Hays Peak PD
Peak 5,868ft P300
Peak 6,260ft P300 PD
Peak 5,700ft PD
Peak 5,764ft P500 PD

Apr 20, 2022

With: Tom Grundy

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Peak 6,260ft previously attempted Apr 19, 2022


I was camped in the Laguna Mtns of San Diego County. Tom would be joining me mid-morning after dropping Iris off at the San Diego airport for a business trip. I would have time for a few easy summits in the area before Tom arrived and we got to the bigger business of Peak 6,260ft. It would be a pretty gruelling effort, but we would still have time in the afternoon for a few easier ones.

Hays Peak

This summit lies half a mile NW of Monument Peak, the highest summit on the understand how it got on LoJ as it violates the site's objective standards, but there it was and I needed to pay it a visit. The hike is fairly short, taking just over an hour. I started from the Big Laguna TH off Sunrise Hwy, joining the PCT after half a mile. I followed this for a similar distance before forking off onto an unsigned spur trail leading to Hays and Monument. An old firebreak can be followed along the top of the escarpment to the summit of Hays. Views stretch east and north over much of Anza-Borrego State Park. There is a good view of Garnet Peak to the north. Monument Peak and Stephenson Peak look less impressive to the south. There were several busy register books in a rusted can - I was surprised that so many people would visit this point. After snapping a few photos, I returned back via the same route.

Peak 5,868ft

This summit is found on the west side of the highway, adjacent to El Prado Meadow and the Laguna Campground. I parked just outside the campground entrance and walked the gated road to the El Prado Group CG. An historic ranger cabin from 1911 lies at the northwest edge of the meadow, at the base of the peak on its southeast side. I left the road here to wander cross-country up through forest and then chapparal. With careful route-finding, bushwhacking was kept to a minimum. I reached the rounded summit in half an hour, finding there were two points of nearly equal height. I believe the southern one was the highest, but I visited the northern point in search of a possible register. I found none at either site. I was back by 8:55a, giving me just enough time to drive the short distance to my meeting with Tom at 9a.

Peak 6,260ft

Tom had beaten me to the meeting spot by a few minutes. I informed him we had a lovely bushwhack planned for the day's main event. Not one to lodge a complaint, Tom would only smile and express mock joy at the announcement. We transferred some gear to the Jeep, and leaving Tom's truck where it was, we headed off to the Desert View Picnic Site.

I had attempted this hike the previous afternoon, but had made a grave route-finding error and run out of time. Armed with recent memories and a better understanding of the route, I figured we'd be able to knock this one off in much better fashion today. I was still under-appreciating the effort it would require, especially for the last mile as the trail disappears and the serious bushwhacking would take over. Starting at 9:20a, the first hour would go much as expected - along the PCT for half a mile, across a property boundary at a water fountain, along an old firebreak, and then onto an overgrown trail. By 9:30a we had retraced all the route I had managed the previous evening, leaving us about a mile to go. Ducks take over where the trail becomes unclear, but these only last for another 20min or so, giving out near Pt. 6,190ft. Then the heavy work begins through thick brush with no clear idea where to go. On a prevous visit to the nearby Sawtooth Mtns WHP back in 2018, I had assumed the ducked route would continue to Peak 6,260ft. Not so. We found no sign of trail, duck or humans over the last hour it would take us. It was nice to have a companion along, as two brains made better decisions than one. We would swap leads through the brush, with the leader reaching a nasty wall of impenetrable stuff, then deferring to the other who had veered off on a slightly more promising angle. Sometimes we would pause to consider options and postulate about the terrain ahead, pointing out some useful feature or vaguely waving in one direction or another. Mostly these sessions would serve to give us a short rest before plunging back into the thickets.

It was 12p when we finally reached the outcrop indicated on PB and LoJ as the highpoint. It is the western of two small closed contours indicated on the topo map. We noticed that the Mike Sullivan GPX track we had (that served no value once the bushwhacking began) went over both points. We did some crude surveying that suggested the eastern point might be higher, and though we didn't really feel like it, we trudged over to the other point anyway. It turned out to be easier than it had looked, taking only five minutes, and it had a far better summit block that goes at stiff class 3. We liked this one much better and decided to leave a register on top. There are some lovely desert views to be had from the summit, but we were a bit too worked out from the bushwhacking to fully appreciate them. After a stay of about 10min, we started back, taking a different route for about half of the bushwhacking, but finding it no better than the ascent route. Once we got back to the ducked section, things improved, and once on the trail, it got better still. It would be 2:40p by the time we got back to the Jeep, having spent almost five and half hours on the effort. It was but six miles total with less than 1,500ft of gain - but a toughie, this one. Later, I would see that John Strauch and six others from the Monday Maniacs had taken 9hrs for the same hike back in 2015. In 2016, Michael Sullivan and Eric Su had made a large loop that included the Wilderness HP and all the spot elevations found enroute, so props for an even bigger undertaking.

Peak 5,700ft

The summit is located further north along escarpment, about a mile south of Garnet Peak. It's a very easy summit that would take just over 30min for the roundtrip. We started at the Penny Pines TH south of the peak, quickly joining the PCT and then leaving that for an old firebreak running up the south side of the peak. It gets a little brushier higher up, but no real bushwhacking. We found a register left by Bob McS in 2021. There is a nice view of Garnet Peak to the north, a summit I climbed back in 2005. I suggested to Tom that he might appreciate Garnet better than the next one I had in mind. He agreed, so we parted ways for a short while after returning to the TH.

Peak 5,764ft

This one is found a few miles west of Garnet Peak, on the west side of the highway. It would take about 50min for the roundtrip, starting from the Pioneer Mail Picnic Site. The Pine Mtn Trail starts nearby, at the junction of Sunrise Hwy and Skyline Dr. A shortcut from the highway allows one to cut off the beginning portion of the trail. I followed the good trail to the south side of Peak 5,764ft, then branched off to follow a use trail that goes to this minor summit. I found it amusing that the last two entries in the register included Paul Garry and Laura Newman. Small world. I returned the same way, finishing up at 5p. Tom was already there, having made quick work of Garnet with some jogging. I suggested he could easily do Peak 5,764ft while I went off to find a campsite, so again we split up. We would end up camping at Kwayymii Point along the Pacific Crest another mile to the north. The wind was blowing strongly across the paved cul-de-sac on the edge of the escarpment, but we were able to drive a short distance further on the dirt road (also the PCT) to get out of the wind behind the road cut in the hillside. It would have made a lovely view campsite, but it too windy and too cold to hang about outside, so we retreated to our respective vehicles for the night...


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