Old Sunrise Highway is today’s Pacific Crest Trail

Hikers on today’s Pacific Crest Trail have the pleasure of using an old alignment of Sunrise Highway, walking along the edge of a rocky drop of several hundred feet to the desert below.

It must have been something that must have scared the heck of drivers — especially at night — along what was the road from around 1916 to perhaps 1951.

This stretch of the trail, accessible from the Pioneer Mail picnic area on the south and Kwaamii Point on the north, still looks like an old road cut, and a serious one at that.

The best view is from the Kwaamii Point parking lot on the north, as I mention in my Spectacular Sunrise chapter in Fetzer) or 1916 (Wray) with improvements in the 1930s and 1940s, according to these sources. A 1942 USGS map shows the old alignment; 1960 USGS map shows it in its current alignment.

My theory was that the realignment came with the opening of the Air Force radar station nearby on Mount Laguna in September 1951.

The Pacific Crest Trail came along and designated the old highway as its route, part of a trail going from border-to-border, Mexico to Canada.

So, maybe one of those days I’ll get into one of those dusty file cabinets in the basement of a government building somewhere and be able to confirm this. The document that probably has all of this is whatever was prepared for the designation of Sunrise Highway as a National Forest Scenic Byway. But that’s for another day.

In the meantime, I highly recommend you hike or drive Sunrise Highway as your next San Diego day trip. Grab or download a copy of

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