Pinyon Ridge is probably one of the more obscure San Gabriel summits on the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Hundred Peaks Section
(HPS) list. Although surrounded by higher mountains to its south, Pinyon Ridge has commanding views of the high desert north of Los Angeles. On clear days, sweeping vistas of the coastal mountains, the Southern Sierra, the Death Valley ranges, and even Mt Whitney can be had. To the south, Baden Powell dominates the skyline. Minor by even San Gabriel standards, Pinyon Ridge makes an excellent warm-up hike for some of the tougher Wrightwood area peaks such as Ross Mountain
or the Baden-Powell
to Throop Peak
While being a relatively insignificant ridgeline in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Pinyon Ridge placename has existed for over a century, first identified on a USGS survey in 1901. The “peak” appeared on the original HPS list
compiled in 1946 and is approximately 4 miles long, anchored by the high point on the east end. Forest Road 4N56
runs the entire length of the ridge top and can be seasonally accessed using a suitable vehicle
. Access to 4N56 is either from Vincent Gap via Forest Road 3N26.2 or roughly 4 miles past the town of Big Pines using Forest Road 4N12. Check with the Big Pines Information Station (760.249.3504) for conditions before attempting these typically gated roads.
Pinyon Ridge shown running along the bottom of the photo
Pinyon Ridge can be approached from three different directions: Angeles Crest Highway (SR2) from La Canada
, Angeles Crest Highway (SR2) or N4 from Wrightwood
, and N4 from Palmdale.
Interstate 15 to Pearblossom Highway (138) offers the quickest approach to all routes on the mountain. Current road conditions for SR 2 and N4 can be found at the Caltrans website
To get to Vincent Gap Saddle, take the Angeles Crest Highway from La Canada (SR2 off-ramp on the 210 Freeway) north for 50 miles. A junction with the Angeles Forest Highway is reached after 9.5 miles – stay right to continue to Vincent Gap. This is a very popular route on the weekends with motorcycle clubs, auto clubs, and bicyclists -- park in the paved parking lot at the saddle next to the seasonally locked gate.
The Angeles Crest Highway from the north is reached by taking Interstate 15 north and exiting off the 138 West just before ascending the final grade of the Cajon Pass. The junction with the Angeles Crest Highway to Wrightwood is reached shortly. Wrightwood can also be reached from Palmdale using the 138 East. Shortly after passing through Wrightwood, the Angeles Crest Highway (in the village of Big Pines) turns southwest until it terminates at the Vincent Gap parking lot (about 5 miles). Like the Islip Saddle, a seasonal locked gate prevents further travel on SR2 during winter time
N4 is reached by following the directions above for the northern approach to SR2 but turning right in Big Pines onto N4. N4 can also be accessed from Palmdale via the Ft Tejon Road. Head east for about 12 miles on CA-138 and make a right on 87th Street (or any connector road in that area). Turn left onto Ft Tejon Road which eventually becomes N4.
Baden Powell from the high point of Pinyon Ridge (Jan 09)
There are several roads and routes that can be used to approach or hike Pinyon Ridge. Two of the four described below can be driven if the gates are open.
This is probably the preferred hiking route as it’s the shortest of possibilities. The HPS website describes the start of the hike at N4 mileage marker 6.72, about 5 miles west of Big Pines. This marker is next to the entrance of a YMCA camp so don’t drive into the property or block access. The northern approach follows either a firebreak on the ridge spur just west of the camp or a trail that that starts after walking through the camp. Permission is required to enter the camp and the trail eventually hits 4N56 just before it reaches the top of Pinyon Ridge. The firebreak can be accessed after working upwards (SW) a couple of hundred feet through brush or by starting ¼ mile further west on N4. The firebreak is a straight forward hike of less than ½ mile and ends at the summit.
From the Vincent Gap parking lot, head north up the dirt road (3N26.2) past a gate. Make sure to take the uphill (right) branch just past the gate as the lower one leads to Big Rock Creek. In roughly a mile, take the road coming in from the left. In about another mile (with some elevation loss), take the right branch; the left branch leads down 4N55. In about ¾ of a mile, Forest Road 4N12 comes in from the right. Stay left as the road makes its way up to the top of the ridge in another ½ mile. The summit cairn is on the gentle rise to the right (north) of the road.
From just west of Jackson Lake off N4, Forest Road 4N12 heads west. In about 2.5 miles, Forest Road 4N56 comes in from the left. Turn right and follow the road as it makes its way up to the top of the ridge in another ½ mile. The summit cairn is on the gentle rise to the right (north) of the road.
There are several variations of a western approach that all amount to gaining the ridge and 4N56 some place west of the summit. The shortest route is probably up another northern aspect firebreak that is reached 1.75 miles west of the YMCA camp on N4 (just before getting to Largo Vista Rd.). This route is about ¾ mile up the firebreak and a little less that 1.5 miles east on 4N56. Some of the land that may be used to access Pinyon Ridge could be private so caution and courtesy should be exercised.
Red Tape, Camping, & Conditions
You will need an
Adventure Pass or Golden Eagle Pass to park your vehicle at any of the three parking areas. Besides some Forest Service locations, they are sold at most major sporting goods stores in southern California ($5 per day and $30 for an annual pass). Up to date information on conditions can be obtained from the Angeles Forest website
Several campgrounds are in the immediate area and can be reserved through www.recreation.gov
. In heavy snow years, the ridge and the local road may be covered in snow and additional cold weather gear (snowshoes, crampons, ice ax, chains for the car) could be required. Check for current weather
See Steve Larson's
for more information on the San Gabriel Mountains
Bob Burd’s report
San Gabriel Mountains Discussion Board