Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Galster Wilderness Park
- Location: West Covina. From I-10, take the Azusa Ave exit (highway 39) and head south for 1.7 miles. Turn left on E. Aroma Drive and go 0.4 miles. Park in the lot on the corner of Aroma Drive and Galster Way. From highway 60, take the Azusa Ave. exit and go north for 3.7 miles. Turn right on Aroma Drive.
- Agency: San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy
- Distance: 1 mile
- Elevation gain: 350 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 30 minutes
- Best season: Year round
- USGS topo map: Baldwin Park
- More information: here
- Rating: 3
Pint-sized (42 acres) Galster Wilderness Park is located on the slopes of the San Jose Hills, a range that runs parallel to the better-known Puente Hills to the south. The park contains a few trails that can be strung together for a short but surprisingly challenging loop. There is an unfortunate amount of trash and graffiti on the trail, but the thick cover of trees, including black walnuts, creates a sense of isolation from the nearby houses and traffic.
From the parking lot, follow the trail to a junction. Head right on a paved path that ascends steeply. The trail arrives at a building (indicated as “Family Camp” on the map found on the park website), and continues as a fire-road. The grade becomes even steeper, and although short, it is sure to get calves burning. The good news is that the views get better and better as you climb.
Soon the trail levels out and heads left. (A short spur trail branches off to the right, but it’s overgrown and the view is blocked by a fence, so it’s not really worth exploring). You start descending gradually and arrive at “Wilderness Camp”, a building that has been completely covered in graffiti, and pass by a small amphitheater. The descent continues on the other side of the clearing, becoming quite steep and rugged. Be careful as you make your descent through the woods, soon arriving at a four-way split. Head right and descend to a fire road, where you will take a left. Soon, the trail returns to the first junction (look for the paved road on your left), and head straight, retracing your steps to the parking lot.
Incidentally, Galster Wilderness Park apparently has a history of ghost stories and weird happenings associated with it. For more information on that, check out this article.