Sheephead Mountain – Peak #26 – A Cold Morning in Mount Laguna

The Sheephead Mountain Trail Head at Dawn

Elevation: 5,896′
Miles: 3.5
Trailhead

After the holidays and a lengthy battle with the flu, I was ready to get back on the trail. It was a chilly pre-dawn morning, but alive with the promise of sun and beautiful blue skies. On the road to the trailhead in Mount Laguna, the sun started to peek out behind the eastern mountains, bathing Sheephead Mountain in a beautiful orange glow. The smoky mountains to the south seemed to go on forever.

I was also excited to be completing a peak on the Sierra Club’s Hundred Peak Section.

I got to the trail head, and once again, I was the only person within a few miles. Although the sun was shining a little on me, the icy wind chilled me to the bones after leaving my heated car. I put on some layers and headed out on the trail.

As I started hiking, I was happy to be warming up with the exertion. The trail went downhill, out of sight of the sun, but I was warm enough by then and the trees and canyon shielded me from the wind. I have read that this trail skirts and plunges through private property, so I was on high alert, as I don’t want to recommend anyone entering private property on the way to a peak.

It was cold out there

Sunrise on the mountains to the south

Sunrise on the mountains to the south

Sunrise on Sheephead Mountain

I rounded a corner and saw Sheephead Mountain in front of me, with the boulders on top that look, to me, like an entire sheep, not just the head. I followed the path, getting used to the idea that any elevation gain would be in the last .4 miles. I came across a gate that said I could be arrested if I went into the property. All of the trail reports online instructed me to head on through. After pouring through some online maps after I’ve returned, I think the true property line for the private lane is further along the road, and if you follow a very slight trail where there is a stacked rock, you will avoid private land altogether. I am going to research more on this for the book, so I don’t get anyone arrested.

Sheephead Mountain from the trail

I, however, found the bottom of the wash as described in other trail reports and headed on up. And by up I mean up. I gained 624 feet of elevation in .4 miles. With the sandiness of the trail, my loss of conditioning due to the flu, and the manzanita tearing at the skin on my shins, it seemed like a lot longer than .4 miles. I turned around and could see the valley below where I came from.

View from the side of the mountain down to the head of Kitchen Valley

The winds continued to increase, the further up I got, and I realized how close I was to Monument Peak, where I got blown all over the place. I made it to the top and was presented with a view of Cuyamaca Peak and Stonewall Peak and most of the southern section of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. I briefly scrambled to the top of the sheep boulder, but quickly descended, as I was being buffeted by high winds.

I found some shelter in the lee side of the stone before I made my way back down. The views were incredible and I could see forever. Another great morning of hiking. I recommend wearing long pants, due to the manzanita on the use trail.

The view south from Sheephead Mountain

Channing Meadow from Sheephead Mountain Summit

Sheephead Mountain Trail Map

Sheephead Mountain Trail Map (Click to enlarge)

Map from parkinfo.org showing route on public lands

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the kind words. It is a beautiful hike and it was really nice to be the only one around. There is a section where you could miss the trail turnoff on the way back and I noticed footprints of someone else who did the same thing! That will definitely go into the book.

  2. says

    Another option for this Saturday… You wouldn’t happen to have a track log for this hike would you? I am looking on gMaps and gEarth and can’t seem to find a trail.

    Thank you!!!

  3. says

    I tried to summit this peak on Saturday and was unsuccessful. I got to the base of the mountain and spent about 30 min bush whacking trying to find some resemblance of a trail to the top with no luck. I might have spent a little more time looking for a trail if it wasn’t for the giant rattle snack that crossed my path. That is when I decided to get out of the bush.

    I learned a good lesson on this hike though. I had some GPS issues with no back-up. From now on I’ll be bringing paper maps/directions too.

    I will try again for sure. Was a nice easy hike until I got to the base.

  4. says

    Too bad. It is a nice hike and one I will probably repeat soon. Or when it gets cooler.

    Yea, my rule is No Paper, No Hike. But you really just have to get a sense of the area and, I don’t know, use the force to feel where the trail would be.

    Since I’ve hiked so much, I developed a way of sensing trails and the right path.

    I also memorize Google Earth before I go, which helps. Also, the AccuTerra app shows me where I am on the TOPO, which helps a lot.

    I printed out the directions I got from the HPS web site and brought it with me for this one.

  5. says

    I went back and did this hike this weekend. I was fully prepared, found the trail and made it to the top. Such a beautiful view from up there.

    I came across a few hunters as I was getting to Kitchen Creek Road from the trail head. They didn’t looks too happy to see me, or hear me… I was making a bunch of noise to scare off any predators. I wasn’t too happy seeing a people with guns, so I guess that makes us even. :)

    Overall a great hike. Wear pants!

    13/100

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