September 2023 Activity: Sunset at Garnet Peak

Garnet Peak, at an elevation of almost 5900 feet, is one of the best high elevation vista points along the Pacific Crest Trail in San Diego’s Laguna Mountains. For our September activity, we hope that the weather will cooperate when we hike there for sunset photos. Please continue reading if you’re interested.

As usual, this is not a Sierra Club outing. No Sierra Club Certified Outing Leader will be present. You may join, leave and participate at your leisure on the scheduled date. You participate at your own risk. The details of this activity are provided below. This in-the-field gathering is open to the public. Members and non-members are equally welcome. Come meet other photography enthusiasts!

WARNING: the trail to the summit is narrow and rocky, with some steep steps. The summit itself is also rocky, very uneven, and there isn’t a lot of room. Even though the hike isn’t long, you need to be absolutely comfortable with hiking on a rough trail, scrambling over rocks at the summit, being exposed to the elements, the sheer drop into the desert… — and then hiking back down after sunset, with a headlamp.


  • Date: Saturday, September 23, 2023
  • Meeting Point: Garnet Peak Trailhead, Sunrise Highway, Mount Laguna (Google Maps; Three Words: surgery.battered.fads) — this trailhead is 1/2 mile north of the larger Penny Pines trailhead)
  • Meeting Time: 5:30 p.m. PDT; 5:45 p.m. beginning of hike
  • Sunset: 6:45 p.m. PDT (end of civil twilight ~7:15 p.m.)
  • Duration: ~2.5 hours
  • Difficulty: uneven trail, rocky terrain, steep at the summit
  • Fearless Leader: Alexander S. Kunz (SCPS chair)
  • Conditions:

From the trailhead at Sunrise Highway it’s 1/2 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail, and another 1/2 mile to the summit of Garnet Peak. The second part is much more demanding! With the uneven terrain, we’re planning that this will take about 45 minutes. The total ascent is about 450 feet.

If you’re feeling like a longer hike, you can start at the Penny Pines trailhead, which is 1.5 miles from the Garnet Peak trail junction on the Pacific Crest Trail, for a total of 2 miles one way, and 600 feet elevation change.


Parking at the Garnet Peak Trailhead is extremely limited. There’s room for 3, maybe 4 cars and chances are we won’t be the only ones there. A few more spots are available about 100 yards north, on the east side of Sunrise Highway. Alternatively, more parking is available at the Penny Pines Trailhead, from where carpooling to the Garnet Peak Trailhead is a possibility.

According to the Cleveland National Forest volunteer ranger at the Laguna Mountains Visitor Center, both Penny Pines and the Garnet Peak trailhead are “unimproved” locations and as such, no adventure or national parks pass is required for parking.

Hiking Gear

  • Sturdy shoes for uneven terrain
  • Long pants
  • Layers (bring a jacket, it can get chilly quickly after sunset)
  • Water, snacks, a dinner sandwich
  • Sunscreen and/or bug spray if you need it
  • Don’t forget your headlamp or flashlight for the way back!

Photography Gear

A standard zoom lens will be most versatile here, but if you’re looking for the extreme perspectives of close foreground and expansive views, bring your ultra wide angle lens. For deep views into the desert and surrounding landscapes, a telephoto zoom lens (70-300mm etc.) is very nice, too.

Sunset and twilight will require long(er) exposure times. Bring your tripod! It will also come in handy if you find that you need to blend exposures, or focus stack your landscape photos.

Please RSVP

If you intend to join this activity, please send us a simple “I will be there” email with your name and contact information to info (at) sdphotoclub (dot) com, or use our contact form. We will try our best to keep you updated on weather, carpooling, parking.

Thanks & see you Saturday!

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