Johnson’s Pasture/Gale Mountain Loop
- Location: North of Claremont. From I-210, take the Baseline Exit and drive west. Take a right on Mountain Avenue (not the Mountain Avenue in Upland to the east), head up the hill and take a right on Via Santa Catarina. Park at the end of Via Catarina and look for the trail leading away from the street to the north.
- Agency: City of Claremont
- Distance: 3.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: October – May
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock
- USGS topo maps: “Mt. Baldy”
- More information: Claremont Wildlands Conservancy information here; Yelp reviews here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
This loop offers a similar scenic and workout experience to that of the nearby Claremont Hills Wilderness Area. Though it’s not quite as tough, it does have a lot of steep ups and downs, and it tends to get very hot during the summer months, so plan accordingly.
From Via Santa Caterina, head into the park via the signed entrance and turn left on the fire road. You head uphill and arrive at a junction with your return route, East Pomello Drive (a fire road.) Continue uphill for a little ways, ignoring the other fire roads coming in on the left. You pass by a pleasant grove of eucalyptus trees and get nice views of Ontario and Cucamonga Peaks. You may also get a glimpse of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in the distance.
After a mile of moderate climbing, you reach the Gale Mountain Motorway. Continue for a tenth of a mile to an intersection with the Burbank Motorway (part of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Loop). You can, of course, continue on the Burbank Motorway, but to follow this route, retrace your steps to the junction.
If you’re short for time or if the weather is very hot, you can return via the same route. However, for a more challenging and scenic hike, try taking the Gale Mountain Motorway. It heads toward the antenna-covered summit of Gale Mountain, dipping down and climbing briefly to join a paved road. Head right and begin a steep, winding descent, during which you get great views of Claremont and the Inland Empire. If the weather is clear, you can see Old Saddleback and the Santa Anas straight ahead.
At 2.4 miles, you reach the bottom of the hill. Make a sharp right onto East Pomello Drive (a fire road), and stay right at the first intersection. You head through a pleasant, quiet canyon. Enjoy the shade while it lasts, because the trail then leaves the canyon and begins a steep ascent. After climbing almost 500 feet in less than a mile, you finally reach the top of a ridge. Here, you can enjoy the view before heading right and descending to the Johnson’s Pasture Motorway, completing the loop. There, turn left and head back to the parking area.
Text and photography copyright 2012 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.