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.
San Gabriel Peak
- Location: Angeles National Forest north of La Canada Flintridge. From I-210, take the Angeles Crest Highway (highway 2) north for 13.5 miles to Mt. Wilson Red Box Road. Turn right and go 0.4 miles to the Mt. Disappointment service road. Turn right and park in a dirt lot on the right. A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River District
- Distance: 4.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,450 feet
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain, trail condition)
- Best season: Year-round (Check on conditions)
- USGS topo maps: Chilao Flat, Mt. Wilson
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- More information: trip reports here and here
- Rating: 8
Pointy San Gabriel Peak is one of the more recognizable summits in the front range of the Angeles National Forest, usually visible to the west of Mt. Wilson. At 6,161 feet, it’s the second tallest summit in the front country of the San Gabriels, just three feet shorter than Strawberry Peak to the north. The recent re-opening of highway 2 has made this peak accessible to So Cal hikers. San Gabriel Peak played a roll in the history of what I find to be one of the more amusing place names in California, nearby Mt. Disappointment. That summit was given its name in 1875 when surveyors climbed to its peak, lugging some heavy survey equipment. They thought they were climbing to the highest peak in the range, but were “disappointed” when they got to the top and saw taller San Gabriel to the south.
From the dirt turnout on the Mt. Disappointment service road, cross the street and begin a steep ascent. You make a few switchbacks and the trail enters the cover of oaks, with the grade mellowing out a little bit. In half a mile, the trail passes by the service road again and continues its ascent; views to the east, including Baldy, open up at this point. Manzanitas, oaks and pines provide shade (although the trail can still feel hot during summer days).
The climb continues, finally joining the Mt. Disappointment service road for a short stretch. Head left, and when the road makes a hairpin turn, stay left to make the steep final climb to San Gabriel Peak. You walk through a grove of trees that was burned in the Station Fire, make your way up some switchbacks and arrive on the summit. Even if the views of L.A. are covered in smog, you can still enjoy vistas of the surrounding Angeles National Forest summits, and even a little bit of the Santa Monica Mountains.
On the way down, when the trail meets the service road, you can make a side-trip to Mt. Disappointment. The summit is covered with antennas and the views aren’t all that different from San Gabriel, but it’s a pretty easy way to bag another peak, and you’ll burn a few extra calories. You can also look at the summit of San Gabriel and feel what those disappointed surveyors felt all those years ago.