We thought we’d try one of the other hikes in the Mount Baldy area this past Sunday, so we choose Stoddard Peak. This hike starts off as an easy hike along a scenic fire road, but once you arrive at Stoddard Flat, get ready to do some bushwhacking, rock scrambling and climb over two false summits to get to your final destination. Once you reach the peak, the views are awesome. We had a perfectly clear day and a spectacular view of our majestic Mount Baldy. Being this is not one of the more popular hikes in the area, we only saw a few other hikers along the way and had the peak to ourselves. It was a fun day!Read More
Strawberry Peak is the tallest peak in the front range standing at 6,164’. It’s easy to spot along Angeles Crest Highway because it’s shaped like a Strawberry. We took the trail from Redbox, but there’s also a mountaineer’s route with a class 3 rock climb that you can access via Colby Canyon. We opted for the “easy” route. This was a fun hike which at times tested my fear of heights. Steep rock scrambles are more of a mental challenge for me then a physical one, so I had to push through some fears getting myself up there today. The expansive views as you hike along the ridge and make the steep climb to the top are absolutely worth the effort. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll work up the courage to do the mountaineer’s route! It was a fun, challenging and exciting day!Read More
On the way back from Devil’s Canyon today, we stopped off at Grizzly Flat so I could take some butterfly photos with my DSLR. I don’t hike with my DSLR anymore because it’s too cumbersome on strenuous hikes. I also don’t want to ruin it when I need to climb up rocks or navigate through tall brush. I brought it along today just for this hike since it’s an easy one up a nice, wide trail. The sun was in and out so it was mostly cloudy, but the hike was very nice. There were lots of wildflowers in bloom, hence the butterflies were around them. I didn’t see a lot of activity today, but I did see a few as well as some other critters in the short time we were on the trail. One of these days I’d like to hike up this trail a little further although it’s hard when you’re searching for butterflies because you end up spending a lot of time just in one spot waiting for that perfect shot!Read More
We’ve been doing a lot of canyon hikes lately. Devil’s Canyon was another one I’ve had on my “to do” list since we’ve been driving past it on the way to other hikes. The trail takes you down into the rugged San Gabriel Wilderness. It follows a babbling brook into the heart of Devil’s Canyon where it opens up to flat, sandy trail next to sparkling pools, cascades and smooth boulders that make a great place to have lunch. There’s also a primitive backcountry campground that you can stay at just a little further up the trail. I liked this hike a lot. The trail is quite narrow in many spots so you need to stay focused, but it’s not sketchy. The grade is also gradual, so climbing up isn’t so bad since you’ll gain all your elevation on the way out.Read More
It was 6:30 am Sunday morning and we were on the trail headed to Trail Canyon Falls, a beautiful waterfall cascading 30 feet down into a rugged canyon. What this hike lacks in distance, it makes up for in beautiful scenery. The trail to the falls winds through the canyon and crosses the creek several times before heading up to the top of the waterfall where you’ll have spectacular views looking straight down. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also descend a steep use trail where you can rock scramble your way down with the help of a rope tied to a tree to get to the base of the falls. Today the water was flowing beautifully, the wildflowers were blooming and butterflies were on the wing. Since we started so early, we shared the falls with only two other hikers. It was a very peaceful morning. As we headed back, I came upon a very hungry swallowtail who was so busy nectaring on Western Wallflower that he didn’t seem to mind me hovering over him with my camera to take some photos. Also, if you keep your eyes peeled, there’s a picnic table nestled away in the shade off to the side of the trail that makes for a great place for a snack break or even a picnic. We stopped there for a bite to eat before finishing up the hike. It was an absolutely perfect day with temperatures at about 65 degrees at 10:30 am when we arrived back at the trailhead.
The Burkhart Trail from Devil’s Punchbowl has been on my bucket list ever since the first time we hiked to Devil’s Chair and the Punchbowl loop. I wanted to get this one out of my system before the weather got too hot knowing that much of the trail is exposed. This hike is kind of like two for the price of one. It has a lot of diversity along the way taking you from the desert floor to the alpine zone. The first part of this hike drops you down to Cruthers Creek which is lower then the elevation from which you started at the trailhead. This section is a beautiful trek unto itself, but you have to remember to save some fuel in the tank since you’ll have to hike back up out of the canyon later on. Next, you cross over Cruthers Creek and from here on out it’s a long, steep haul toward Burkhart Saddle. Personally, I didn’t find the climb all that difficult. BUT… what I didn’t expect were the lengthy sections of trail with loose rock on sometimes very narrow and mostly exposed slopes. This trail has all kinds of terrain to hold your attention from beginning to end. We encountered soft sand, loose scree, talus, and pine needle covered track. I really enjoyed hiking through the different plant communities in this unique transition zone. As we continued onward and upward, there was a nice, cool breeze coming up out of the canyon to keep us comfortable. The higher we went, the more the temperature cooled and trail seemed to become more and more rocky with very few breaks in between. At about 6 miles in, just one mile short of the saddle, we hit our turn around time. We looked over at the saddle which seemed so close, yet so far! Then we looked at the trail ahead of us... More rock! Ugh. We contemplated making the final push anyway, but we both agreed it would be even more slow going on the way down and decided we should start heading back. We also still had to make the climb up out of the canyon. Carefully we negotiated our way down the slope. My trekking poles came in handy here. When we arrived back at the creek, I got distracted by all the little Lotus Hairstreak butterflies. I spent some time chasing them around trying to get a good photo. (Or maybe I was just procrastinating the climb back up.) As I tried to focus my camera on the tiny green butterfly who was posing so patiently on a leaf, a hummingbird mistook my bright fuchsia tee shirt for a flower. He swooped so close I could feel the flutter of his tiny wings. He swiftly flew away when I looked over my shoulder at him and he realized he was mistaken. As we began the final climb up out of the canyon a hazy cloud cover kept the sun at bay, and I enjoyed snapping photos of the ever changing scenery on the trek back to the trailhead. Overall, I really enjoyed this hike and would do it again. Perhaps next time we’ll start a little earlier now that we know what to expect with the rugged terrain.Read More
I had the day off on Friday so I headed out to Descanso Gardens to do some photography and catch the tail end of the tulip bloom. I haven’t been getting there nearly as much since we started hiking every weekend, but I did want to at least check out the spring bloom. Here are just a few photos from my trek around the gardens. Not nearly as many images as I took last year when we had the big super bloom, but still very pretty and always an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two.
What a great weekend to chase waterfalls! We took advantage of the recent rains and snow melt and set out to hike to Cooper Canyon Falls. From Cloudburst Summit we picked up the PCT. This hike is an “upside down” hike so you gain all your elevation on the way back. The trail starts off by dropping you down into the canyon and takes you through the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. The views are quite lovely as you make your way around Winston Peak. Eventually, you’ll reach Cooper Canyon Trail Camp. We hiked past the camp and continued on the PCT to the junction with the Burkhart Trail (another really pretty trail and actually a shorter route to the falls.) From here you have to keep your eyes peeled and find one of the use trails that will take you down to the bottom of the falls. The trails are very steep, but there’s a rope tied to a tree to assist with the final few feet of rock scramble. The waterfall was absolutely beautiful today. When we were here last summer, it was barely a trickle. After we’d gotten our waterfall fix, we found a nice spot in the warm sunshine and had some lunch before heading back.Read More
Sunday was another beautiful day for a snow hike. Although it was a little warmer than the last snow hike we did a few weeks ago, there was still plenty of snow to turn the forest into a magical winter wonderland. We packed our winter gear and headed up to Waterman mountain. We know this mountain pretty well by now, and I feel safe here. The trail is easily graded and there aren’t many narrow sections. There’s also an option to hike up a fire road if you so choose. We took the Waterman Trail from Buckhorn just off Angeles Crest Highway. The day started off with blue skies and few clouds, but by the time we finished more clouds were rolling in. There was a lot of water flowing from the rains we just had which formed beautiful icicles. The pines were heavy with pure white snow which made me feel like we were walking through a scene from a winter fairy tale. As last time, this trail was so quiet and peaceful. We took our time making our way up to the summit and enjoyed the picturesque forest. I'm not sure if we’ll get to experience this again this year since it’s just about Spring, but it really was wonderful and I can’t possibly think of a better way to spend a Sunday.Read More
We had quite a bit of rain over the past two days, but it wasn’t cold enough to bring the beautiful snow down to the lower elevations like we had last weekend. I didn’t want to take my chances slipping and sliding on muddy trails or contribute to trail erosion, so today seemed like a good day to check out Josephine Peak which you can get to by hiking up a fire road. As we drove up Angeles Crest Highway, we could see the clouds nestled in the mountains. There were patches of fog, but the visibility was still pretty good. We started the hike just across from the Clear Creek Ranger Station. The mountains looked so beautiful surrounded by the passing clouds. I spent a lot of time taking photos of it all as we hiked up on a nice steady grade. As the trail looped us around Josephine’s north face, the scenery got even prettier. Finally, we reached the single track that would take us straight up to the peak. Once at the top, we were engulfed in the clouds. There wasn’t much visibility, but just for a moment the clouds broke up a little and I was able to get some great photos. I’m glad I took a lot of pictures on the way up because as we headed down, the fog really began to roll in and I could barely see anything as far as views. I decided to have some fun by taking photos of my husband as he disappeared into the foggy mist. It felt like we were walking in a dream. The weather definitely made this one interesting!
Our destination today was Switzer Falls with the option to continue on to Bear Canyon Trail Camp. This was such a fun hike with a lot going on! The hike to Switzer Falls starts off at the Switzer Picnic Area and follows the beautiful Arroyo Seco. The canyon is shaded by oak and alder trees, and the wildflowers were beginning to bloom. The trail eventually climbs out of the canyon and takes you up onto a sheer cliff where you can look across to see the ruins of an old chapel which was once part of a wilderness resort called Switzer-land. Next, you’ll drop back down into the canyon and follow some switchbacks to a junction with the trail to Switzer Falls and the Bear Canyon Trail. We hiked over to the falls first. There was no one there today, so we sat for a while, had a snack and enjoyed the sounds of rushing water. After the short break we made our way along the Bear Canyon Trail. This trail was definitely not as well maintained as the trail we had been on previously; however, it was definitely passable. We had to do some boulder hopping, route finding and navigating up and over downed trees. There were a lot of stream crossings on this trip. I counted 58 total there and back. It was an obstacle course for sure, but that’s what made it so fun! We passed by many fish pools and small cascades. I couldn't help myself. I just had to stop, take off my hiking boots and go wading in one of the pools. The water was cold, but refreshing. Eventually we reached the backcountry Bear Canyon Trail Camp. This campground is very remote. It has some picnic tables and wood burning stoves but not much else. We sat for a bit and enjoyed the peace and quiet before heading back the way we came. We didn’t see a single soul until we reached the junction with the falls. Just the way I like it! It was another beautiful day well spent!Read More
What an incredible day in Angeles National Forest! I was hoping to get to see more snow before the winter was over, and today I got my wish! I woke up at 5 am and we headed up Angeles Crest Highway just after the sunrise. I didn’t want to leave too early not knowing what the driving conditions would be like. As we got higher up in elevation, we started to see the snow. The roads still had a very light covering, but the driving was fine and there was no ice. It was beautiful just driving along the highway. Our destination was Waterman Mountain. This trail is one of my favorites in the summer and seeing it for the first time in winter was a treat! The pine trees were heavy with snow and icicles. The forest was incredibly serene and peaceful. The only sounds we heard were the birds singing and the ice melting off the majestic pine trees. The air was fresh and the sky was crystal clear. It was a bluebird day for sure. Today was also the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to photograph snow. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I hadn’t gotten into photography yet. Also, I was just so used to having snow in winter, that I really didn’t think much of it. Well that sure changes when you don’t get to see it anymore. I could not have asked for a more perfect day.
Until I started hiking, I never thought I’d get to see snow here in Southern California. After spending 27 years of my life in Pennsylvania, you’d think I’d be over it. I guess I’m not. This past weekend we drove up through Angeles Forest with the intent to enjoy some snow. The plan was to do a short hike along the PCT from Islip Saddle to the beautiful Little Jimmy Campground. My husband had been feeling under the weather all week, so it wasn’t a good idea to do anything strenuous. When we got to Islip Saddle, however, the wind chill was so cold, we opted out. We got back in the car and headed over to the Blue Ridge Trail. This was one of the first trails we ever hiked in Wrightwood. It’s a great go-to trail when you just want to hike along a mellow trail through a pretty section of forest that will lead you to a nice vista on top. While I wasn’t expecting to be knee deep in snow, I was happy to at least get to see a little bit on some sections of the trail. They want another storm this week, so fingers crossed, Southern California will get to see a little bit more winter!
This weekend our plan was to hike a section of the PCT/Silver Moccasin Trail starting from Three Points and continue to the higher elevation of Cloudburst Summit. This section of trail sticks pretty close to the Angeles Crest Highway and crosses it several times, so you do hear a good deal of traffic noise when cars and motorcycles are traveling through. The scenery, however, makes up for the fact that you’re so close to the highway. The trail takes you along Waterman Mountain and into the Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness. It’s a beautiful trail with no lack pine trees and tons of fallen pine cones along the path. As we reached the higher altitude, we started to see some patches of snow along the trail Finally arriving at Cloudburst Summit, we were so close to Winston Peak that we decided to climb up and check out the views. Looking off in the distance we could see the snowy north face of Mount Baldy. It was about 1:30 pm when we started to head back and the winds were kicking up. We ended up doing about 12 miles out and back today according to my GPS stats. On the way home we stopped off at Charlton Flats to grill up some food. It was definitely feeling chilly by this time, but a warm bite to eat hit the spot.Read More
Just like every other Southern California hiker, I decided after having my first taste of what it feels like to summit a mountain, that Mount Whitney should be on my “to do” list. If you’re not familiar with Mount Whitney, it’s the highest peak in the lower 48 standing at 14,505’ and the highest peak in California. On February 1st the lottery opened to apply for a permit to hike the Mount Whitney Zone so I applied. I won’t know until March 24 when they post the results whether or not I’ll actually get a permit, but I thought -- why not try. The hike can be done as a 22 mile round trip day hike, but I’d want to break it up over a day or two which would require overnight camping. Camping is a whole other challenge I’ll have to tackle! Taking a day or two would allow my body to acclimatize to the altitude and although I’ve never experienced any symptoms of AMS, I’ve also never been up 14,000+’. While the chances of getting a permit are actually pretty slim, there’s always that “just maybe”. So we’ll see what happens. It would be a great challenge for me and it looks like it’s an incredibly beautiful hike. Summit or not, I know hiking the Mount Whitney Trail would be a beautiful experience and one of my goals before I turn 50 which will be in September of 2019.
Vetter Mountain was one of the first places we hiked to last year when we started our adventures. We didn’t really know much about hiking at that time, and I think between the two of us we carried only one bottle of water. I didn’t even own a pair of hiking boots! We’ve come a long way since that day, and knowing what I know now I can’t believe I had been missing out on these incredible places! That day kick-started our discovery of all that the great mountains surrounding Los Angeles and beyond have to offer.
After our 15 mile trek to Mount Wilson on Friday, we both wanted to do something easy on the legs. I’d heard the Vetter Mountain Trail (closed the last time we were here due to damage from the 2009 Station Fire) had been cleaned up and re-opened. I wanted to check it out. We drove to the beautiful Charlton Flat picnic area then hiked the Vetter Mountain Trail up to the stone foundation of the fire lookout (also burned in the Station Fire). The area is still recovering, but taking the Vetter Mountain Trail was a nice alternative to the service road which we hiked up the first time. When we reached the top, there was no one there so we had the views to ourselves and spent some time enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. On the way down, we took part of the service road and then hopped on the Silver Moccasin trail to return to Charlton Flat. It was the perfect day!Read More
The hike to Mount Wilson is one of the required peaks for the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge my husband and I are participating in this year. This hike is another one that had been on my bucket list. I can see Mount Wilson from my back porch, and we’d only ever visited it once in 2011 when we drove there. I was very excited to try and hike it! We did a loop trail starting from Chantry Flat then up over Sturtevant Falls on the Lower Gabrielino Trail passing through Sturtevant Camp and then finally the Sturtevant Trail to Mount Wilson. The Observatory itself is worth spending a whole day exploring if you have the time. On the way down we took the Mount Wilson Trail to Mount Wilson Toll Road, back onto Mount Wilson Trail to Winter Creek Trail to Lower Winter Creek Trail and back to Chantry Flat. I really enjoyed this hike and although it’s a long one, I didn’t find it particularly difficult. Most of the time you’re hiking through shaded forest, and the Lower Winter Creek Trail is exceptionally pretty. My legs were tired at the end of the hike, but the scenery was worth the effort. We’ll have to do this one again sometime when the Cosmic Cafe is open so we can get ice cream cones at the top!
I’ve had this trail on my list for a while since the trailhead is right next to Descanso Gardens. It starts off on the appropriately named Descanso Trail which follows the fence that runs along the edge of the gardens. I parked my car just before sunrise and started heading up. The trail makes a pretty immediate ascent through some oaks and a series of switchbacks. Once you’re up high enough, you can actually look down into Descanso Gardens. There’s some nice views of the San Gabriels and the Verdugo mountains from the trail. The Santa Ana winds were pretty intense this morning and made walking interesting. As I was hiking four coyotes crossed over the trail ahead of me and headed down the hill. They seemed preoccupied with whatever they were tracking and not so much interested in what I was doing. At an intersection called Five Points, I headed east on the Cerro Negro Trail and then finally up to the lookout to check out the Chrysler-Bell Victory air raid siren. It was even more windy up at the summit. I found the summit marker, took some pictures and then headed back down. This is a nice short hike if you just want to stay close to the city. Not much shade at all on this hike, so definitely not one to do when it’s hot outside.Read More
The trek to Mount Hillyer in the central San Gabriels is a meandering hike through impressive boulder formations and flat sections of beautiful pine meadows. This land was once used by horse thieves, the most notorious was Tiburcio Vasquez. This area was the perfect hideout for bandits to escape from the law and pasture stolen horses. The trail starts off at Chilao just past the visitors’ center on the Silver Moccasin Trail. The first section is a series of switchbacks through rocky terrain. After about a mile, it smooths out and you’ll reach Horse Flats Campground. It’s a beautiful camp equipt with corrals and hitching posts for equestions who ride in and want to stay the night with their horses. From here you pick up the Mount HIllyer trial and this is where you’ll start a steady ascent through the ginormous boulders. We took our time on this hike and had a lot of fun climbing around the various rock formations. As for the summit, there are actually two. The unofficial summit stands at 6,215’ and the second official summit is 6,162’. You’ll come upon the unofficial first. Once you’re done enjoying the views from there, you can hike just a little further up the trail and find a short use trail off to your right that goes to the official summit. We stopped there and had some breakfast. There was absolutely no one on the trail today. After we were done enjoying the peace and quiet of the forest, we headed back down towards Santa Clara Divide Road. We followed the road back to Horse Flats and then back to the Silver Moccasin Trail and Chilao. Loved this hike today. Short on the mileage, but very big on the scenery!Read More
Of all the times I’ve been to Joshua Tree, this was the first time we drove south through the Pinto Basin all the way to Cottonwood Spring to see the transition from the Mojave to the Colorado Desert. You won’t find Joshua Trees at elevations lower then 3,000 feet, but the Colorado Desert has its own unique beauty. Here’s where you’ll find the spindly ocotillo plant. I’ve always seen them in photos, but never made it down that far to see them in person. Our hike today was a 7.5 mile out and back to Lost Palms Oasis. Lost Palms Oasis has the largest concentration of Fan Palms in the park. Let me tell you this was a BEAUTIFUL hike! Undulating hills, lots of ups and downs on the trail, sandy washes, rocky canyons, plenty of cacti and views of the Salton Sea. We even saw a rainbow along the way. Once you arrive at the oasis, you can either scramble all the way down into the canyon under the palms, or you can enjoy the views from the overlook. If you don’t want to hike in that far, there’s a beautiful oasis right at the trailhead at Cottonwood Spring. This is a hike to do ONLY in the cooler months. They actually remove the trail from the park map in the summer to discourage people from doing it because some have died on this trail. While this was a much more populated trail then the CRH, it was still incredibly enjoyable. If you want to extend your trip, when you pass the junction to the Mastodon Peak loop, it’s about 2 extra miles to the top. We’ll save that one for another day. Before we headed out, we stopped off at the Cottonwood Visitor Center. It just so happened one of the rangers was giving a talk about rattlesnakes. I think I learned more about them today then I ever knew! It’s wonderful that these programs exist to educate people and get them outdoors to enjoy this beautiful world we live in and enjoy it wisely.
I've also included in this post some photos of our visit to the Cholla Cactus Garden. It's on the way to Cottonwood. If you're passing through the Pinto Basin on the way to the southern end of the park, I highly recommend taking a walk through the Cholla Cactus garden. You can't miss it. All of a sudden you'll see a patch of cute fuzzy looking cacti. But don't be fooled. These suckers will bite! Just a light brush against them and the spikes will penetrate your skin. They even have a first aid kit at the trail head with antiseptic and bandaids. LOL These little guys are known as the Bigelow Cholla, Jumping Cholla and also Teddybear Cholla. Unless you're a cactus wren or a desert woodrat, enjoy the view from a distance.Read More