OverviewCuyapaipe Mountain is the highest point in the Laguna Mountains in eastern San Diego County. Its slopes mainly consist of typical San Diego County chapperal country with manzanita, scrub oak and the like densely clothing its slopes with a few random granite boulders just to break up the monotony.
So why would climb this peak and risk the scourging of a gnarly bushwhack? The reasons are simple. It's an HPS peak, Cuyapaipe is the 3rd highest of the 10 named peaks over 6000 feet in San Diego County and because the views west to the Pacific, south to Mexico and east to the desert are spectacular from its lofty summit. It is also an area of the Lagunas that hasn't had a fire in recent years so venturing off the climber's trail is not recommended.
Cuyapaipe lies in the rather remote southeastern portion of the Laguna Mountains. Despite its remote location in the Lagunas and lack of an official trail it still sports small solar powered USGS and NOAA weather antennae, but they are relatively obscure as compared to the behemoth communication towers / antennae sites on its Laguna neighbors to the north, Stephenson Peak and Monument Peak #1.
This peak has now been delisted by the Sierra Club HPS due to private property concerns. If you venture out, please be aware that you will be trespassing on Indian/private property. If I find out more information I will post it here.
Getting ThereThe main trail head for the peak is located off Highway S1(Sunrise Highway).
From San Diego take I-8 East toward El Centro. Take the Sunrise Highway exit and head North for almost 9 miles and look for the informally signed Thing Valley Road and turn right on this dirt road (this is labeled La Posta Road on maps).
From Points North go east on SR 78 through Escondido to the junction with SR 79 just past the town of Julian. Turn right (south) on SR 79. Go 6 miles to the junction with Sunrise Highway (S1) on the left. Turn left. Travel 15.1 miles and turn left on Thing Valley Road just past the Red-Tailed Roost Volunteer Activity Center.
On Thing Valley / La Posta Road go 1.7 miles keeping right at an immediate fork and straight at subsequent forks until you reach a road on the left which is the start of the trail. Park in a turnout on the right across from this fork. You should be able to see signs on this road from the parking area stating "Israelsen Ranch" and "Locked Gate Ahead."
Note you will also cross the PCT at approximately 1.5 miles.
Standard Route DescriptionFrom the parking area cross to the dirt road which goes up the hill to a locked gate. Continue on the road past this gate about 200 yards to the remnants of an older gate. The fence at this point may be posted "No trespassing" and the day I hiked the sign was missing.
Just before the old gate leave the road on the left side.
Pushing through gnarly brush, cross the fence at a fence junction and then follow a use trail which emerges and loosely parallels the road with a barbed wire fence in between the trail and the road. Even though it bypasses the gnarly brush push, it is not recommended you go past the "No trespassing" sign and travel the short distance (less than 100 yards) to a fence crossing on the left. This is private property.
The trail goes east for about 1/2 mile through trees, some brush and grassy areas until it drops into a prominent streambed that trends south along the western flank of Cuyapaipe. Keep a careful eye for the ducked route that takes you straight up the west slope of Cuyapaipe. Once you get out of the streambed the trail is very easy to follow as it winds through the brushy slope and easy rock up to the summit.
When you reach the top of the ridge, the summit register will be on a mound of rocks about 200' to the right (south).
On the day I hiked, the No Trespassing sign was gone and I unknowingly followed the road until I saw a small meadow on the other side of the fence. I hopped the barbed wire fence and picked my way east (approximately parallel to the road) until I hit the streambed and easily found the ducked trail heading up to the summit. On my return I found the ducked and taped standard trail through the meadow until I reached the place I crossed the fence thus bypassing the "gnarly brush push." Ignorance is bliss!
I suppose an approach could be made from the desert floor nearly 4000 feet below, but you had better pack a chain saw to blaze a path through the thick brush.
Red TapeUnfortunately, LOTS of it.
For large sections of the Cleveland National Forest an USFS Adventure Pass is required to park and recreate. These passes run $5 per a day or $30 per a year. Details on this pass are located at the link above.
Once you pass through the second gate along the access road you are on private property which is usually posted with No Trespassing signs.
Lastly, from the time you hop the fence to the left of the road, you will be transitting land owned by the Cuyapaipe Band of Mission Indians. No lone hikers are allowed, and group leaders must call or write first for permission:
Mr. Michael Garcia
Cuyapaipe Band of Mission Indians
4054 Willows Road
P.O. Box 2250
Alpine, CA 91903-2250
Tel: 619-445-6315 or 619-659-1467
CampingCamping is restricted to developed campgrounds in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. There are several developed campgrounds in the Laguna Mts including; Burnt Rancheria, Horse Heaven, Laguna, El Prado, and Yerba Santa.
When to ClimbCuyapaipe can be climbed any time of year. Summer conditions are usually warm and sunny and winter storms frequently dust the Lagunas with the white stuff. Just ensure you pack the appropriate clothing, water and 10 essentials.
Current Mount Laguna Weather Conditions
EtymologyNamed after the Diegueño Indian word "awi-paip" which is presumed to mean "rock-lie-on".
Peak was added to the HPS Peak List in 1956.
-HPS Summit Signatures