Station Fire Restrictions
The San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California offer a rich variety of outdoor activities. With roughly 800 miles of hiking and riding trails, and many dozens of peaks offering stunning views of the Los Angeles Basin and the Mojave Desert, it would be hard to exhaust the possibilities. But situated as it is next to the nation's second largest metropolis, nature lovers are often outnumbered by motorcycle enthusiasts and families out for an afternoon BBQ or snowball fight.
San Gabriel peaks range in height from 5,000 feet to the 10,064 foot summit of Mount Baldy. Although no summit requires much more than trail walking skills in the summer, crampons and ice axe skills may be required for winter ascents of the higher peaks. Peak climbs range in difficulty from the trivial, such as the ski lifts to the summits of Thunder Mountain and Mount Waterman, to the masochistic ascent of Mount Baldy by way of Iron Mountain, which entails some 25 miles of walking over mostly cross-country terrain, and 10,000 feet of elevation gain (including all the ups and downs).
Red TapeParking within the Angeles National Forest (ANF) requires an Adventure Pass, which costs $30 for an annual pass, or $5 for a day pass. A Golden Eagle Pass is an acceptable substitute. Adventure Passes may be obtained at ANF offices as well as a large number of local businesses. The Forest Service maintains a list of where passes are sold here.
The San Gabriel Mountains are home to three wilderness areas: the San Gabriel, Sheep Mountain, and Cucamonga . The San Gabriel Wilderness does not require permits. Wilderness permits are required for access to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness via the East Fork trailhead only. Permits are free and may be obtained by mail or self-issued at the trailhead. No limitation on group size. Permits are required for all entry into the Cucamonga Wilderness. Permits are free. Campfires are prohibited in the Cucamonga Wilderness, and group size is limited to 12.
ANF guidelines for wilderness use call for camping 200 feet from other camps and 100 feet from water, trails or springs. Pack out all trash. Do not construct fire rings, rock walls or other “improvements”.
There are several Forest Service offices in and around the ANF. For Adventure Passes, current conditions, and other forest-related information contact:
Angeles National Forest
701 N. Santa Anita Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91006
Jody Noiron, Forest Supervisor
FAX (626) 574-5233
TDD (626) 447-8992
M-F 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Santa Clara/Mojave Rivers Ranger District 30800 Bouquet Canyon Road Saugus, CA 91390 Cid Morgan, District Ranger (661) 296-9710 FAX (661) 296-5847 M-F 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Los Angeles River Ranger District 12371 N. Little Tujunga Canyon Road San Fernando, CA 91342 (818) 899-1900 FAX (818) 896-6727 TDD (818) 899-1900 M-F 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Chilao Visitor Center Angeles Crest Highway (HWY 2) La Canada, CA 91011 (626) 796-5541 Wed-Sun. 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Mt. Baldy Visitor Center Mt. Baldy Road Mt. Baldy, CA 91759 (909) 982-2829 Daily 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
San Gabriel River Ranger District
110 N. Wabash Avenue
Glendora, CA 91741
Marty Dumpis, District Ranger
TDD (626) 335-1251 - Ext. 256
FAX (626) 914-3790
M-F 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
USDA-Forest Service Regional Office R-5 1323 Club Drive Vallejo, CA 94592 (707) 562-USFS (8737) TDD (415) 705-1098
Grassy Hollow Visitor Center Angeles Crest Highway (HWY 2) Wrightwood, CA 92397 (626) 821-6737 Open weekends
Clear Creek Information Center Angeles Crest Highway (HWY 2) La Canada, CA 91011 (626) 821-6764 Daily 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Big Pines Information Center Angeles Crest Highway (HWY 2) Wrightwood, CA 92397 (760) 249-3504 Daily 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Lytle Creek Ranger Station 1209 Lytle Creek Road Lytle Creek, CA 92358 (909) 382-2850 (voice) (909) 887-5783 (TTY)
- Angeles Crest Highway (SR2)
- Traverses almonst the entire length of the range, from La Canada to Big Pines. Exit Interstate 210 at Angeles Crest Highway in La Canada/Flintridge, or from the north exit Interstate 15 at SR138 in Cajon Junction, go west several miles to the junction with SR2 (on the left). From the northwest, exit SR14 at SR138 (just south of Palmdale), go east on 138 to Pearblossom, then turn right on Longview Road. Turn left on Avenue W and followit as it turns into Valyermo Road. Continue on Valyermo Road to Big Rock Springs, where it meets Big Pines Highway. Take Big Pines Highway to Big Pines and SR2.
- Angeles Forest Highway
- A north/south route that connects the Angeles Crest Highway with the Antelope Valley. The northern terminus is at Soledad Pass just south of Palmdale, where Angeles Forest Highway meets SR14. The southern terminus is at Clear Creek Junction, where the Highway meets Angeles Crest Highway, about 9 miles from La Canada/Flintridge.
- Highway 39
- A southerly access, this road used to connect the city of Azusa with the Angeles Crest Highway, but the last few miles were closed long ago due to frequent landslides. Highway 39 provides access to deep in the central part of the range. Exit Interstate 210 at Azusa Ave. (SR39) and head north into the hills.
- Mount Baldy Road
- This is the main access to the highest part of the range. Mount Baldy and surrounding peaks may be climbed from trailheads off Mount Baldy Road. Exit either Interstate 10 or 210 (whichever you happen to be driving) at Mountain Avenue. This exit is signed for Mt. Baldy access. Follow Mountain Avenue through Upland to the small community of San Antonio Heights, where Mountain Avenue makes a right turn and turns into what seems like a residential street. Follow Mountain Avenue a short distance through a residential area until it makes a sweeping 180 degree turn to the left. At the stop, continue "straight". A few miles further the road crosses a stream and climbs a short hill to a "T" intersection. This is Mount Baldy Road. Turn right. It is also possible to reach Baldy Road from Euclid Avenue or Baseline Road.
- Big Tujunga Canyon Road
- A lesser-used access for peaks in the southwestern region. Big Tujunga connect the Sunland area with the Angeles Forest Highway. Exit Interstate 210 at Sunland Blvd. Head east on Sunland to Foothill Blvd, continuing east. Turn left (north) on Oro Vista Avenue. Follow Oro Vista until it turns into Big Tujunga Road. If coming from the La Crescenta Area, it is possible to turn on Mt. Gleason Road from Foothill Blvd. Follow Mt. Gleason Road through a residential area until it intersects Big Tujunga Road.
There are many other access roads, some paved, some not. Details on the lesser-used roads should be provided in the "Getting There" section of individual mountain or trailhead pages.
Conditions in the San Gabriel Mountains are usually benign, and most hikers concentrate on having fun and enjoying the scenery. Still, the range is capable if dishing out serious punishment to the foolhardy and unprepared. The range is very steep, loose and rugged. Chaparral covers most of the lower slopes, and off-trail travel can be very difficult.
All roads in the San Gabriels are subject to temporary closure due to snow or storm debris. Chains may be required at higher elevations in the winter, usually during and immediately after a storm. The Angeles Crest Highway is subject to seasonal closure, nominally from Islip Saddle to Vincent Gap. This section of the road never opened in 2005 due to severe storm damage.
Wind is common at all times of the year. Thunderstorms are common, mostly in the summer. Rainfall in both summer and winter can be substantial. Dumps of several inches in an hour are not unusual, though such severe levels are typically associated with localized cells. Hazards associated with heavy rain are flash floods and debris fall. The steep hillsides typical of the range become quite unstable, with large rocks rolling downhill and across trails, and potentially life-threatening debris flows in stream and river beds.
The San Gabriels can get very hot in the summer time. Temperatures into the 100's are not unheard of, especially at lower elevations. There is often little or no water available in San Gabriel Peaks. Make sure to bring enough.
Santa Ana winds can occur at any time of the year, and often trigger "Red Flag" alerts that can result in access restrictions due to fire hazard. This is usually localized and temporary in nature, but 2004 saw closure of the entire forest for several months due to unusually dry conditions.
Rattlesnakes also come out in the warmer months. They can be amazingly difficult to spot, even when they are lying in the middle of the trail. Pay attention. If you see one, a gentle nudge with a trekking pole or some other mild stimulation is usually all it takes to convince a snake to depart. They won't attack unless they are antagonized.
Winter temparatures are quite variable. "Heat waves" sometimes occur in the winter that send daytime temperatures into the 60's even at high elevation. More typical high elevation winter temperatures are in the 30's-40's in the day time, and the 20's and 30's at night. Occasionally, cold air masses send the mercury plunging into the single digits, but that is rare. Snow can be a problem for unprepared motorists.
Snow can also pose a danger in the backcountry. Although the range usually warms up enough to consolidate the snowpack within a few days of a big dump, I have seen crown lines from slab avalanches that ran almost the entire width of the Baldy Bowl.
More typical are soft, loose snow avalanches in warm, sunny afternoons. These are very common. Although they are usually small and slow-moving, a couple of warm, sunny days is all it takes after a heavy storm to generate some powerful wet snow slides. One such slide crossed the trail to the Baldy Ski Hut in the winter of 2005. It was over 100 feet wide and ran approximately 1,000 feet. An even larger slide occurred on the north side of Baldy in the fall of 2005, proving that such slides are not limited to abnormally big snow years.
Warm day time temperatures and sub-freezing nights quickly turn snow in the San Gabriels into a sun-crusted nightmare that won't support body weight and is too hard to kick steps into in the morning, but by afternoon becomes bottomless mush. Near-freezing temperatures and high humidity during storms also creates heavy rime, and, combined with high winds, skating-rink quality ice on exposed ridges. Crampons and ice axe are often needed, especially on north slopes.
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