Sawmill Mountain & Mt. Pinos

After climbing Mt. Baden-Powell, I set off for my final set of peaks, Mt. Pinos and Sawmill Mountain. The original plan was to car camp at McGill Campground about two miles from the trailhead, wake up early, get these peaks, then make back to San Diego for a graduation party. Unfortunately, I missed some fine print on the reservation and no longer had a spot. Since my legs still felt good and I wasn’t in any real hurry, I decided to see if I could make the 7.5 mile round trip out to Sawmill. The parking lot was almost empty when I pulled in. I changed into a fresh shirt, made sure that I had refilled my water bladder and set off to the first peak, Mt. Pinos. While the temperatures were in the mid-70s, a light breeze and shade of the trees made for some nice hiking weather.

A few clouds dotted the sky, giving my photos some nice texture. Soon the summit of Mt. Pinos came into view, and I walked over and found the summit sign. After snapping a few photos, I set off toward the Tumamait trailhead and the “hard” part of the hike. From here, the trail loses about 400 feet of elevation to almost immediately gain it again. I took my time and plodded along, much like the climbs earlier in the day. Soon the turnoff to Sawmill appeared, and a short 2/10 mile later the large rock cairn stood before me. I grabbed the summit sign and snapped a few photos. For many, they will continue onto Grouse Mountain to the west to complete the 3-2-1 challenge, but this time I had no desire to tack on another couple of miles. 

I started heading back down toward the saddle for that climb back up. Surprisingly, it went fairly well. I have to think the past few days at something besides sea level might have helped. Soon I was back at the Mt. Pinos Condor Observation Site and had just about 1.7 miles back to the car. Thankfully it was almost all downhill. 

Once back at the car, I took a moment to reflect on the past three days. I had put in some serious miles and elevation gain. I grabbed some cold sodas and a sandwich from the market then began the drive home. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t too bad and I was home before 10 pm. 

The final stats for these summits was 7.3 miles in 3:17 with 1,430 feet of gain.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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