PCT to Morena Butte and Hauser Canyon

This hike follows the PCT from Morena Lake to a remote and undeveloped corner of San Diego County is tucked between the 8 freeway, the border, and east of the large north-south valley of the Pine Creek Wilderness.

From Lake Morena Campground, the PCT entrance and parking is just outside the gate of the park. Head south around Lake Morena and climb gently with views of the butte and the lake opening up to your right. Continue south and then east around the base of the butte, through the bone-dry landscape of chapparal, yucca, and cactus.

At about 3.5 miles in you will reach a saddle and the signed spur for the butte. Head west up the steep, rocky trail. There is a small bivy camp spot a few hundred feet up with a nice view to the north. The trail picks through boulders around the south side of the butte where views of Hauser Canyon open up to the west. Follow the abundant ducks to the summit, a flat, windy, boulder-strewn rubble pile. Hop boulders and check out the various high points for views of Hauser Canyon and Pine Creek Wilderness. It may be possible to stealth camp in the kitty litter with a tarp and bivy but this hasn’t been tested. Return to the saddle by retracing your path.

From the saddle, descend 900 feet into Hauser Canyon with wide-open views of Hauser Canyon. Note the Sunrise Powerlink coming in from the east, up and over Hauser Canyon. At the bottom the chapparal gives way to oak shaded creekside setting. There are a few camp spots here but they are trashed.

Unfortunately this area is well-used by the US Border Patrol, migrants and smugglers as well as pig hunters. I found trash in numerous sections and many hikers in this area have encountered Border Patrol agents. I hiked a few miles down the road into the canyon among the oaks, but turned around before I could fully explore the canyon. A few miles below, there is an open, grassy meadow that used to be a forest service campground, but I didn’t get that far. Given all the activity I am now quite sure I would camp here, but it’s worth another recon.