Spotlight: The Big Laguna Trail

Release Date: Aug 25, 2015

Big Laguna Trail

Elevation Gain

1000 ft


10 Mile loop

Pets Allowed



$5 for Adventure pass (depending on parking location at Campgrounds)

Hike Time

5 hours


Moderate - Difficult

Best Seasons

Year round


Penny Pines/Noble Canyon Trailhead - 12000 Sunrise Hwy. Pine Valley, CA 91962

Ranger District

Descanso Ranger District - (619) 445-6235



With exotic wildflowers, panoramic mountain views, and the blissful tranquility that only Mother Nature can provide, The Big Laguna Trail is a rare find in the greater San Diego area. Conveniently located 13 miles north of I-8 on Sunrise Highway, this 10-mile loop traverses oak and pine woodlands, vast meadows, and during certain seasons, a clear blue lake. Providing a great family, friend, or solo experience, this trail is open to horses, mountain bikes, and hiking, serving as a scenic trail for all modes of exploration.



Big Laguna Lake



Points of Interest: This trail offers many different southern California ecosystems, ranging from dense forest canopies to wide open meadows and during wet years, even an alpine lake. Before Spanish settlers took over the land in the mid-1800s, these mountains were home to the Kumeyaay Indians for over 9,000 years and traces of their civilization can still be found in historical sites along the path. This trail is also a great introduction to mountain biking.


Difficulty: The trail is well-traveled and well maintained and offers several junctions. Keep to the Big Laguna trail to avoid trekking the more difficult Pacific Crest Trail, or for an easier hike, pick up the Blue Jay or Falcon trails which lead back to the campground. Big Laguna can be rocky at times with some good spots of elevation, so come prepared for a good workout.


Fees: No permit is required to hike the Big Laguna trail; however a Forest Adventure Pass is required for each vehicle parked at specific trailheads. Adventure Passes can be purchased for $5 per day or $30 per year at Cleveland National Forest offices, or at a local retailer listed here


Camping: Backcountry camping is prohibited within the Laguna Mountain Recreation area, however, the Laguna and Burnt Rancheria Campground offers great camping amenities and quick access to both Big Laguna and Pacific Crest trails. With over 104 sites between the two campgrounds, these facilities are equipped with campfire rings, trash cans, flush toilet restrooms, coin-operated showers, grills, drinking water, and monthly star parties hosted by the San Diego State University Observatory. Campsites cost $22 per night depending on size, and reservations are highly encouraged. To book your camping trip, visit the Laguna Campground site.


What to Watch For: Animals, such as deer, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes have been reported in the area. Take time to check out some of the many species of wildflowers, such as the Western Pasque flower, or take in the wonderful butterscotch/vanilla scent of the Jeffery Pine trees.  


Western Pasque Wildflower Jeffery Pines
Photo Photo


Directions: To reach the upper end, take Sunrise Highway from I-8 (near Pine Valley) and drive north 13.5 miles to just past the second cattle guard on the highway. Vehicles should park on either side of the highway on the paved turnouts. The access to the Big Laguna trail is via the Nobel Canyon trail that departs the western turnout and is marked by a small sign. Follow the Nobel Canyon trail about 100 yards to reach the Big Laguna trail junction. Image showing BLT Location in a map The other end of the Big Laguna trail makes a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail about 1/4 mile northeast of the Laguna Station (the Forest Service fire station).

For a list of more trails to explore in your area, please see our Recreation Trail Guide . You can also visit the Big Laguna Trail Recreation Page

Big Laguna Location

Hashtag your photos with #ClevelandNF or #Youbelong for a chance to be featured on our website