Mount Laguna Trails Restoration Project


The Cleveland National Forest, federally managed by the US Forest Service, is home to many of the most popular backcountry trails in the county. 

The Cleveland National Forest (CNF) is made up of three districts.
  1. Descanso District (Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, Noble Canyon, Corral Canyon, etc), 
  2. Palomar District (Mount Palomar, Pamo Valley, etc.) 
  3. Trabuco in Orange County (Holy Jim Trail, etc.) 

SDMBA holds a Memorandum of Understanding, a Volunteer Service Agreement, and a Cost Share Agreement with the CNF which help give a solid foundation for our partnership and any work that is planned and implemented. SDMBA volunteers have worked on regular trail maintenance and trimming for decades.  Volunteer Trail Days are planned throughout the year on various projects in the Descanso District.  

Below are some of our efforts which are in various stages of the long-term advocacy and implementation processes.  
Descanso District: Laguna Mountain Trails Restoration Project

SDMBA has worked closely with the staff of the Cleveland National Forest since 2016 on this major effort to bring the Laguna Mountain Trails Restoration Project to life! This project includes many trail and infrastructure improvements which will take several years to complete. There are plans for new trails, reroutes and more that will not only improve the trail user experience but also project natural and cultural resources. 

We hope to begin work on this project in 2023 thanks to grant funding and individual donations.  

Read the complete Cleveland National Forest Laguna Mountain Trails Restoration Project Document HERE.

Letter of Support submitted by SDMBA with many of our valued partners signing on in support of more and better trails for Mount Laguna.

The purpose of the project is to improve recreational infrastructure within the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area of the Descanso Ranger District on the Cleveland National Forest.  This project will improve recreational infrastructure to accommodate the growing demands of the public and reduce recreational impacts on critical natural and cultural resources.  

Some highlights from the Proposed Action include:

  • NEW TRAILS: Construction of 7.96 miles of new trails including alignments from Penny Pines to Pioneer Mail and then on to Lucky 5 on the west side of Sunrise Highway which will include a partnership with Anza Borrego State Park 
  • SANCTIONED Legacy Trail: Approves some currently unsanctioned trails to be brought into the system (such as the Luge Trail on Wooded Hill)
  • REROUTES:  Reroute designated unsustainable alignments out of the meadow or away from other sensitive areas to improve trail user experience and protect resources
  • MTB OPTIMIZED TRAILS: Inclusion of limited mountain bike only trails some of which include features as well as directional signage. 
  • PROTECT: Reduce the overall impacts on critical natural and cultural resources which includes installing boardwalks or bridges or utilizing other techniques to protect surrounding habitat when reroutes are not indicated.
  • NEW SIGNAGE: Design and Install comprehensive trail signage  (thanks to the San Diego Ultra Running Friends for their support of this portion of the project

July 2016:  Descanso Ranger District Recreation Officer invited to SDMBA Advocacy meeting. 

February 2017: SDMBA approached Descanso Ranger District with an interest in working on improving the beloved Mount Laguna trail system 

March 2017-March 2018: several proposal were created, ground-truthed, presented, modified, enhanced, removed and rendered. 

April 2018: $15,000 REI Grant awarded to SDMBA to support this project and help fund planning and necessary studies. 

May 2018: agreement reached on scope and scale of proposed project for Mt. Laguna enhancements between Descanso Ranger District and SDMBA. 

October 2018: Forest Service will start the NEPA review process as we enter the Forest Service's 2019 fiscal year. SDMBA will most likely enter into a formal collection agreement with the Forest Service. This agreement will allow SDMBA to provide the funds to pay for all the USFS staff time relating to this proposal in addition to our existing volunteer agreement and commitment to assist the Forest Service in building these trails once approved. 

2019:  USFS specialists are continuing to work on the NEPA review process. This government staff time is being funded by funds raised by SDMBA supporters at the Mount Laguna Trail Fest events.  

August 2019:  Descanso staff attends SDMBA board meeting to give update of the project.  Everything is progressing according to the plan.  

2020:  projected completion of NEPA review and project proposal approval.  

2022: Limited scoping and comment period completed in August.  
Categorical exclusion approval for the project is expected to be finalized in 2023.
SDMBA continues to work with other stakeholders on the status of the project as well as begin search for funding including applying for grants. 

Winter 2023:  Implementation anticipated to begin

We thank the Descanso District staff of the Cleveland National Forest for their enthusiastic support of this project and we also thank our members, donors and sponsors for their support of this effort through events like the Mount Laguna Trail Fest!