Kwaaymii Trail

Tucked just behind the Mount Laguna Visitor’s Center is the Kwaaymii Trail, a very short interpretive loop that one can explore. After our jaunt on the Desert View Trail, we weren’t ready to leave the Laguna’s yet, but our dog had enough adventure for the day, so my wife and he hung out at the Visitor’s Center while I took off.

The trailhead is located at the northwest edge of the Visitor’s Center parking lot. A wooden box holding trail guides is attached to the signpost but was unfortunately empty. I passed a large stone marker labeling this trail as the “Indian Trail”. Thankfully, this trail has been renamed. If you are not familiar with the Kwaaymii, those people were a subset of the Kumeyaay that once inhabited the area.

The trail passes by some cabins, and you are reminded to stay on the trail. Soon, the trail began a short climb to Pinyon Point. I quickly took in the views before continuing on. Off to the north, I had a great view of the FAA station atop Stephenson Peak. The trail descended along the east side of the hill and I was quickly back at the Visitor Center. 


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. 

Sheephead Mountain

Today’s adventure was doing Sheephead Mountain for a third time, as Ted Markus needed it for his effort to finish the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list. We drove down the semi-paved Kitchen Creek Road off of Sunrise Highway. The dirt road to East Butte was in better condition than this one. Pine needles again crunched under our boots, as we made our way to the other Kitchen Creek road. Once there, I again made sure to leave a mark to find the use trail back up the ravine. I missed it the first time I summited.

We climbed the improperly placed fence/gate and continued down the road a bit before heading off to locate the use trail that would take us up to the summit. Now the real effort would begin, the trail would climb some 600 feet in about .3 miles. The trail has become a bit overgrown, and in fact, it did rip the left sleeve of my shirt. 

We hung out at the summit just for a bit, taking in the views and having a quick snack before heading back down. The descent was uneventful which, given some of the steep sections, was a good thing. We cruised home and grabbed some burritos from Mi Ranchito in PQ. My tracker logged the hike at 3.2 miles in 2:08 with 928 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. 

Pine Mountain

After climbing Cush-Pi (Stonewall), we headed over to the Lagunas to summit Pine Mountain. Some recent reports of this peak spoke of bushwhacking to reach the peak. I did not recall this when I did it in 2019. There were a couple of cars in the Pioneer Mail campground when we pulled in. We cross Sunrise Highway and set off on the trail. A light breeze help keep the temps to a mild level of warm.

When we reached the turn off point from the road, it was fairly clear of brush as we made to the top. We took a short break and made our way down. Instead of retracing our route, we opted to use the dirt road instead. We had planned to toss in Wooded Hill as well. A small blister had formed on my toe, so I sent Ted Markus off on his own. With that he is three peaks closer…


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. 

Wooded Hill

Since I was the hiking consultant for my synagogue’s Stepping Into Israel hiking challenge, I figured I should hike some of my recommendations. One of the hikes I recommended was the Wooded Hill Nature Trail. I have hiked this 1.5-mile loop twice before but decided to do it once again. As I drove out to the trailhead, the marine layer was so thick that it was actually raining during my drive out. Just past Alpine, I broke through the clouds into a wonderfully sunny day. I pulled into the trailhead, grabbed my gear, and set off. Some remaining wildflowers still lined the edges of the trail. It was nice to hike this trail on fresh legs. The previous times I had done this hike was after a full day of hiking. As I made my way up the hill, I heard the sounds of a woodpecker. I was able to video of it pecking. After cresting the summit, I once again encountered mountain bikers on this trail. Wish they would enforce the rules sometimes. Once back at my car I headed back into town for my second hike of the day.


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. 

Manza Benchmark

Peak Name: Manza Benchmark
Distance: 3.94 miles
Date: October 12, 2019
Summit: 5,525 feet

After summiting Sheephead Mountain, I drove a short way back down Sunrise Highway to the trailhead. I actually grabbed a spot right next to it. Both the Sunset and Big Laguna trails start from here, so it is a popular spot. I grabbed my gear and set out again. The Sunset Trail is a hiking-only trail so I did not worry about being run over by a mountain bike since the Big Laguna Loop is a very popular trail for them.

As I cruised along the trail, I spotted patches of poison oak to either side. I had a feeling that this was going to be an issue on this summit attempt. Soon I reached the meadow that I needed to cross to join up with the use trail that would take me down the ravine then back up to Manza Benchmark. As I set off across it, poison oak was scattered about. This was going to be a challenge.

I never found the use trail in the actual meadow, but on the other side, I spotted it and began my descent. The trail through this section was fairly easy to follow and only slightly overgrown, but tons of poison oak to attempt to avoid. After losing about 300 feet of elevation, it was time to make the steep climb out of the ravine. The bugs had started to come out, so on went the bug net.

The trail became fairly well marked with cairns as it quickly rose to the ridgeline. Poison oak continued to grow everywhere, I only hoped my contact would not become an issue later.

So I reached the crest of the mountain and turned northward. Here I would meander through the manzanita and over boulders toward the summit. The trail here was a bit more overgrown and I had a few spots that took a moment to resolve which way to go.

Finally, from atop the false summit, the Manza Benchmark stood before me. As I scrambled over the rocks, the same incredible view was presented to me. I sat on a rock and enjoyed a snack. I took my photos and again signed the register and began the trek down.

The return back to the Sunset Trail went by quickly, again hoping that the poison oak not going to leave a ‘gift’ for later. Soon, I was back at my car and my 74th peak of my 100 Peak Challenge completed.


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. 

Sheephead Mountain

Peak Name: Sheephead Mountain
Distance: 3.56 miles
Date: October 12, 2019
Summit: 5,838 feet

The plan for today was to summit two nearby peaks, Sheephead Mountain and Manza Benchmark both in the Lagunas. The first peak of this two-fer was going to be Sheephead. With the weather beginning to become fall-like, I did not need to be at the trailhead at sunrise. I drove down the semi-paved Kitchen Creek Road off of Sunrise Highway.

The trail seemed very familiar as the pine needles crunched under my boots. When I reached the other Kitchen Creek road, I made sure to leave a mark to find the use trail back up the ravine. I missed it the first time I summited.

As I cruised down the road, a few cows were hanging around and scampered off as I approached. Ignoring the locked gate and its warning, I continued down the road. Double-checking my original GPS route, I spotted a faint use trail and headed hopefully toward the summit.

I spotted the boundary sign and knew the entrance to the use trail. Now the real effort would begin, the trail would climb some 600 feet in about .3 miles. The trail was overgrown, in fact, I lost a bandanna somewhere in that mess. Maybe after the challenge is over I might return and do some maintenance.

Finally, the summit revealed itself before me. Conditions were much nicer this time, so I enjoyed the views without feeling I was going to be blown away…

I signed the register and took my photos before heading back down. I kept an eye out for my missing red bandanna, figuring it would be easy to spot, but alas I never found it. But I did find a pair of sunglasses. Too bad I need prescription ones.

The trail deposited me back on the road and I headed back up the road. The cows were still hanging around as I neared the turnoff to the trail to make my way up the ravine. I was pleased about getting another peak out of the way. That was peak #73 of my #100PeakChallenge. Now for the short drive to the trailhead for Manza Benchmark.


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. 

Wooded Hill

Peak Name: Wooded Hill
Distance: 1.49 miles
Date: September 14, 2019
Summit: 6,216 feet

Since it was still early after finishing Oakzantia, I decided to drive up to the Lagunas and quickly so Wooded Hill. I had planned to do this when I did Manza Benchmark and Sheephead Mountain but I thought why not just get it out of the way. I drove down the short spur road the trailhead. Another car was parked under the shade of the trees. While it was still warming up, I knew this trail was short and shaded.

I hustled along the trail toward the summit. The trees certainly made for a pleasant canopy to walk under. The summit is nondescript with no register nor benchmark.

I decided to make the loop again. Two mountain bikers were making their way up, which I politely informed them at this was a hiking-only trail. A bit later I passed a family enjoying the trail as well. Back at the car, it was nice to mark this peak off the list. That was peak 62 of my 100 Peak Challenge.


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. 

Garnet Mountain

Peak Name: Garnet Mountain
Distance: 0.75 miles
Date: April 21, 2019
Summit: 5,700 feet

The final peak of the day was Garnet Mountain, just around the corner from Pioneer Mall Campground. The Pacific Crest Trail runs right past the peak, but the short trail to this summit is just to the west. Ducking under a metal gate, the rocky trail heads up, and the wind continued to blow.

Once the trail ends, a hint of a use trail could be seen, up through the brush, I went. Atop the summit, I found the register and carefully signed in to prevent it from blowing away.

From the summit, Anza-Borrego was spread out before me. So many familiar peaks dotted the view. Then it was back down to the car, covering a mere 0.8 miles for the entire trip.

Granite Mountain in the distance

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. 

Pine Mountain

Peak Name: Pine Mountain
Distance: 4.1 miles
Date: April 21, 2019
Summit: 5,660 feet

As part of my 100 Peaks Challenge Reboot, I am hiking these peaks again. Since my planned peak had a forecast of 25-35 mph winds, with possible gusts to 50 mph, it decided to look for other options. So, a set of peaks in the Laguna Mountains fit the bill. In gathering my route information, I looked a bit closer at what Ben and I hiked. Now that I am a bit more seasoned in map reading, I realized that while we had hiked a loop along the Pine Mountain Trail, we actually did not approach the actual mountain.

It turns out when the Pine Mountain Trail intersects with the dirt road, instead of going straight, you should hang a right onto the road.

The road had been recently graded, as there were no ruts to be found. The road headed north, then turn west as it gently climbed upward. Once I passed enough of the brush, I left the road and began heading south across the open forest floor.

The crunch of the leaves under my feet was a sound I had not heard in a while, as for the past few months I had been hiking in Anza-Borrego. I soon found myself at what looked at the top of this gentle summit, sat on a log and enjoyed a short snack. While the pine trees gave me some nice shade, there really is not any view. I knew this summit would be both benchmark and register free, so I retraced my steps and returned to the car.


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. 

Garnet Peak

Peak Name: Garnet Peak
Distance: 2.4 miles
Date: April 21, 2019
Summit: 5,909 feet

My second summit of the day was to be Garnet Peak (Monument Peak was first). Just a few minutes up the road from the Monument Peak Trailhead is the trailhead to Garnet Peak. If you are looking for a longer hiking day, you could hike between them along the Pacific Crest Trail.

The trailhead is denoted by a metal pole, then heads off across a lovely forest meadow. I did have to nudge a small garter snake off the trail.

Once the trail intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail, the real climb began. I remembered this peak giving me a bit of difficulty the first time. The trail got a bit rocky as it climbed upward.

Once at the summit, you are rewarded with a sweeping view of Anza-Borrego. The wind was still making its presence felt. The summit was register-less and there is no benchmark. I did not stay long, 30 mph wind can be chilly.


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.