Hiking San Diego County is all about hiking trails in and around San Diego County. The blog tries to provide very detailed descriptions of the trails, the author visits so you can get a full sense of what you will find.
Meadows and pine forests can be hard to come by in San Diego County, but the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area is one spot where there’s plenty of both. This loop takes the Big Laguna Trail around the edge of the expansive Laguna Meadow and Big Laguna Lake, passing in and out of mature pine trees.
Like many hikes in the Laguna area, this one involves a lot of junctions as it incorporates a number of different spur trails. If you’re not super familiar with the trail system there already, you might want to consider picking up this new Laguna Mountain Recreation Area Trail Map to help guide you.
After some recent storms, we’d been itching to get out to the Lagunas and check out the snow. Of course our schedules are never as cooperative as we’d like them to be, so by the time we were able to get out there there was barely any snow left. Still, any day hiking is a good day, so we were undeterred when we arrived and found clear ground. We parked along the Sunrise Highway and found the trailhead on the western side of the road.
The trail paralleled the highway for a couple hundred feet before reaching a “Y” junction where we went left.
The trail led through some sparse stands of pines. We’d been hoping we might still find a bit of snow, but mostly what we found was mud.
Around .12 miles we came upon another “Y” junction. The Sunset Trail, another excellent hike, led off to the left. We took the right fork heading towards the Big Laguna Trail.
We made our way through the mud to the next “Y” junction at .37 miles, where we began the loop portion of the hike. We took the right fork here, setting off along the #7 spur of the Big Laguna Trail.
The trail led downhill, passing alongside some densely populated pine trees. Along the shady slope we finally found a little bit of remaining snow!
We continued downhill towards the southern edge of the Laguna Meadow. Around .75 mile we came to another junction where the trail passed through a wire fence. We passed through the gate and turned right.
The trail followed the course of the fence across the meadow.
At 1 mile we came to a “T” junction and turned left.
We made our way along the edge of the meadow and back into the trees.
Around 1.38 miles we came to another “T” junction where the Gatos Ravine Spur branched off on the right. We continued straight to stay along the meadow.
As we passed through a well-shaded, north-facing slope, we finally encountered a worthy patch of snow.
Around 1.7 miles we came to another “Y” junction and turned left.
The snow disappeared as we left the protective slope. The trail took us northeast through the trees on the edge of the meadow.
Around 2.25 miles we found another “T” junction at a break in the fence. The branch on the right led towards Little Laguna Lake and the Laguna and El Prado Campgrounds. We continued straight, following the fence line across the meadow.
On the far side of the meadow, we found a little wooden bridge to assist in crossing a particularly soggy area. There was a “T” junction on the far side of the bridge. Once again the right fork led towards Little Laguna Lake (forming a loop with the trail at the last junction). We turned left, heading towards Big Laguna Lake.
We rounded the bend and found another “Y” junction just around the corner. The left fork was unmarked, but you can take either fork as the converge again in a short distance. We took the right fork since it had a trail marker and appeared to be the “official” trail.
The trail led us through the trees, where we found a few more remaining patches of snow.
Around 2.6 miles we came to another “Y” junction. We could see the edge of Big Laguna Lake in the distance. If you’ve had enough or are just looking for a shorter loop, you can take the left fork here to cut across the south end of Big Laguna Lake. We chose the right fork to take the long way around the lake.
As excited as we were to see all the water in the lake, the numerous birds we saw swimming in the water appeared even happier.
The trail took us along the edge of a hillside, giving us a nice view of the lake spreading out on our left.
Continuing on, the view to our left changed as we reached the end of the lake. A dry, golden meadow took its place.
Around 3.5 miles we passed a turn-off on the right which led back to the El Prado Group Campground. We stayed left, continuing on the Big Laguna Trail.
As we reached the northern end of the meadow, we found a “T” junction around 4.25 miles. There were a great deal of fallen trees in the area, providing some nice seating. Since this is roughly the halfway point, it makes a good spot to sit down for a few minutes, have a snack, and enjoy a break.
Sweetwater Regional Park in Bonita has an extensive network of trails along the Sweetwater River. While much of those trails are adjacent to roadways, this short loop around Morrison Pond provides a slightly more quiet and secluded spot to enjoy nature and watch the birds. There are plenty of options for extending your hike along some of the connecting paths if you’re so inclined, but even this little loop can make an enjoyable excursion.
From the parking area, we noticed a couple of different paths leading in different directions. The main trailhead, with a map kiosk and other amenities, was on the south side of the parking area, and that’s where we started.
A rock-lined path on the right led us to a tall willow tree with a picnic table beneath. Just beyond the tree was a 4-way junction.
You can go either direction at this point since its a loop, we arbitrarily chose left.
A short distance beyond the tree we came upon a “Y” junction and turned right.
We passed through thick riparian growth along the eastern edge of the pond.
The trail crossed the river here, but it was pretty much dry. I’d expect this isn’t passable during or just after heavy rainfall.
We came up out of the river bed and found a “T” junction. We turned right to head towards the pond.
The path here was quite sandy.
A short stroll brought us to a strategically placed bench where one could sit and enjoy a nice view of the pond. We spotted an egret on the far side of the water.
The trail continued along the south edge of the pond, then turned south for a short distance.
Around the .4 mile point we came to another junction. We turned right to cross back over the river.
The trail led through the thick brush and across the currently dry waterway.
Once on the other side we found another sandy stretch of trail leading northeast, back towards the pond.
Around .5 mile we found another bench right along the shoreline where we could get close to the edge of the pond. This was probably the best spot for viewing birds in the water. We were able to get some nice shots of the Great Egret we had seen from the opposite shore and a friend of his that showed up.
The trail continued around, crossing another dry stream.
Around .64 mile we came to another junction. The left fork leads directly towards the staging area, while the right fork takes a slightly more circuitous route by the pond’s edge before returning to the start. We chose to go right.
Once again we found ourselves surrounded by thick brush. There were a few spots where we could glimpse or access the pond.
Before long we found ourselves at the 4-way junction near the large willow tree where we had begun. From here it was just a short stroll back to the parking lot.
From Highway 54 take the Briarwood Road exit and head south on Briarwood Road. Follow Briarwood for approximately .6 miles and turn left onto Sweetwater Road. The entrance to Sweetwater Regional Park will be on your right in approximately 180 feet. map
I hope everyone enjoyed finally getting some rain and snow. It looks like things should be pretty dry for this week.
The Solana Beach City Council has approved plans to build hiking trail and other amenities at the Harbaugh Seaside Trails preserve just south of San Elijo Lagoon. The site is small, just 3.4 acres, but will connect with the Coastal Rail Trail and other trails. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Improvements are coming to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, including removing non-native eucalyptus trees and weeds and restoring the area with native plants, and enhancing trails to improve durability and protect against erosion.
There have been new reports of a creeper along the Walker Preserve Trail in Santee. Several women have reported a man following or watching them with his hands down his pants. Anyone who has witnessed such an incident is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Department at 619-956-4000.
Here’s the latest outdoor and fitness deals from Amazon:
Mount Woodson has become an extremely popular hiking destination due to the famous Potato Chip Rock – a fragile looking granite shard which, from the right angle, can look like its extending into nothingness, making for some creative photo opportunities. On warm weekends, you will likely encounter throngs of hikers making their way up the popular summit via one of two main routes: up the western flank of the mountain via Lake Poway, or this shorter, easier approach up the eastern side of the mountain starting from Highway 67. There is a less-traveled, quieter route that also starts near Highway 67 and traverses the northern flank of the mountain – the Fry Koegel Trail. We combined the fire road and the Fry-Koegel Trail for an enjoyable 5.6 mile loop.
We chose a cold, rainy Friday morning for this hike in the hopes that there would be fewer people on the trail. The strategy paid off, when we arrived at the stretch of Highway 67 near the trailhead where one normally finds cars stretching endlessly up and down the road, there were less than a dozen vehicles. We donned our warm jackets and prepared to brave the cold winds.
The trail began on the south edge of the driveway leading to the fire station. Several prominent signs made it hard to miss.
The trail led south, paralleling Highway 67. The thick vegetation hid the sight of the vehicles speeding by, but did little for the traffic noise.
Around .15 mile we came to the paved fire road and turned right.
The road curved around to the left, continuing southward.
As the trail turned west, we saw the boulder-studded Mount Woodson rising up before us.
Soon, we began to climb uphill.
The fire road wound around and switch backed up the mountain.
The uphill climb was a bit of a slog, but there were plenty of nice views of Ramona to keep us entertained.
And as far as fire roads go, this one was actually pretty scenic.
As we neared the top, we spotted this interesting boulder on the side of the trail.
A few more steep switchbacks brought us to the top of the mountain, where there were numerous buildings and antenna arrays. We followed the road to the right to head over to the other side of the mountain and find the infamous Potato Chip Rock.
We passed several more antenna towers.
Finally, just beyond the last of the antenna, we came to Potato Chip Rock. Often, there are hordes of people lined up waiting to take pictures on the delicate looking granite slab, but today there were only a couple of people.
It was freezing cold as the icy wind buffeted us, and we felt no desire to hang around the mountain top any longer than was necessary. We continued on as the trail led down the western side of the mountain.
The trail followed the ridgeline amid thick chaparral and towering boulders.
Around 2.8 miles, we found the turn-off for the Old Fry Koegel Trail on our right. You can take this trail down or continue on to the new Fry Koegel Trail, which is what we did.
We continued on the main trail until a little past 3 miles where we came to another junction. We took the right fork to the Fry Koegel Trail.
Thanks to the cold, wet weather, we hadn’t encountered too many people on the way up. But even on busy days, the Fry Koegel Trail is much less busy than the other two trails up Mount Woodson. Today, it was pretty much deserted.
Around 3.6 miles we found the other end of the Old Fry Koegel Trail on our right. We continued left towards Highway 67.
As we continued downhill, we began to find more trees shading the trail.
We found the thick oak trees a nice change from the chaparral clad hillsides. There was also large patches of poison oak, but the trail was well maintained and it was easy to avoid.
The trail led down towards the edge of a housing development. Around 4.6 miles we found ourselves on the edge of a paved road – the trail continued to the right.
We climbed uphill again briefly through the chaparral, and soon found ourselves amid the verdant oak trees again.
The big news this week is that winter has finally come to San Diego! It looks like the cooler temps should be sticking around, and we’ll be getting more rain tomorrow and hopefully more snow in the mountains as well! More precipitation may be on its way later in the week as well.
The Coast News reports that the Escondido Creek Conservancy is working to repair an illegal mountain bike trail found on private property in Harmony Heights, near the San Marcos/Escondido border. The trail runs about one mile, across both Conservancy land and another owner’s land. The San Diego Mountain Bike Association is helping to assess and repair the damage. There will be a work day on March 4th to help restore the damaged area, if you would like to help call (760) 471-9354 or email Nathan Serrato at Nathan@escondidocreek.org.
Here’s the latest outdoor and fitness deals from Amazon:
The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is a popular spot for both hikers and mountain bikers. The Way Up Trail, the main path into the Reserve, is a busy, well traveled trail. Once at the top of the Way Up Trail, however, one can choose from a number of destinations. The Equine Incline Trail on the west side of the reservoir is one of the quieter sections of the Reserve. This loop can also lead you to the Elfin Forest Overlook point – also known as Mount Israel.
The Elfin Forest can get really hot during the warmer months, so we chose what should have been a cool February day for this excursion. Of course since winter wasn’t entirely cooperative this year, we were still in for some heat on the more exposed sections of the trail. We also broke our cardinal rule of “get to the trailhead early” and consequently had to park on the road about a quarter of a mile from the entrance. We were in training mode, so the extra distance didn’t bother us, but if you’re trying to be efficient, I suggest arriving very close to opening time (8 am) to get a good parking spot.
We finally got to the entrance and picked up the Way Up Trail just past the port-a-potties.
A cement footbridge took us across the idyllic Escondido Creek.
From there the trail began to ascend immediately.
Thanks to the angle of the mountain, the first part of our climb was in cool shade.
But before long we were exposed to the warm sun, and things began to warm up quickly.
Around .35 mile we came to a “Y” junction. The Botanical Loop trail split off to the left, leading back down towards the start. We took the right fork, continuing on the Way Up Trail.
We had some nice views towards the northeast.
We continued uphill, making our way up a series of switchbacks.
Around the 1 mile point, we reached the Harmony Grove Overlook – a shaded bench which provided a spot to catch one’s breath and enjoy the views.
The trail continued to climb, although at a gentler grade than previously.
Around 1.2 miles the Me-Xal trail branched off on the right. This is a short little spur loop that connects with the Equine Incline Loop further up, so you can take this as an alternate route if you’re feeling ambitious. We went ahead and stuck to the main trail for now.
A short distance ahead the Equine Incline Trail branched off to the right. This is the first of several points that the Equine Incline Trail connects with the main trail. You can go ahead and take the right fork here, but for no particular reason we went ahead and stayed left along the main trail again.
Around 1.3 miles we came to a large 4-way intersection with a prominent sign post. We turned right onto the Ridgeline Maintenance Road.
In a very short distance we found another intersection and turned right onto the Equine Incline Trail.
The trail led a short distance to a “T” junction where we met the portion of the Equine Incline Trail that had branched off previously. We turned left and began heading west.
While the Way Up Trail and Ridgeline Road had been heavily populated and rather noisy, the Equine Incline Trail was practically deserted.
The trail descended through the quiet chaparral.
We continued to descend until about 2.4 miles, when we crossed a dry creek bed.
Then we once again started climbing, regaining all of the elevation we had just given up.
Looking back across the canyon we had traversed, we could make out the trail on the other side.
We continued uphill, enjoying the scenery and solitude.
Finally, around 3.45 miles we reached a “T” junction. The Equine Incline Trail continued straight ahead. We’d be continuing on the loop in a bit, but first we turned right to visit the Elfin Forest Overlook on the summit of Mount Israel, just a short distance uphill.
San Diego County public health officials have reported finding ticks infected with tularemia, or “rabbit fever,” in the Lopez Canyon area. Tularemia is potentially fatal but can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. Hikers should always take precautions against ticks, including using insect repellent, staying on the trail, wearing light colored clothing, and performing a thorough inspection for ticks after every hike.
Here’s the latest outdoor and fitness deals from Amazon:
Most hikers know Lake Poway as the starting point for the famous Potato Chip Rock (Mount Woodson) hike, but there are some other adventures to be had there. If you want to enjoy the scenic views and rugged landscape that surrounds Lake Poway but avoid the Mount Woodson crowds, this loop around the lake is a good choice. There is little shade and some steep hills, so an early start during warm weather is advised.
We started along the trail between the concession area and the large picnic area.
The trail wrapped around along the shore of the lake. There was little shade and the day was already warming up.
The trail continued to curve around the lake. There were a few side trails leading down to the shoreline or off to the right, but we just stuck to the main trail circling the lake.
Before long the trail began to climb.
Around .55 miles we reached the top of the incline and found a nice viewpoint with benches to enjoy views of the lake.
The trail descended a bit, and then around .85 miles we reached a 4-way junction. To the right was the turn-off for the Mount Woodson trail, and to the left was a short spur trail leading to another viewpoint. The path around the lake continued straight.
We headed up to the viewpoint where we found a secluded picnic table, and through the bushes was another nice view of the lake below.
We headed back down to the junction and resumed our trek around the lake.
Around 1.1 miles there was another little picnic area to the left of the trail.
This spot had more nice views of the lake.
Around 1.2 miles we came to a “Y” junction. The left fork was blocked off – it appeared to be a service road which led down to the dam. We continued uphill to the right.
The trail climbed up the side of a hill, giving us some nice views of the dam below.
The trail then began to descend, switchbacking down the hillside.
In the northeast, we could make out the rocky wall of the Lake Ramona dam far in the distance.
The trail descended down to a riparian strip below the Poway dam.
Around 1.9 miles we found a turn-off on the right leading to Blue Sky Ecological Reserve. We took the left fork to continue around the lake.
We found a little side trail that led to the edge of a small stream emanating from the foot of the dam.
Then we had to regain all of the elevation we had lost, and began climbing back up towards the lake.
As we climbed, we got some nice views of the trail we had come down, and once again could see the Ramona dam in the distance.
We climbed until about the 2.3 mile point, where the trail leveled out somewhat and we found a “T” junction. The right fork led to the “West Loop Trail,” which you can take to add about .5 mile to your hike. We just took the left fork to continue around the lake.
In about .1 mile we came to another junction. You can go either way as the paths converge again further up. We took the left fork so we could continue to enjoy views of the lake.
We quickly came to yet another junction. Once again, either path will get you back to the parking lot. The left fork goes down along the shore, we took the right fork.
At 2.7 miles we found the other end of one of the previous junctions.
We turned left and walked a short distance to return to the parking lot.
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.