Snow Hiking in Los Angeles: San Gabriel Peak

This is the third post in my series about snow hikes in Los Angeles.  The first one emphasized an opportunity to hike in snow at the lower elevations of  Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point  without needing any special equipment. The trade-off is that the snow is not usually present (but will be there several times during the year) making it important to track the weather report and look for snow levels getting lower than about 3,500′.  The second post emphasized the guaranteed option of reaching snow at Mt. Baldy whose peak reaches 10,064 feet and will remain in snow until sometime in the late spring.  The trade-off being that special equipment is needed.

View near the summit of San Gabriel Peak.

View near the summit of San Gabriel Peak.

Hiking to San Gabriel Peak from the north side of the mountain is a great experience that is between the two previous options in terms of snow presence and required equipment.  Being on the north side and at a higher elevation than Inspiration Point, snow lasts longer.  So, it can remain for a couple weeks making timing less important.  It can be hiked without special gear.  However, there are very small portions that get a little icy.  So, if you have microspikes or crampons they can be helpful.  I used this trail to try out my snowshoes for the first time.  The snow was deep enough for my snowshoes to work but not deep enough for them to be required as illustrated by the snowshoe prints in the photo above.  Next time I go, I’ll just bring my microspikes.  If Mt. Wilson Road is closed there will be no car access to the San Gabriel Peak Trailhead.  Park at Red Box (which is what I had to do on one of my snow hikes) and hike the short distance up Mt. Wilson road to the trailhead.

The San Gabriel Peak Trail near the trailhead where the snow was not as deep and a little icy compared with further up the trail.

The San Gabriel Peak Trail near the trailhead where the snow was not as deep and a little icy compared with further up the trail.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

View looking out toward Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

Zoomed in view of Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

Zoomed in view of Mt. Baldy from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

View toward Mt. Disappointment from the San Gabriel Peak Trail.  Snow can get slippery in this area that is more exposed to sunlight.

View toward Mt. Disappointment from the San Gabriel Peak Trail. Snow can get slippery in this area that is more exposed to sunlight.

View toward  the south face Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak.  Note the lack of snow although this part of the San Gabriel Peak Trail is significantly lower.

View toward the south face of Josephine Peak and Strawberry Peak. Note the lack of snow on the south face of those mountains although this part of the San Gabriel Peak Trail is significantly lower.

One of the many tree lined sections of the trail.

One of the many tree lined sections of the trail.

View of San Gabriel Peak.

View of San Gabriel Peak.

View south from San Gabriel Peak.

View south toward Mt. Lowe from San Gabriel Peak.

View north into the San Gabriel Mountain from the peak.

View north into the San Gabriel Mountain from the peak.

Weekly Gallery Update #6: Panoramas

My Weekly Gallery Updates are about sharing photos I’ve added to the gallery section of this site.  The galleries are my way of creating a visual approach to searching for hikes by having collections of photos that link to information about hiking to where each photo was taken.

This week I’ve added five photos to my new Panoramas Gallery.  I’ve just started reading my camera manual to learn more how to use it. Among the things I’ve been trying out recently is the panorama mode function which takes several pictures as I move the camera that are stitched together in the cameras software creating a wide view image.  I’ve become fond of this feature as it gives a more comprehensive view of the terrain even though the output is significantly smaller in pixels than a typical photo.

December 2012 (click to enlarge)

December 2012 (click to enlarge)

Above photo taken from the Mt. Hillyer Trail

December 2012 (click to enlarge)

December 2012 (click to enlarge)

Above photo taken from the Silver Moccasin Trail

November 2012 (click to enlarge)

November 2012 (click to enlarge)

Above photo taken from the Valley Forge Trail

November 2012 (click to enlarge)

November 2012 (click to enlarge)

Above photo taken from Mt. Lowe

November 2012 (click to enlarge)

November 2012 (click to enlarge)

Above photo taken from San Gabriel Peak

Weekly Gallery Update #2: Views From Peaks

My Weekly Gallery Updates are about sharing photos I’ve added to the gallery section of this site.  The galleries are my way of creating a visual approach to searching for hikes by having collections of photos that link to information about hiking to where each photo was taken.

This week I’ve added five photos to the Views from Peaks Gallery.  All photos in this gallery were taken from a peak.  For me, peaks are typically the main destination I reach on a hike where I take a break, have lunch, enjoy the view, and get ready to hike back down the mountain.

October 2012

October 2012

Above view toward Mt. Baden-Powell from Mt. Waterman

October 2011

October 2011

Above view toward Mt. Baldy from Mt. Baden-Powell

October 2011

October 2011

Above view toward Throop Peak from Mt. Islip

October 2011

October 2011

Above view toward Mt. Baden-Powell from Throop Peak

November 2012

November 2012

Above view from San Gabriel Peak

Between Two Layers Of Clouds

Last Wednesday I woke up to dark cloudy skies with no sunshine in sight.  Rain looked imminent.  The clouds were low and I couldn’t see the peak of Mt. Lukens behind my house.  The forecasted storm appeared to be arriving on schedule.  I checked the weather channel application on my phone and noticed an interesting change from the forecast of the night before.  The new weather prediction at my house (indicated with a cloudy icon with rain) was for a 50% chance of rain.  On the other hand, Mt. Wilson (a half hour away) showed a 10% chance of rain (indicated by a sunny icon with some clouds).  I contacted my friend Lorenzo who lives on the Mojave Desert side of the San Gabriel Mountains and learned that he was seeing sunny skies from his house.  Being on the front end of the incoming storm, it looked like a prime opportunity to do some cloud chasing.  Even if I didn’t find myself touching clouds, I imagined that the sky would be magnificent.

View from Eaton Saddle looking down Eaton Canyon.

View from Eaton Saddle looking down Eaton Canyon.

I decided to drive up to Eaton Saddle and hike up to San Gabriel Peak (next to Mt. Wilson).  San Gabriel Peak is only a little more that a mile from Eaton Saddle. Therefore, if the weather changed on me I wouldn’t be that far from my car.  The view from Eaton Saddle was promising.  Clouds were making their way up through Eaton Canyon below me and clouds were forming over a thousand feet above me.  It appeared the clouds from below would make it high enough up the mountains to cover some of the peaks.  I quickly hiked the short way up to San Gabriel Peak hoping to get there before it was covered in clouds. Once on the peak however, the clouds below started to look like they would burn off and they were closer to looking like a layer of smog as they formed a fairly uniform surface.  I couldn’t see the city below, but I could see the ocean off in the distance.  Initially I was disappointed.  While it was a great view, the promise of having an exciting day of clouds overtaking the peaks below like I experienced before was unlikely to be replicated.

View South from San Gabriel Peak at 10:22 am.

View South from San Gabriel Peak at 10:22 am.

San Gabriel Peak at 6,161 feet is the tallest peak in its immediate vicinity and it’s also small in area at the peak (about the size of a large living room).  I find the ability to stand in one spot and look down on the terrain far off into the distance in all directions makes it one of the forests best places to be.  So, I didn’t remain disappointed long.  I was unsure what to do however.  I didn’t have enough time to go on a much longer hike.  I couldn’t possibly get beyond where I had been a couple days earlier with family and friends and my preference for variety made me resistant to simply doing that again.

View north from San Gabriel Peak

View north from San Gabriel Peak at 10:21 am.

Normally I don’t stay in one spot longer than a half an hour, and staying that long usually involves eating lunch.  I’m usually trying to get my hike completed before I run out of daylight, or exploring new areas and want to see more, or I have somewhere else I need to be requiring me to get down the mountain.  As I was starting to get a little antsy walking around the summit, taking in the views, and trying to come up with a plan of what to do next; the phrase don’t just do something, sit there popped into my head.  So, I sat on the bench made from a steel c-section beam and enjoyed being on the summit.  By that time the clouds were starting to get a little more puffy below me and more clouds were starting to form above me.  I decided to stay a while and see if something interesting developed.

Steel C-section bench with journal and pen.

Steel C-section bench with journal and pen.

Fortunately, I remembered I had a small journal and pen in my backpack.  I realized I could invest some time jotting down ideas and working on clearing up my thinking on a number of things I’m trying to figure out.  Among the many things I worked on  was fine tuning my ideas to create two new weekly series of blog posts which I began a couple days later (Weekly Gallery Update and Weekly Nature Question). While jotting ideas down, the clouds slowly began getting more dominant in the sky.  The progression moving from mostly sunny skies to two layers of storm clouds was something I found exciting to behold.

View West from San Gabriel Peak at 12:26 pm with some clouds beginning to make it over Brown Mountain.

View west from San Gabriel Peak at 12:26 pm with some clouds beginning to make it over Brown Mountain.

View west from San Gabriel Peak at 1:33 pm with clouds starting to make it over Brown Mountain and Mt. Lukens from below as the clouds become more ominous from above.

View west from San Gabriel Peak at 1:33 pm with clouds starting to make it over Brown Mountain and Mt. Lukens from below as the clouds become more ominous from above.

View west from San Gabriel Peak at 2:00 pm with  the clouds having overtaken Brown Mountain and Mt. Lukens from below as the clouds from above make it over me on San Gabriel Peak and it begins to sprinkle shortly thereafter.

View west from San Gabriel Peak at 2:00 pm with the clouds having overtaken Brown Mountain and Mt. Lukens from below as the clouds from above make it over me on San Gabriel Peak and it begins to sprinkle shortly thereafter.

The timing of this progression was perfect.  It didn’t start to sprinkle on me until it was time for me to leave anyway.  It had turned out to be a gorgeous and unexpectedly productive day on the mountain.  As I turned to leave the peak, I admired the view of Mt. Wilson and the sunny skies beyond to the east.  A few minutes later I saw a rainbow looking north.  The rest of the way back to my car I thought about the fact that I was actually fairly productive while having this wonderful day on the mountain.  I could easily bring some reading and plan to write and think through ideas on future outings where the hike isn’t the central component–this one being just over two miles round trip.  While I will continue to mostly go on longer hikes where the focus is on either training or exploring new areas, I plan to try a couple days a month that are more like this experience and see if I’m as productive.

View east from San Gabriel Peak toward Mt. Wilson.

View east from San Gabriel Peak toward Mt. Wilson.

Looking North at Rainbow from the San Gabriel Peak trail.

Looking North at Rainbow from the Upper San Gabriel Peak trail.