Linking the San Gabriel Valley with the high desert, the Angeles Crest Highway is the major artery through the wooded country of the San Gabriel Mountains. In the years following the Station Fire, more and more of the great recreational trails off the highway are re-opening as they recover from the devastation. From secluded canyons to majestic pines to fascinating geology to panoramic views, the Angeles Crest Highway is a gateway to some truly awesome recreational opportunities. Here are ten hikes that can be reached by the Angeles Crest Highway, from west (La Canada) to east (Wrightwood and Big Pines.)
Gabrielino Trail: Switzer to Red Box. The Switzer Picnic Area, just ten miles up on the Angeles Crest Highway, is best known as a trailhead for popular Sturtevant Falls. However, the Gabrielino Trail also goes in the other direction, heading uphill through some scenic woodlands to reach Red Box, farther up on the highway.
Mt. Lowe. This classic hike yields great views for a modest effort. After traveling through a tunnel, the trail ascends Mt. Lowe where hikers are treated to a bird’s eye view of L.A.
Valley Forge. Continuing east on the Gabrielino Trail from Red Box, this hike dips back into the woods, following a scenic creek to the Valley Forge Campground.
Shortcut Saddle. The unofficial dividing line between the low and high country of the Angeles National Forest, Shortcut Canyon is pleasantly secluded. The reverse hike (down then up) from the highway takes in some nice views of San Gabriel Peak and Mt. Wilson.
Vetter Mountain. Like Mt. Lowe, Vetter is a short climb with long views. Climbing Vetter is now a bittersweet experience following the loss of the historic lookout tower to the Station Fire; it serves as a reminder of nature’s preciousness.
Mt. Waterman. Understandably one of the Angeles National Forest’s more popular hiking destinations, Waterman can be reached by several routes, the most popular of which is a moderate 6-mile hike from the highway. Great views of Mt. Baldy, the L.A. basin and more are among the highlights.
Cooper Canyon Falls. This elusive waterfall on the north slope can be reached by several routes, including a scenic 7-mile round trip on the Pacific Crest Trail, exploring some of the beautiful high country of the Angeles.
South Fork Trail. Few trails illustrate the contrast between high desert and forest as dramatically as this one. From Islip Saddle, the trail drops 5 1/2 miles, passing by some striking geology and taking in vast views of the desert.
Mt. Islip. This scenic peak can be reached either from the south via Crystal Lake or from the north, starting on the highway. The latter route visits tranquil Little Jimmy Trail Camp and shares the south approach’s dramatic summit ascent.
Throop Peak. One of the highest peaks in the Angeles National Forest at over 9,000 feet, Throop’s views are predictably excellent. With a trailhead elevation of 7,800 feet, your car has done most of the work for you.
If these hikes whet your appetite for further Angeles Crest Highway exploration, another list of ten hikes has been included. No matter how near or far you travel on this road, the voyage is sure to be as appealing as the destination.