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And Away We Go to the Top of Mt. Gleason

July 01, 2001|JOHN McKINNEY

A delightful, well-maintained length of the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the long, forested shoulder of Mt. Gleason, a 6,502-foot peak at the west end of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Glendale.

On the old road leading to the summit of Mt. Gleason, hikers can view the surrounding Angeles National Forest high country and see shimmering heat waves rolling across the Mojave Desert to the northeast. This path, however, travels in the welcome shade of live oak, big-cone spruce, incense cedar and Jeffrey pine.

More than 130 years ago, the mountain's tree-spiked shoulders caught the attention of George Gleason, superintendent of Eureka Mine in Soledad Canyon near Acton. Gleason figured the mountain would be an ideal source of timber, which was used to brace the mine's tunnels. His crew dug a rough road in 1869 and built a sawmill near the summit.

Before much wood was hauled down the mountain, gold was discovered north of the summit. (Some historical accounts suggest Gleason himself made the discovery.) The logging road soon became a mining road for prospectors. The mines never lived up to expectations, though mining continued sporadically for 50 years.

Mt. Gleason was home to one of California's last grizzly bears, called Monarch by people who lived, worked and hunted in the area. In 1889, the San Francisco Examiner assigned a reporter to capture a grizzly alive and tell a sensational story. The reporter teamed with local hunters to catch Monarch in a canyon. The bruin was transported to the San Francisco Zoo, where he lived until his death in 1911.

Directions to trail head: From Interstate 210 in La Canada, drive up California 2 (Angeles Crest Highway) nine miles to Clear Creek Junction. Bear left on Angeles Forest Highway (county route N3), proceed about 14 miles north to Mt. Gleason Road and turn left. Drive six miles west to a signed fork in the road. Go left, following the sign indicating "Public Camps." Descend a half-mile to a saddle and an unsigned turnout on the right side of the road. Park here.

The hike: Walk to a locked yellow gate and a dirt road descending 100 feet to the Pacific Crest Trail. Turn left (west) on the signed trail. The path ascends moderately under oaks and conifers. You'll get grand desert views about a mile into the hike.

After more than two miles of hiking, the Pacific Coast Trail makes a hairpin switchback onto Mt. Gleason's west ridge. Then the path intersects a dirt road leading south toward the summit. Before joining the summit road, briefly continue on Pacific Coast Trail to the lip of the ridge and far-reaching mountain and desert views.

The dirt road to the summit marches up and down ridge-top hillocks before transitioning to a crumbling asphalt road atop Mt. Gleason. The top is not a distinct promontory but a long ridge. The road traverses the summit ridge and leads to a junction with Mt. Gleason Road.

Return the way you came.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Pacific Crest Trail

WHERE: Angeles National Forest

DISTANCE: To Mt. Gleason is 5.5 miles round trip with 1,000-foot elevation gain.

TERRAIN: Forested slopes on western end of San Gabriel Mountains.

HIGHLIGHTS: Excellent mountain and desert vistas.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Moderate.

PRECAUTIONS: Insect repellent suggested, Adventure Pass required.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Angeles National Forest, tel. (626) 574-5200.

For more of John McKinney's tips, visit http://www.thetrailmaster.com.

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