OverviewAlamo Mountain is a broad peak, typical of the Transverse Ranges of Southern California. It is visible to the southwest of Interstate-5 near the Gorman exit, about an hour north of Los Angeles (the actual summit is inside Ventura County). Peakbaggers usually hike Alamo Mountain as it appears on the Sierra Club's Hundred Peaks Section list, as well as having a minimum of 2,000 feet of prominence.
Alamo Mountain sits within the Los Padres National Forest (Mount Pinos District), but the usual access is from the Hungry Valley OHV State Park. Therefore, expect to share your drive in, and possibly some of the higher roads, with dirtbikers and ATVers. For the actual hike, you'll probably be alone.
The peak is covered in pine forest up high, and scrubby manzanita lower down. There are scars from the big 2006 Day Fire on many of the hillsides. A narrow paved road gets close to the base of the peak, and a good-quality dirt road leads close to the top. Despite this, it's a nice day's adventure. I was able to drive in, hike, and exit in about 4 hours, going at a lenient pace.
Getting ThereFrom Interstate-5 north of Los Angeles, take the Gorman Exit and get to the west side of the highway. Turn right onto Peace Valley Road, then a mile later, left into the Hungry Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) State Park. Zero the odometer here. An entrance station is just a short drive in. Show your Adventure Pass or buy one on the spot.
Stay on the paved Gold Hill Road as it trends mostly south through the sandy, scrubby hills. This is an extensive park devoted to ATVs and dirtbikes, so keep an eye for them, especially crossing the road, and all the dust they kick up. About 5.6 miles from the entrance, stay right at a signed junction, which states Alamo Mountain is 10.5 miles ahead.
Continue on Gold Hill Road to the Piru Creek Crossing (11.0 miles by my odometer), then start up some steep switchbacks. The pavement ends at 12.8 miles. The next 5.3 miles is up good dirt road, which gains steeply up the hillsides. Sections are narrow, a lot of it exposed, but the road quality is very good in dry conditions. High clearance is recommended. Once you enter the Los Padres Forest, Gold Hill Road becomes FR 8-N-01.
Gold Hill Road/8-N-01 meets with Alamo Mountain Road 18.1 miles from the entrance kiosk. The Alamo Mountain Road circumnavigates Alamo Mountain, coving the distance in about 10 miles. There are two campgrounds up here and a handful of starting options to gain the highpoint of the peak (see below).
Note: my mileages differ slightly from those printed by the Sierra Club Hundred Peak Section website (below).
Note (2): Beware off-roaders on this upper road. The road has many blind turns. They come roaring down pretty fast, probably faster than appropriate for an exposed mountain road.
Note (3): The upper roads are usually closed until about Memorial Day. This area can get some snow, and moisture would make these roads treacherous. Call the Forest Service for updated road conditions and closures.
Red TapeYou'll need the $5 Adventure Pass. It can be purchased on the spot at the entrance kiosk.
CampingThere are two campgrounds up on Alamo Mountain.
Twin Pines: from the junction of Gold Hill and Alamo Mountain Road, go right 0.4 mile to a 4-way junction. Make a hard left and follow a spur road 0.4 mile to the Twin Pines campground. There are two main areas, but no facilities. Cost is free.
Dutchman: This is 3 miles from the Gold Hill/Alamo junction. I did not go here, so I have nothing to comment.
Hiking RoutesOption A (Twin Pines CG): Just before you drop into the Twin Pines CG, there's an old road veering up-slope, marked by a small sign. This road is not on any map. Walk up this old road and follow it about 0.75 mile to where you'll likely come across a giant downed pine tree (as of August 2010). You'll probably decide to just head up-slope to the ridgeline above you. Once up on the main ridge, turn right, descend about 50 feet across a lightly-forested ridge and then ascend to the actual summit, marked by a rock outcrop, with a smallish pillar being the actual highest point. This route is marked as "Route 2" on the Sierra Club's Hundred Peaks Section website (below). The round trip is about 2.2 miles and about 750-850 feet of gain.
Option B (SE approach): This is marked as "Route 1" on the SC-HPS website below.
Option C (Dutchman CG): On the map it appears a straightforward ridge-line walk could be made from the Dutchman camping area.
External LinksSierra Club Hundred Peaks Section Alamo Mountain Page
Los Padres National Forest