Desert View Trail (Laguna Mountains)
- Location: Desert View Picnic Site, Laguna Mountains, east San Diego County. From Interstate 8, take the Sunrise Scenic Highway/S1 exit (47) and head north for 10 miles. The entrance to the picnic area will be on the right. If you are coming from the north, the picnic area will be on the left, 14 miles south of the split with Highway 79. Drive to the east end of the picnic area and park in any available spot. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Descanso District
- Distance: 2.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 250 feet
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Best season: All year
- Dogs: Allowed
- Cell phone reception: Weak
- Restrooms: Vault restrooms at Desert View Picnic Area
- Water: None
- Camping: The trail heads through the Burnt Rancheria Campground. There are several other campgrounds and cabins nearby. The Desert View Picnic Area is open for day use only.
- More information: Trip description here; Article about this trail and the nearby Kwaaymii Trail here
- Rating: 6
Like a miniature version of the Big Laguna Loop, the Desert View Trail (which shares much of its route with the Pacific Crest Trail) clearly shows the dramatic dichotomy between the forested Laguna Mountains and the Anza-Borrego Desert, nearly one mile below. This post assumes a starting point from the Desert View Picnic Site, slightly north of Burnt Rancheria; if the campground is open, you can start there for a shorter hike, although the extra stretch north of the loop is recommended.
From the far end of the parking area at Desert View, follow an unmarked but clear trail heading south. Immediately, you get terrific views of the desert. At 0.2 mile, you reach the start of the Desert View Trail. The loop portion of the hike can be done either way. If you head left, you will soon reach the Pacific Crest Trail and be treated to more desert views. (This trail’s name is not an accident.) The trail bends to the west and heads through an attractive grove of pines and black oaks before reaching a four-way junction, one mile from the start. The right-most fork leads to the campground. Follow the spur to the southern loop of Burnt Rancheria and walk 0.6 mile through the campground.
The next leg of the Desert View Trail departs from the Cherry Loop in the campground’s north end. It heads uphill through more pines and oaks before completing the loop (2 miles from the start.) Retrace your steps back to the Desert View Picnic Area, or if you have time and energy, continue north on the Pacific Crest Trail for further exploration.
Text and photography copyright 2016 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.