Overview: In Harvard's Shadow
In the San Gabriel front range, Yale sits in the shadow of Harvard. Undoubtedly, Yale alums would disagree that their alma mater occupies such a position in any other sense, but here, about 660 feet of elevation is the difference.
In the shadow: Mt. Harvard (5,441') seen from the summit of Mt. Yale (4,760'), 2/17/07
Mount Yale sits directly south of Mt. Wilson (5,715’) and Mt. Harvard (5,441’) and is accessible off of the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. It is well positioned for outstanding views east, west and south. Looking northwest, the sweep of wide-mouthed Eaton Canyon carries your eye to the pancake-looking summit of Mt. Markham, and the contrasting inverted “V” shapes of San Gabriel Peak and Occidental Peak.
San Gabriel Peak(L), Occidental Peak (R) from Mt. Yale's southwest ridge
Easterly, Twin Peaks and Mt. Baldy grab your eye.
Twin Peaks from summit of Mt. Yale, 2/17/07
Mt. Baldy (10,064') from summit of Mt. Yale (4,760'), 2/17/07
Further in the distance, Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto anchor the horizon. Looking south into, and past the Los Angeles basin, the quality of the views varies with air quality conditions, but in the winter you can almost always see Catalina Island and the ocean.
The most interesting and scenic route to Mt. Yale is via Bailey Canyon to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road and immediately onto the peak’s southwest ridge. This route starts at the Bailey Canyon/Grove Park trailhead
in Sierra Madre. Take the Bailey Trail up 3.2 miles to the saddle just north of Jones Peak (3,375’). From there, take the ridge that sweeps northwest over several bumps, including Hastings Peak (4,000’+).
Northwest ridge connecting Jones Peak to Mt. Wilson Toll Rd. View of where the northwest ridge ascends to connect with the Mt. Wilson Toll Rd. L-R: Mt. Lowe, Mt. Markham, San Gabriel Peak from northwest ridge
After the last bump, the ridge descends dramatically and then climbs steeply to connect with the toll road. At this point, you are 5 miles from the trailhead. Go up the toll road about 50 yards and you will see the beginning of a faint use trail on your left that gains Yale’s southwest ridge. This use trail is greatly overgrown in places to put it mildly. The ridge climbs about 1/2 mile to Yale’s summit. The round trip for this route is about 12 miles with 3600 feet of gain.
Summit of Mt. Yale seen from its southwest ridge
An alternate route to Mt. Yale begins with a drive to Mt. Wilson’s Skyline Park gate. From there, you descend the Mt. Wilson Toll Road past Mt. Harvard and then up a use trail on Yale’s east slope. This round trip would be about 4 miles.
A third variation would be to start on the first route, but instead of getting on the southwest ridge just off the toll road, continue up the toll road to Yale’s east slope and ascend the use trail from there. This would be about a 13-mile round trip with about 3,600 feet of gain.
A fourth variation would be to start at the Mt. Wilson Trail trailhead in Sierra Madre (one mile east of the Bailey Canyon Trail trailhead). Hike up the Mt. Wilson Trail about 2 miles to the steep “Connector Trail” off to your left near the helipad. Ascend the Connector Trail to the above mentioned northwest ridge coming from Jones Peak and proceed as described for the first route. This route would be about the same mileage and elevation gain round trip as for Route 1.
Getting ThereFirst and Third Routes: From Bailey Canyon Trailhead
The Bailey Canyon Park Trailhead is also known as Grove Park. It is situated within the city limits of Sierra Madre. From the 210 Freeway, exit at Santa Anita Ave. and go north. Turn left (west) on Grand View. Continue several blocks to Grove. Turn right (north) onto Grove and drive directly into the Bailey Canyon Park/Grove Park parking lot. There is a gate at the entrance to the park open “from dawn to dusk.” If you get there before the gate is open, there is parking along adjacent residential streets.
Bailey Canyon/Grove Park Trailhead
Second Route: From Mt. Wilson’s Skyline Park
From the 210 Freeway, exit at Angeles Crest Hwy (SR 2) and go north. At 9.5 miles, you will come to the Clear Creek Ranger Station and the junction with Angeles Forest Highway. Continue straight on SR 2 about 4.5 miles to the junction with the Mount Wilson Road at the Red Box Ranger Station. Turn right. Continue on Mount Wilson Road for 5 miles to the gate into Skyline Park. The Mt. Wilson Toll Road begins south of the parking area.
Fourth Route: From Mt. Wilson Trail Trailhead
From the 210 Freeway, exit Baldwin Ave. and go north. When you come to a traffic light where you have to go either right or left, go left to the next light which is Baldwin Ave. Take a right and continue up Baldwin Ave. through the “downtown” area of Sierra Madre. Approximately 1/2 mile from the downtown plaza, take a right on Mira Monte. Go down about 1/3 mile and you will come to a small park on your left. Park anywhere in this area along Mira Monte. To get to the trail, walk up the paved road that goes north off of Mira Monte next to the park.
Looking down at the Mt. Wilson Trail from saddle north of Jones Pk.
No permits are needed for this hike. If you begin at either the Bailey Canyon/Grove Park trailhead or the Mt. Wilson Trail trailhead, you will not need an Adventure Pass or Golden Eagle Pass to park your vehicle because these trailheads are not located within the Angeles National Forest.
If you hike from Mt. Wilson’s Skyline Park, you will need an Adventure Pass or Golden Eagle Pass to park your vehicle. You can purchase one at most Angeles Forest ranger stations or at most southern California sporting goods stores ($5 per day or $30 for a yearly pass).
There are no campsites/campgrounds within the immediate vicinity of this peak.
When to Climb
All year round. However, clothe and equip yourself appropriately when there is winter snow cover.
Check forecast information for nearby Mt. Wilson in local newspapers or internet weather services. Snow is common at elevations above 3,000 feet during the winter.
USGS 7.5 Topo: Mt. Wilson
Due to the overgrown condition of the use trail on the southwest ridge (Route 1), be aware that ticks may be an issue, especially in the early spring. It is recommended that you wear long pants and long sleeved shirts, not only for tick protection but also for protection against the abundant sharp Buckthorn overhanging the trail. Light clothing will make ticks easier to spot if they do get on your clothing.
As a practical matter, there are no water sources on any of the routes mentioned here so bring all that you will need.
External LinksSierra Club's Lower Peaks Committee Peak List
Angeles National Forest