The west ridge is a very enjoyable way to reach the summit of Mt. Isabel. An old fireroad heads up the west ridge to the summit, passing through steep, grassy slopes, serene groves of digger pines, and thick manzinita brush. There are two stream crossings near the beginning of the route. The summit of Isabel doesn't come into views about half way up, so make sure you have a good map and orientation before you attempt to hike the west ridge.
Follow the directions to the Smith Creek Fire Station on the main page
From Smith Creek Fire Station, hike down the Grant Ranch trail to the climber's left of the station. About 50 yards from Mt. Hamilton Road, you'll come across a gate. Go through the gate and stay left on the trail. The trail will very soon drop down to Smith Creek. The road follows along Smith Creek for a little bit, then crosses the creek. Cross the creek (it helps if you have waterproof boots) and continue on the trail. The trail will then soon come to where Sulphur Creek flows into Smith Creek (Sulphur Creek does actually have a strong smell of Sulphur, so it is hard to miss). IMPORTANT: be sure to cross Sulphur Creek. If you start heading up the fireroad on the north side of Sulphur Creek, you'll end up at Mt. Hamilton. Be sure that you have crossed Sulphur Creek and are heading up the fireroad that is heading south of Sulphur Creek. From here, all you need to do is follow the faint fireroad all the way up the west ridge. The road gets very steep in some places, yet flatens out a little bit once you obtain the ridge. About a little after half way up to the summit, you'll see some oddly placed picnic benches just off the road in some trees. It was just after this when we heard a startling, loud snort from a boar in the bushes. This made us side sweep on the grassy south side of the ridge around the bushes that the boar(s) were in, so that is an option if you come into contact with any of the wild boars and are scared like we were. Shortly after the picnic benches, the road begins to get more overgrown with brush. Soon the road ends all together. Not to worry, just hop the fence to your right and pick up the road on the opposite side. Supposedly there is a new "No Trespassing" sign on this fence. The road starts to climb at a steep grade for the final push to the summit. The road will come up onto the summit ridge and turn north, towards the highpoint. There used a small register in a tin can in the clearing about 10 yards south of the summit cairn, yet has been replaced by a warning note from the land owner (see the photo
). You have to push past some branches to get to the summit cairn, but it is worth the view to the east down the back side of Mt. Isabel that you get. There are some cool spots to explore around the summit. Re-trace you steps back to the Smith Creek Ranger Station.
Lots of water, snacks, water-proof hiking boots, maps, and whatever else you feel you need.
Biking the West Ridge
It is possible to mountain bike up the West Ridge of Mt. Isabel, however, unless you are pro, you will need to walk probably about half of the distance due to the steepness. Since virtually nobody travels on this road, is very poorly maintained. Fallen trees and other debris cover the road at many spots. The creek crossing at the start of the trail may be a problem if you are afraid of getting wet. With all these things in mind, you can make it from the summit back down to Mt. Hamilton Rd. in 15 minutes if you really shred. It's a welcoming feeling after hauling your bike up the road. If you feel up to it, I would recommend bringing your bike, it's a pretty fun trail to ride down.