Altadena Crest Loop
- Location: 2260 Pinecrest Drive, Altadena. From the 210 Freeway, take the Altadena Drive exit and go north for 2.7 miles. Turn right on Crescent and make another quick right onto Pinecrest Drive. From the Inland Empire, take the 210 Freeway to Rosemead Blvd. Go north on Rosemead for 0.7 miles and turn right on Sierra Madre Villa Ave. Go 0.3 miles and stay straight to go onto New York Drive. Go 1.3 miles and turn right on Altadena Drive. In 1.2 miles, turn right on Crescent. Note: Weekend parking is not allowed on Pine Crest by the trail head, and week day parking is limited to 2 hours. To avoid these restrictions, follow Pinecrest up to the intersection of Bowring, where you can park.
- Agency: Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy
- Distance: 3.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 750 feet
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo map: Mt. Wilson
- Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
- More information: Arroyos & Foothills page here; Everytrail report here; trip descriptions here and here
- Rating: 6
The Altadena Crest Trail is a pleasant surprise for hikers who think that they’ve seen it all when it comes to the San Gabriel Valley and foothills. As suburban trails go, it’s on the challenging side and despite its proximity to the residential neighborhoods of Altadena, it often feels quite rugged. On clear days the views include the entire L.A. basin, in particular the downtown skyline, the Verdugo Mountains, the San Rafael Hills and the Hollywood Hills.
As of this writing the Altadena Crest Trail is non-contiguous. Several different routes in various configurations are possible. The trip described here is a loop featuring the southeastern 2.3 miles of the trail and 1.2 miles on city streets. Assuming you start on Pinecrest, you begin by walking through a metal gate and descending a paved road toward the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. Just before the bridge, turn left on the signed Altadena Crest Trail and begin ascending switchbacks on the single-track. The trail climbs quickly, gaining 300 feet in less than half a mile. Views to the south, east and west open up as you hug the side of the hill.
At about 0.8 miles, the trail brushes up against a fire break at a spot where you get excellent views of L.A.; a nice place to catch your breath before taking a hard right and continuing up the hill. At 1.1 miles, you reach one of the two high points on the trail (just under 1,800 feet). You descend into a canyon, past a memorial honoring two firefighters and reach a T-junction. Turn right (the left fork leads to private property) and enter a very narrow canyon where no signs of civilization can be seen (save for some power lines high overhead).
The trail switchbacks out of the canyon, once again reaching 1,800 feet at 1.9 miles from the start. Turn right on a paved road, passing by a private residence at the end of Zane Grey Terrace. The trail becomes dirt again and makes a few switchbacks down into another canyon, this one pleasantly wooded. Stay straight as a makeshift trail branches off to the right, reaching a spur off of Zane Grey Terrace at 2.3 miles.
The remainder of the hike is on city streets. Turn right on Zane Grey and follow it 0.1 miles to East Loma Alta. Turn left and begin the last leg of the loop, heading east on Loma Alta. At 3.2 miles, Loma Alta merges with Pinecrest. Follow Pinecrest back your car.
Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.