Whenever I’m looking for a quick escape for the typical San Diego chaparral covered mountains, I head to Mount Laguna to get my forest fix. Mount Laguna features miles of trails through expansive meadows, dense forests, and impressive lakes. These trails also feature diverging views, with many trails offering both wooded and desert views. For a good introduction to hiking on Mount Laguna, I’d recommend the Kwaaymii Loop Trail, a short interpretive loop that provides a nice glimpse of the mountain.
The Kwaaymii Loop Trail picks up right next to the Mount Laguna visitor center. I would recommend picking up a one-page paper at the Visitor Center or at the trailhead (when stocked) that will help you distinguish points of interest along the trail. After you have your guide in hand, you’ll find the trail directly to the left of the visitor center near the parking spaces. The trail begins at the large wooden sign that reads “Kwaaymii Trail”.
The trail immediately presents a fork. Veer to the left, past another sign for “Indian Trail” to continue on the right course. Follow the trail as it presents a series of numbers stops. Each numbered marker presents a small piece of history relevant to the area. For history buffs or those simply with an interest of San Diego’s rich past, this was an added bonus to the trek.
Though the loop is short, you’ll learn about what the Kwaaymii people’s use of native plants as a food source, shelter, medicine, and what they wore. At marker 6, which can be easy to miss if you don’t keep a keen eye, you’ll also see morteros (deep holes in the rock) which were used by the Kwaaymii tribe for grinding nuts.
After completing a short, yet somewhat strenuous ascent up to Piñon Point, you’ll be greeted by sweeping views of Mount Laguna, including the Laguna Observatory in the near distance. For me, this provided inspiration and motivation to explore the trails nearby.
You will soon begin your descent, running alongside Sunrise Highway to your left. Continue to follow the straightforward trail, passing by a few cabins before you reach the visitor center once again.
Kwaaymii Loop Trail Tips
- Don’t forget to purchase an Adventure Pass from the Visitor’s Center to display in your car. It costs $5 at the time of this post.
- Pick up a trail guide. This is beneficial for following along with each numbered marker on the trail.
- Keep an eye out for marker 6. This is where you’ll see the morteros and can be easy to miss.
- Be respectful when walking near the cabins. Some my have inhabitants.
From downtown San Diego, take CA-163N. Take exit 3A to merge onto I-8 E toward El Centro. In 12.9 miles, keep left at the fork to stay on I-8 E. Follow I-8 E for 29.2 miles and take exit 47 toward Sunrise Highway. Turn left onto County Rte S1/Old Hwy 80.
Follow Sunrise Highway for approximately 9.9 miles and turn left at mile marker 23.5 for the Visitor Center. Please display a National Forest Adventure Pass, which are available for purchase in the Visitor’s Center, in your car’s windshield.
Total Distance: 0.5-miles
Trailhead Address: Los Huecos Rd, Mt Laguna, CA 91948