The purpose of this route is to provide a way to bag Butler and Crafts in the shortest way possible. Round trip is about 5 miles, and elevation gain is 2471 ft. This is designed as a one-way hike, so you'll need to have a car waiting for you at the end.
- the ridge between Butler and Crafts is overgrown with thick, waist-high, thorny bushes. These make the ~1.5 miles on this ridge slow, bothersome, and sometimes painful
- the ascent and descent from and to the 18 is very steep. The risk of a fall turning into an uncontrolled slide/tumble is high
Park one car at 34.247258, -117.002328. It's a scenic vista pulloff on the 18 that has plenty of room for parking. From this parking area, you can actually see most of the ascent route, including the fire tower at the top of Butler.
Park your return car at 34.245008, -117.027796. This is an area on the inside of a curve in the highway that has plenty of room for parking at least a couple cars.
From the parking area, walk North along the highway until you reach the curve to the left in the highway. Cross the highway (carefully) and you will be at the mouth of the drainage that will allow you to gain the ridge. According to the topo maps of the area, this drainage is called North Fork. You can either follow the drainage all the way until it reaches the dirt road that leads to Butler, or you can leave the drainage and head right (Northeast) once the slope in that direction looks more manageable. This will be the steepest part of the ascent.
Either way, your goal will be to intersect Butler Peak Rd. You will know the road once you reach it, as you'll be able to see it lead to Butler Peak. Follow the road until you reach its terminus behind the firetower. A sign with the word "Trail" on it will point you to the footpath that meanders among the summit boulders to the stairs to the tower. Climb the stairs and enjoy the view. I am told that on a clear day, you can see all the way to Catalina Island. You'll at least have great views of all the major peaks in the area, including the beautiful San Gorgonio. You will also have a view of your next goal, Crafts Peak.
Descend the stairs and the path back to the end of the Butler Peak Rd. You will now need to follow the ridge, however you deem fit, to reach Crafts Peak. The peak is in view the entire time, so just stay high on the ridge and you won't get lost. This is when you'll encounter the pricker plants, so hopefully you wore pants and gaiters. There are occasionally small game trails that lead through the prickers, but for the most part, you just need to suck it up and walk right through/over them. The ridge rises and falls during this part of the route. When you reach Crafts (34.251079, -117.029288), you can find a summit log amongst the rocks and there is a little shade.
Your next goal will be to reach the mouth of the drainage where you'll descend. On the topo, the name of this drainage is Snow Fork. The top of it starts at 34.246659, -117.032298. To reach it, head West off the summit of Crafts until you reach an old logging road. Turn left (South) and follow it downhill into a saddle, then uphill slightly to a small dirt lot. Turn left (East) and start descending the steep drainage. The terrain will start out as very loose dirt mixed with soot from the fires. It will soon change to terrain that is most likely too steep to safely hike on, so you'll need to descend via a narrow gully that the water in the drainage has formed. You may encounter some water in this gully, depending on what time of year you're attempting this hike. If you pick your hand/footholds carefully, you'll soon reach the bottom, with your return car waiting for you on the 18.
Gloves for dealing with the prickers on the ridge and the scrambling up and down steep hills would be very nice. In the return gully, there are small plants that like to embed small thorns in your hands.
Long, thick pants are a must for the prickers along the ridge, and gaiters would help prevent the thorns untying your shoes and pulling your pant legs up on you.
It might not be a bad idea to bring a length of climbing rope with a harness and a descending device. The ascent is challenging, but the descent could be downright dangerous and being able to anchor the rope on a tree while you control your descent would provide some much-needed safety. It would also probably speed up the descent since you'd be able to move more confidently.
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