Garnet Peak is located only .5 miles off the PCT in the Laguna Mountains of San Diego County. The shortest approach is only 2.4 miles and 500ft of elevation round trip. The short approach makes this a very popular peak, and it can often receive a dozen visitors on a busy weekend.
Even though most of the approaches are short and no more than a moderate half day hike, the views along this section of the PCT and from the summit are spectacular. Located at the Northern end of the Laguna Mts, Garnet Peak marks the boundary between the alpine mountains and the Borrego Desert below. Views include Monument Peak and the Stephenson Peak to the South, the Borrego Desert and Salton Sea to the East, San Jacinto and San Gorgonio to the North. On a clear day one can even see across the boarder into Mexico. The true magnificent of Garnet Peak is discovered by those adventurous enough to be on the summit for sunrise. The sun's warm rays slowly bath the desert and the jagged peaks that rise from it, this is the true magic of Garnet.
The main trail heads for the peak are located along Highway 1(Sunrise Highway). From San Diego take I-8 East toward El Centro. Exit Sunrise Highway and head North.
The first major access point is from the Penny Pines Trail head at mile marker 27.3 on the East side of the Sunrise Highway.
The second and shortest trail head is a small dirt pullout at mile 27.8 along the Sunrise Highway.
The final major access point is from the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area at mile marker 29.3.
The mountain can also be climbed up its North and East sides from the Borrego Desert below. Either of these approaches start off of County Highway S2 and involve >3000ft of elevation gain through a hot desert climate.
For large sections of the Cleveland National Forest an 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. Camping is restricted to developed campgrounds in the Laguna Mountains. There are several developed campgrounds in the Laguna Mts including; Burnt Rancheria, Horse Heaven, Laguna, El Prado, and Yerba Santa.
The mountain can be climbed year round. Summer temperatures can be very warm, and during December and January snow often dusts the summit. Snow pack never gets so heavy as to cause any danger, just wet boots.