Laguna is open to mountain bikers, and is a very popular riding spot. We found ourselves stepping aside several times to let bikers pass. All of them were very polite, and happily many had biker bells so we could hear them coming.
Around 5.4 miles we reached the southern edge of the “lake.” A spur of the Big Laguna Trail turned left and crossed the meadow. We stayed straight, following the trail as it bent around a hill to the right.
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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:||7.2 miles|
|Total Ascent:||970 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes not allowed on Sunset Trail, OK on Big Laguna Trail|
|Facilities:||Port-a-potty at trailhead; No water|
|Fees/Permits:||Adventure Pass required|