For hike #300, we present another classic trip in the San Gabriels that was inaccessible for a while due to the Station Fire.
The Devil’s Canyon is possibly the best non-summit hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. This route goes through the heart of the San Gabriel Wilderness – a pristine, undeveloped area only an hour or so from downtown L.A. The Station Fire, and the two wet winters since, have certainly taken their toll, and the recently re-opened trail is harder to navigate than before, but with adequate preparation, experienced hikers who prepare accordingly shouldn’t have too much of a problem. Bring hiking poles and more water than you think you’ll need. Running out of water–especially on a reverse hike–is not a good time.
From the trail head, you make your descent, taking in phenomenal views of the San Gabriel Wilderness – all the way to Old Saddleback to the south. Soon you will have to climb over (or under or around) two fallen, burned trees. (If you were the type of kid who didn’t like getting your uniform dirty during Little League games, this hike is not for you.) The upper portion of the trail is largely exposed, but occasional stretches are shaded with pines and oaks.
There are a few parts where the trail has been washed out, so be careful as you make your way down. After a mile and a half, the trail crosses the stream in the canyon. There is a difficult stretch where the trail goes across a loose, poorly defined hillside, but with care, it can be negotiated. Soon after this, the trail meets the stream again. Before, the trail crossed the stream, but now, the best way is to make a hard switchback to the left, and cross on some rocks farther down. (The exact route may vary, but there are several workable options if you’re willing to use your hands, and possibly your posterior, as well as your feet).
After crossing the stream, the trail makes a few ascents and descents, passing by a small waterfall and climbing over another huge fallen tree at one point. (This tree can be a handy landmark on the return trip. Navigation generally isn’t too big of an issue, but those concerned might want to leave trail ducks; there are several already on the route as of this writing.)
Finally, the trail levels out as it enters the area above the camp. As before, the exact route isn’t always clear, but in general it heads downstream, with some boulder-hopping involved. It then arrives at the destination, the Devil’s Canyon Trail Camp, where a few logs allow hikers to take a nice break in the shade before heading back up. Hikers up for a challenge can continue for another mile to a waterfall deep in the canyon, but many will find the camp to be a good turn around point.
Despite the challenges of the trail in its post Station Fire form, the Devil’s Canyon is a very enjoyable hike, one that gives a lot for what it asks. Perhaps as more people hike it, the trail will become smoother and clearer, but until then, hikers who are up for the challenge are sure to be pleased.