Mount Islip Do-Over

I celebrated my four year hiking anniversary by heading back to the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Islip.  It was over a year ago when I first tried to summit Islap and it was the one time I truly chickened out on a trail, quitting just before reaching the peak because I couldn’t handle the steep drop-offs.  I psyched myself up this time around by studying fear management techniques.  I was going to conquer Islip, stand triumphant at the top and finally redeem myself.  But a funny thing happened, I didn’t find the trail nearly as scary this time around.  I almost felt cheated.  I’ve tackled scarier trails than this since my first go round, such as the recently hiked Strawberry Peak and Chapman Trail, so that helped.  I thought to myself several times, “This is it? This is what I was so scared of?”  I still had a great day and getting to the explore the top of Mount Islap was a treat.  Here’s to four fantastic years of hiking!

1     2     3   The parking area at Islip Saddle is about 40 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway from the 210 side.  After the recent storm, the road is now closed between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap.  At the trailhead, a few walking sticks were left behind.  Two big ones and two small, it looks like a family of four took a stroll up the mountain.  The hike begins with a nice climb, and then through a little valley.

4     5   This part of the trail was a little overgrown.  The thorny looking bushes scratched a bit but look worse than they really are.

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9   Photo 2 – Looking to the west and over the closed road that begins near the trailhead.  I mistakenly started down this road the last time I hiked here.  Photo 3 – Looking back north, I presume this to be Mount Williamson.

8     10     11   The trail continued to climb through many wonderful trees.  These tall trees provide a lot of shade.

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There are parts of the first mile that fell a little sketchy but nothing too bad.  Here is a phot of the trail and the long drop.

14   After one mile I arrived at a road crossing.  If I remember correctly, you can go right and take the road for a mile up to Little Jimmy Campground.  The trail also goes there so I stuck with it.

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Looking to a road below.  I think this is probably the currently closed Angeles Crest Highway.  A rock slide blocks the way.

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After crossing the dirt road the trail is a little more mellow for most of the way to Little Jimmy Campground.  Photo 4 – Pine saplings sprout up beside the trail.

22     23     24   After about two miles I reached Little Jimmy Campground.  To reach the peak on Mount Islip I would have to exit the trail and head through the camp.  The trail through the campground and above is lined with rocks so you don’t lose your way.

25     26     27   Above the main campground is Campsite 1, where I rested for a bit.  If I were camping here I would choose this site.

28   I continued on another half mile or so to a split in the trail.  To get to the peak, go to the right and up to the ridge.

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The south facing views really opened up when I reached the ridgeline, although it was a bit hazy today.

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35   Once I reached the ridge I had to travel another half mile to the peak.  This is the area that gave me so much trouble last time.  The ridge trail starts on the south side, then winds back to the shady north side for most of the way, and then returns to the south side until it reaches the foot of the peak, shown in photo 3.

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This is the section that turned my legs to jelly last time.  You can see the trail is narrow, but the angle of the slope wasn’t nearly as extreme as I remembered.


The tree in the center of this photo is where I had to stop last time.  I had no idea how close I was to getting off of the ridge trail.  If I had just continued on a few more yards to the next tree then I would have seen the sign marking the turn-off for the peak.

39   The trail continues on down the hill to Crystal Lake.

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Photo 2 – Close-up on Crystal Lake

42     43   A short trail of switchbacks leads to the top.


Yes!  The ruins of the little cabin that sits atop Mount Islip.  I made it.

45     46     47   Photo 3 – At the very top sits the foundation for the fire lookout station that once called Islip home.

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The views were expansive if a bit hazy.  I looked north toward the desert in photo 1.


In the distance I spotted Strawberry Peak, shown in the center of this photo, along with nearby Mount Wilson, San Gabriel Peak and Mount Disappointment.


I believe the high point here is Mount Hawkins (or Throop Peak).

52   Before leaving I took time to reflect on my journey through the years and remember lost friends.

53     55   I headed back down to Little Jimmy Camp.  I spaced out and took the trail heading south instead of north and back to the trailhead.  I realized my mistake when I came to Little Jimmy Spring.  I could hear the water flowing below the trail. This is a great convenience to have a water source so close to the camp.

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Photo 1 – Big, hollow tree.  Photo 2 – Wood Abstract


Clouds formed in the sky as I returned to my start point.  I am truly grateful to live in such a beautiful area with so many awesome trails.

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