San Gabriel Peak

This was a fun hike.  I had planned to hike both San Gabriel Peak and nearby Strawberry Peak on this day, but found the trail to Strawberry Peak from Red Box Station was closed.  My back-up trail, Josephine Fire Road, was also closed.  While things didn’t go quite according to plan, I found the hike to San Gabriel Peak satisfied me for the day.  I also learned a valuable lesson when it comes to hiking in the San Gabriels – check to see which trails are closed and check to see which roads are closed, as this area, more than any other I hike, has problems with closures.

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The trailhead for San Gabriel Peak is unsigned but easy to find.  After traveling up the Angeles Crest Highway from the 210 Freeway for about 14 miles one will arrive at Red Box Station.  Restrooms are available there.  From Red Box, turn right and travel down Mount Wilson Road for about a half mile.  You will see a paved road breaking sharply to the right.  Turn onto the road and drive up about 150 feet into the parking area on the right side.  Display your Adventure Pass.  There are actually two ways to get to the top of the mountain.  You could walk up the paved fire road, shown here, or walk down toward Mount Wilson Road about 50 feet from the parking lot and take the rock lined trail.  Although unmarked, just look and you will find it.  The trail starts out steep and narrow.  Photo 3 – This shot is looking straight up the mountain.  The various logs shown here are holding the trail together as it switchbacks up the hill.  This is a fine example of how to engineer a trail, as the climb would be very difficult and dangerous without the switchbacks (and felt dangerous even with them).  I don’t have to use my MicroSpikes very often but they are perfect for this trail and highly recommended for trails like this.  Although the trail is narrow and covered with loose dirt, I don’t recall slipping even once.  With my MicroSpikes on I feel like I’m part mountain goat.

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The trail levels out a bit but continues to climb via switchbacks.  The fog was heavy at this lower elevation.

7     8     9   As I ascended, I walked through a grove of manzanitas.  Colorful manzanita berries make for colorful scat from the local fauna.

10     11     12   After awhile I rose above the heavy fog.  The trail sometimes runs close to the paved fire road.


San Gabriel Peak comes into view.

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The trail ended and connected with the paved fire road.  I kept walking up the road a couple hundred yards.

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22       23   Before tackling San Gabriel Peak I made a right turn and followed the road up to the slightly shorter Mount Disappointment.  There are lots of antennae and a few buildings on top.  The very top of Mount Disappointment is a large, flat area used as a helicopter landing pad, marked with the letter D.  D for Disappointment, I assume.  Photo 5 – Looking toward LA, obscured by the clouds.  Photo 6 – Looking east I could see the road winding up the hill on the right side.


The fog had lifted some and I was able see a few prominent peaks in the area.  To the left, just poking it’s head out of the soup, is what I believe to be Josephine Peak.  The tallest peak in the middle is Strawberry Peak and the mountain on the right is Mount Lawlor.

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27   Photo 1 – Close-up of Josephine Peak  Photo 2 – A scary looking trail cut into the side of a close-by mountain. I believe this trail leads down to Markham Saddle and Mount Lowe.  Photo 3 – San Gabriel Peak from Mount Disappointment.  I kept looking at it and wondering how I was going to get to the top.  Where was the trail?

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Haunted trees guard San Gabriel Peak.

30     31     32   Photo 1 – I believe this is the toxic Poodle Dog Bush.  Stay away from this plant.


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38   There is indeed a trail to the top of San Gabriel Peak, it’s just hard to see from a distance.  So, I began my final ascent up narrow switchbacks.  When I reached the top I made use of the makeshift metal bench.

39   Strawberry Peak and Mount Lawlor


Close-up on Strawberry Peak

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45   Views from San Gabriel Peak

46     47     48   I sat down to eat.  Within minutes the fog swept up the mountain and reached eye level.  A couple more minutes and I was enveloped in white.  Just goes to show how quickly conditions can change.


Heading back down, I was reminded of my super foggy Gaviota Peak hike.

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53   I had thoughts of heading down to Mount Lowe but the fog was so thick I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I would save that trip for a day with clearer conditions.  I did take that trail that is cut into the side of the mountain for a short distance, just to check it out.  I passed a broken telephone pole next to the trail.  The trail is not as treacherous as it looks from a distance, but I wasn’t too keen on not being able to see what was below me.  Photo 3The turn-off to Mount Disappointment, now shrouded in a dense, cold fog.

VIDEO: Thick fog near San Gabriel Peak

54     55   I made a new friend on the way back down – a mouse popped out of his trailside burrow.  By the time I reached the bottom things had cleared up enough to see all of the beautiful pines standing tall on the hillside.


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