Winston Peak (~7,502’) is a minor peak immediately north of Cloudburst Summit (~7,018’) on the Angeles Crest Highway. The usual ascent is a short about 0.5 mile long hike from Cloudburst Summit via the south ridge with about 500 feet of elevation gain. Out of necessity, forced by a closure of the Angeles Crest Highway about 3 miles west of Cloudburst Summit, we climbed Winston Peak via its west ridge, which is a little less than one mile with about 800 feet of elevation gain. This route seems to be rarely taken as there was essentially no use-trail to find. Occasionally, we came across some red ribbons in the trees, which indicate the use by some. It’s a beautiful, cross-country climb through a gorgeous, open pine forest and scattered large rock formations and boulders typical of the middle high country of the San Gabriel Mountains. The following route description illustrates the hike along the PCT from the trailhead on the Angeles Crest Highway west of Camp Glenwood to the begin of the west ridge of Winston Peak, the ascent to the summit and the return via its south ridge and PCT and Angeles Crest Highway.
The hike described below totals to about 7.5 miles round-trip with roughly 1,800 feet of elevation gain.
The trailhead for the hike described here is about 0.3 miles west of Camp Glenwood. There is a wide parking area on the south side of the highway with a restroom. It’s about 16 miles east from the Red Box Station.
From the trailhead (~6,300’) there are two options to get to the start of Winston Peak’s west ridge. You can walk on the Crest Highway, which was very feasible and enjoyable when it was closed. However, since the new re-opening of the highway, you might find it more rewarding to take the Pacific Crest Trail, which essentially follows the Highway on the north side at a lower elevation. From the parking walk a few hundred feet east on the highway until you see a dirt access road to former Camp Glenwood to your left (north). Hike the short distance to the camp. From here you hike on the Pacific Crest Trail east, first slightly descending. You will cross some small creeks. The canyon you are hiking is Cloudburst Canyon, which eastern terminus is Cloudburst Summit. In the opposite direction, Cloudburst Canyon and its creek will merge with Squaw Canyon and eventually flow into the South Fork Little Rock Creek, which is desert bound. The canyon is beautiful with sugar pines and cedars. In spring many wildflowers can be seen, including lupines, western wallflowers, and numerous snowplants. Although the Crest Highway is only about 100 feet higher to your right (south) you will easily feel being away from human presence. After about 1.5 miles the PCT turns north and west, crossing the canyon and passing the few remains of another former camp. At about 1.9 miles and after some elevation gain you will reach a small rocky perch, from where you have sweeping views to the west and north over the Middle High Country of the San Gabriel Mountains. Mount Pacifico and Bare Mountain can be seen to the west; the canyon of Little Rock Creek heading towards the Mojave Desert. Following the trail you will soon top out on the Angeles Crest Highway (~ 2 miles). Follow the Highway (in north-east direction) until it makes a sharp u-turn. The ridge immediately to the north at the tip of the u-turn is Winston Peak’s west ridge. Leave the highway and start accessing the ridge. You might find some parts of a use trail here and there but it will vanish very soon. The ascent is fairly steep with about 700 feet of elevation gain in 0.8 miles to the summit. Pick you route of choice among the boulders, pines, and cedars. Although the climb is cross-country and trail-less, the navigation should be easy if you more or less follow the ridgeline uphill. There are some gorgeous rock formations that invite to climb directly over. After a way too short 0.8 miles the terrain will flatten and you will reach the summit area. A short walk east and you will see the summit boulders. There are two main rock formations on the summit area that compete for being the highpoint (7,502’). I checked out both but could not find any summit marker or logs. From the parking to the summit you have hiked a little less than 4 miles. You can rest among the boulders or wander around the area a bit. If you walk a little to the north you will have beautiful views to Winston Ridge and the Mojave Desert in the far distance.
Pacific Crest Trail
From the summit you could return the way you came or descend Winston Peak via the south ridge, which will lead you in about 0.5 miles on a good use-trail down to the Crest Highway at Cloudburst Summit. From the south ridge, beautiful views east to Mount Williamson, Mount Baden-Powell, Throop Peak, Mount Islip, and others can be had. Down at the highway you can walk back on the road or take another portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, which you can access a short distance to the west on the south side of the highway. Follow the PCT west for about 0.5 miles until it tops out on the Crest Highway a short distance to the south from where you gained access to the west ridge earlier. If you want to continue on the PCT back to the car, hike from here on the road a short distance uphill until you find the continuation of the PCT on the south side (left) and return the way you came earlier. Or, as an alternative, simply follow the road for about 2 miles back to the car. Again, walking on the road was enjoyable as the highway was closed for traffic at that time.
Some wildflowers seen along the hike…
Southern Mountain Lupine
Don’t forget to display your Adventure Pass on your parked vehicle.