OverviewWill Thrall Peak is located in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest. It can be found on the Southeastern end of Pleasant View Ridge located in the central Back Range of the mountains. Back Range peaks are afforded wonderful northerly views of the Antelope and Victor Valleys of the Mojave Desert. On exceptional days the Southern Sierra Nevada peaks can be seen. Looking south you will see Cooper Canyon lined with Jeffrey Pines, Cedars, Oaks and Alder Trees. Beyond the canyon you can see several peaks including Mount Waterman and Twin Peaks.
Will Thrall Peak is located in one of the more remote areas of the San Gabriels so it is less commonly hiked compared to more popular nearby mountains such as Waterman or Williamson. Access from Buckhorn Campground allows the hiker a very pleasant hike descending into Buckhorn and then Cooper Canyons. A good portion of this trail follows a tree lined stream until you eventually begin the hike out of the canyon and on up to Buckhart Saddle.
The Peak is named for Will Thrall, a well-known historian and preservationist of the San Gabriel Wilderness and editor of Trails Magazine of the 1930’s. He devoted much of his time retracing Indian trade trails and camps throughout the mountains. Thrall was also a well known advocate of the spiritual and health benefits of hiking and camping. The peak was named for him in 1963 following governmental protocol of naming peaks posthumously.
Getting ThereBuckhorn Campground - South Burkhart Trail Approach
From the 210 freeway in La Canada exit Angeles Crest Highway (SR2) and head north towards the mountains. You will travel 33 miles eventually passing Mount Waterman Ski Area. After another ½ mile watch for the Buckhorn Campground Entrance. The Standard Forestry Service sign seems to go missing on a regular basis. If it is missing again review the photo on the left for the small blue sign with white arrow. Turn left here and follow the one way road down into the campground. Tree signs will guide you further down to the trailhead parking area just below the camping area.
Note: Buckhorn Campground access is seasonal between April 1st and November 30th. To access the Burkhart Trailhead while Buckhorn is closed, continue past the campground entrance on Hwy 2 for 3/4's of a mile to a large left side turnout that is the campground exit. Hike approximately one mile down through the campground to the trailhead.
This is an 11 mile roundtrip with a starting elevation of 6460'. Follow the trailhead (10W02) down for 1 3/4 miles past the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) junction staying right and continuing along the Burkhart Trail. In another quarter mile you will cross Little Rock Creek, elevation 5600'and shortly come to another trail junction with Rattlesnake Trail. (Currently closed due to the Mountain Yellow Legged Frog). Turn left onto the Burkhart Trail and follow it for 3 miles to the Burkhart Saddle at an elevation of 6959'. From the saddle or the 5 mile marker turn left or west up the steep use trail for 1/2 mile to the summit at 7845. The use trail is easy to spot and is primarily short switchbacks gaining nearly 900 feet.
Devils Punchbowl – North Burkhart Trail Approach
You can access the trailhead from two high desert directions:
From the West – Palmdale / Lancaster
From the 5 Freeway just north of the city of San Fernando:
1. Take ramp onto CA-14 - go 29.5 miles
2. Take the Angeles Forest Hwy exit onto Sierra Hwy toward Pearblossom Hwy - go 1.6 miles
3. Continue on Pearblossom Hwy - go 12.2 miles
4. Turn Right on 121st St E - go 1.8 miles
5. Turn Left on Fort Tejon Rd - go 1.1 miles
6. Turn Right on Longview Rd - go 2.3 miles
7. Turn Left on Tumbleweed Rd - go 0.5 miles
8. Tumbleweed Rd becomes Forest Service Route 4N12 - go 2.5 miles
9. Arrive at 28000 DEVILS PUNCH BOWL RD, PEARBLOSSOM
From the East – Ontario / San Bernardino / Cajon Pass
Proceed north on highway 15 or 215 until they merge and become highway 15.
1. Proceed 7.6 miles and take the CA-138 exit toward PALMDALE/SILVERWOOD LAKE
2. Turn Left on CA-138 - go 15.3 miles
3. CA-138 becomes ANTELOPE HWY - go 5.6 miles
4. Continue on PEARBLOSSOM HWY - go 9.1 miles
5. Turn Left on LONGVIEW RD - go 2.2 miles
6. Turn Left on FORT TEJON RD - go 0.3 miles
7. Turn Right on LONGVIEW RD - go 2.3 miles
8. Turn Left on TUMBLEWEED RD - go 0.4 miles
9. Continue on DEVILS PUNCHBOWL RD - go 2.6 miles
10. Arrive at 28000 DEVILS PUNCH BOWL RD, PEARBLOSSOM
Devils Punchbowl Trailhead
This 15½ mile roundtrip starts at the Nature Center parking lot at an elevation of 4760'. Follow the Burkhart Trailhead ¾’s of a mile past the water tank to a trail junction turning right or west following the sign "Burkhart Saddle 6.2 miles". At 2 miles you arrive upon a dirt rod junction. Turn left on the road indicating "Burkhart Saddle 3.7 miles". Follow the road where you will soon pass a windmill. The road then descends becoming a trail. Once you have crossed the creek bed head right following the trail up for 3 ½ miles to Burkhart Saddle at an elevation of 6959'. From the saddle hike to the right or west up the use trail to the summit at 7845.
Extending the Hike
Pleasant View Ridge
After Will Thrall many climbers will continue along the ridgeline to Pleasant View Ridge (Elevation 7983) and bag this summit as well. It adds an additonal 1.5 miles to the climb and approximately 300 extra feet of ascent. Views from this peak are comprable to those of Will Thrall Peak but provide a better perspective west.
NOTE: Pleasant View Ridge is Northwest of Will Thrall Peak. It is identified on TOPO and the USGS survey mark at the Summit as "Pallet".
Another popular variation after these two is to return back to Burkhart Saddle and then climb Pallet Mountain (Elevation 7760) for your third peak of the day. This adds another 1 mile to the trip. Again the climb from the saddle is a steep switchback use trail climbing 800 feet in 1/2 mile. From Pallet Mountain Summit you gain a view of Devil’s Punchbowl County Park located just north east of the peak. The Punchbowl is well known for its exposed sandstone, shale and other colorful rock formations. The park lies just south of the San Andreas Fault rift zone.
On Topo "Pallet Mountain" lies just east of Will Thrall Peak
When to climb and WeatherThe San Gabriel Wilderness Area can be enjoyed year round. The summertime is the most popular season. Winter approaches should include crampons and ice axe as appropriate.
National Weather Service Pinpoint Forecast
Red TapeBuckhorn South trailhead
To access from the Buckhorn South trailhead you must have a National Forest Adventure Pass for any parked vehicle at the trailhead. Fees are $5.00 a day or $30.00 for an annual pass. They can be purchased at any ranger station or most sporting goods stores.
Devils Punchbowl Burkhart Trailhead
To access from the Devils Punchbowl Burkhart Trailhead north you must part at the nature center parking lot. Currently there is no fee associated with parking here. However access to the lot is restricted from sunrise to sunset.
Open April 1 through November 30
Total Sites: 35 @ $12.00 a day
Chilao Recreation Area
Open April 1 through November 30
Total Sites: 66 @ $12.00 a day
Angeles National Forest Camping Information