Saturday, August 20, 2016

Oakzanita Peak and Sugg Peak

Hiked: 8/19/2016
Distance: 9.6 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 5054' (Oakzanita), 5243' (Sugg)
Elevation Gain: 1750'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.4
Round trip time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 92 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Highway 79 at East Mesa Fire Road
Difficulty: Moderate

It had been a few months since I hiked in San Diego County. I was back to get a couple on the SDC list, Oakzanita (#27) and Sugg (#25). Oakzanita sits in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, while nearby Sugg is across the boundary in the Cleveland National Forest. I parked at a paved turnout on Highway 79 and East Mesa Fire Road.

I hiked down the road just before sunrise. It was already light enough to see without illumination. Quickly, I passed the junction with Lower Descanso Creek Trail and soon after hit the Upper Descanso Creek Trail that leads to Oakzanita. The trail was easy to follow and wound around the lower part of Oakzanita to a saddle with a wide grassy plain. The Oakzanita summit trail branches right and makes long, gentle switchbacks all the way to the summit. Evidence of horses was visible all the way to the top, where a hitching post waited. It was an easy, family friendly summit with a class 1 boulder pile. I signed the register, popular based on the number of books and recent signatures. There was an old style spike benchmark in one of the boulders circa 1935. The views were quite nice of Cuyamaca and its satellites, with Sugg and Sugg West the other direction. I didn't hang around long, returning to the Oakzanita junction and continuing southeast toward Sugg.

East Mesa Road, Oakzanita behind in the pale before sunrise

Junction with Upper Descanso Creek Trail

Summit looking toward Cuyamaca and friends

Spike benchmark

On the way to Sugg (left)

The trail cut through a couple of meadows before meeting the East Mesa Road again. From satellite recon, I thought I saw a reasonable way to get near the saddle between Sugg and Sugg West by continuing up East Mesa to an obvious open area. However, things on the ground don't always match up. I ended up spotting what looked like a use trail heading to Sugg and took it. It bypassed the barbed wire fence and I followed it until it disappeared in a drainage below the Sugg false summit. What I should have done was take the overgrown road by hugging the fence, but the road was hidden behind a large fallen tree. Instead, I took the drainage into a snarl of vegetation. I smashed through it for a while looking for a better way to the saddle. At some point, I stopped trying to get to the saddle and just went up through whatever was in my way. I forged a unique track over dead trees, rocks, and thick brush. I sort of enjoyed it, but can't recommend it. Once I got to the top of the false summit, the only obstacle was knee high manzanita and I reached the summit in minutes. There I found a register in red cans, a San Diego County benchmark, and two summit boulders that looked like horns. I guess they could also be ears but horns fit the personality of Sugg. The right horn was easy class 2, the left horn a surprising class 3. No holds at all in back, but one good hold on top of the boulder that could be reached from the inner face. There were only a few signatures in the register. I was the third party to sign in all of 2016. Sugg is about the opposite of Oakzanita as far as friendliness, or maybe it's just pickier about who it makes friends with. On the way down, I headed for the saddle with Sugg West. A giant boulder served as a beacon. On top of the boulder, I could see a relatively clear path to the saddle where I picked up the overgrown road back to East Mesa Road. It was a much better route, though still plenty of contact with brush. As I was returning along the road, I surprised a pair of foxes. One vanished immediately, but I fumbled for my camera and got my first ever photos of a wild fox. That was nice way to end the adventure.

Bungle in Sugg jungle, well that's alright by me

Top of the false summit approaching Sugg summit

Only two parties made it to Sugg this year before me

Summit of Sugg

San Diego County benchmark

On the left horn

On a giant boulder, mapping out the rest of my descent


Fox on the run!


  1. Just hit Oakzanita and Sugg today, you were still the most recent sign in.

    1. mhana,

      Nice! I am not surprised that a couple months has gone by without other visitors. I don't think Sugg appeals to most people.

  2. I just did it today. I'm the next sign-in! Damn the bushwhacking on this one was pretty intense.

    1. vacuous,

      Well done. Yeah, there is a lot of bushwhacking even if you find the best route. And more if you don't.