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Hiking: San Gabriel Mountains : A Peak View Above Angeles Crest

January 30, 1994|JOHN McKINNEY

A splendid view of high mountain summits and the wide Los Angeles basin is a hiker's reward for climbing to the top of the San Gabriel Mountains' namesake peak.

Pyramid-shaped San Gabriel Peak, at the crest of the front range high above Altadena, offers a 360-degree view of basin and range.

Because of earthquake damage to Interstate 5 and California 14, many commuters are now using Angeles Crest Highway (California 2), which passes near the peaks. San Gabriel Peak Trail was not damaged by the 6.6-magnitude quake.

Take two maps to the top of San Gabriel Peak--one of the city, one of the Angeles National Forest--to help you identify metropolitan and mountain landmarks.

The mountain views are particularly good. From atop 6,161-foot San Gabriel Peak, you can look down upon two of the Southland's most famous peaks: Mt. Lowe (5,603 feet) and Mt. Wilson (5,710 feet).

Well-engineered San Gabriel Peak Trail, built by the JPL Hiking Club in 1988, takes you to the top. The hand-built footpath switchbacks through the forest and offers a delightful alternative to the boring paved service road (once the only way to the top) trudged by earlier generations of hikers.

Directions to trail head: From the Foothill Freeway in La Canada, exit on Angeles Crest Highway and drive 14 miles into the mountains to Red Box Station. Turn right on Mt. Wilson Road and proceed a short half-mile to a turnout, where you'll see the gated Mt. Disappointment service road and the signed trail head for San Gabriel Peak. The trail begins 50 feet to the left of the service road.

The hike: The path switchbacks southeast up the pine- and oak-forested slopes. Occasionally paralleling the Mt. Disappointment service road, the trail offers eastward views of Mt. Wilson.

About a mile and a half from the trail head, the trail joins the paved service road. You'll climb a short quarter-mile with the road to a junction. The service road turns sharply right (almost a U-turn) and continues another quarter-mile to the summit of Mt. Disappointment.

From this junction, bear left and soon join the unsigned footpath leading to San Gabriel Peak. The trail dips and quickly comes to an unsigned junction. The right fork descends to Markham Saddle and eventually links up with the Mt. Lowe trail system. Continue on the left fork, climbing southeast--first along the saddle between Mt. Disappointment and San Gabriel Peak, then up San Gabriel Peak itself. A stiff half-mile climb brings you to the summit.

San Gabriel Peak Trail

Where: Rex Box Station area, Angeles National Forest.

Distance: To San Gabriel Peak, 4 miles round trip, with 1,300-foot elevation gain.

Terrain: A forested crest of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Highlights: Inspiring panoramic views.

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate.

Precautions: Snow can cover access roads and trail; call for weather information.

For More Information: Call the Angeles National Forest Arroyo Seco Ranger District for recorded recreation information at (818) 796-5541, or Angeles National Forest headquarters at (818) 574-5200.

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