San Diego Trail Tramps

Noble Canyon Trail, Top to Bottom

Date:  Sunday, November 20, 2016  9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (Saturday Pre-Hike Thanksgiving Potluck and Sleepover at members' Descanso Ranch)

Location: Laguna Mountains east of San Diego


(Trail Tramps members departing from our Hillcrest carpool site at 9:00 am Sunday, should arrive at the Descanso Ranch about 9:45 am. A group email will be sent out with the address. From there, we'll carpool/caravan together @ 10:15 am to the appropriate trailheads.)

Southern trailhead (leave one car here): From I-8 east take the Pine Valley exit and turn left onto Pine Valley Road. Turn left onto Old Highway 80. After 1.2 miles, make a sharp right onto Pine Creek Road. Follow Pine Creek Road for 1.6 miles to the Noble Canyon trailhead on your right. Follow the Forest Service road a short way to the parking area. Google Map Directions

Northern trailhead (begin hiking here): From I-8 east take the Sunrise Highway exit and turn left onto Sunrise Highway (S1). Follow Sunrise Highway for approximately 13.8 miles to the Penny Pines trailhead where you can park on either side of the road. Google Map Directions

Background info.:

Noble Canyon Trail is used by hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders. The hillside is lightly covered with oak and pine trees. In the occasional break between the trees, views to the northeast reveal Garnett Peak. Dogs are allowed on leash.

The Noble Canyon trail is very popular among mountain bikers due to its challenging, technical descents and beautiful scenery. If you don’t mind dodging bikers, it also makes for an epic hike through a variety of 3 distinct ecosystems.

Beware of those mountain bikers!  They haul ass down the hill, and most do not have a bell (even though there is a box full of them at the top and the bottom to use).  Some are courteous and observe trail etiquette, most do not.  There are a lot of trail runners too.

Hike Description:

We'll be hiking one way, downhill, for about 10 miles, from the Penny Pines parking area up on the Mt. Laguna Sunrise Highway. We'll end up down at the lower Noble Canyon Trailhead near Pine Creek, just north of Pine Valley. To do this, we'll carpool/caravan up to Penny Pines, leave some vehicles there, as well as down at the lower trailhead. There will be some initial uphill hiking, before the mostly-downhill trek, followed by a bit more uphill just before the final downhill run to the paved parking area at the lower trailhead.

For comfort and safety, hikers are encouraged to: trim their toenails before the hike(That's right! ...Because your feet are jammed into the toes of your hiking boots for several hours while trekking downhill.) If you have any knee problems, having some ibuprofen onboard before you start the hike can ease the inflamation discomfort. Carrying an inexpensive knee brace for backup is also wise. (The 99 cent stores even carry them!) and finally, trekking poles or a hiking stick are very useful for balance on the dirt/sand/rocky trail.

Even though this is mostly a moderatly strenuous, downhill hike, it's still 10 miles of hoofing on the trail. So be sure to bring plenty of water and carbohydrate-rich snacks for energy!

The trail is mostly dirt with an occasional rock patch and low shrubs on both sides. Mountain bikes have really done a number on the trail. Much of the trail is no longer flat and is V-shaped with loose gravel, and sometimes fist sized rocks at the bottom. You have to watch your foot placement for 80%+ of the trail.

A little past the halfway point, we'll stop into a mine cave near the trail. Although it only goes back in about 150' or so, bring a headlamp or flashlight along to keep an eye out for critters like bats, snakes or scorpions...

Misc. info:

There have been a number of mountain biker accidents in this area… Mountain biker hazards include a treacherously technical trail with steep drop offs just off the trail. So, keep an eye out for them along the trail, especially those speeding downhill.

Make sure you display your Adventure Pass anytime you are required to.  It is required at both trail heads for this trail. For more info. on where you need an Adventure Pass in Southern California, go HERE.

Google Earth:

Google Earth streams the world, over wired and wireless networks, enabling users to virtually go anywhere on the planet and see places in photographic detail. This is not like any map you have ever seen. This is a 3D model of the real world, based on real satellite images combined with maps, guides to restaurants, hotels, entertainment, businesses and more. You can zoom from space down to street level instantly and then pan or jump from place to place, city to city, even country to country.

Wanna see some awesome 3D animation?! To preview a 3D model of this actual hike in Google Earth, right click on this file and save it to your desktop: Noble Canyon Trail Top to Bottom.kmz, then double click that desktop file and it should launch Google Earth (if you already have Google Earth installed on your computer). If you don't have the free Google Earth application already installed, first go to

After Google Earth launches, simply scroll down to the bottom of the "Places" column on the left and locate the file that says "Noble Canyon Trail Top to Bottom.kmz" in the "Temporary Places" folder. Click the side arrow to the left of "Noble Canyon Trail Top to Bottom.kmz" to expose the "Noble Canyon Trail Top to Bottom" tour file. Then select that file, and click on the triangular "Play Tour" button just below and to the right of it. Sit back and enjoy the automated tour as you fly above the hike route!

If you'd like to check out the elevation profile of the hike after the tour, just right-click the "Noble Canyon Trail Top to Bottom" file and select "Show Elevation Profile". Move your cursor over the profile and watch the arrow move along the loop hike to determine the altitude at any point!