Fern Truck Trail, Altadena, CA

El Prieto/Fern Truck Trail Loop


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    • Location: Altadena. From I-210, take the Lincoln Ave. exit and head north for two miles. Turn left on Canyon Crest Road, go a total of 1.2 miles and turn left on Cloverhill. Park where available on the corner of El Prieto and Cloverhill. From the west, take I-210 to the Arroyo Blvd/Windsor Ave. exit and turn left.  Cross the freeway and go right on Woodbury. Go 0.5 miles and turn left on Lincoln and go 1.4 miles to Canyon Crest, then follow Canyon Crest to Cloverhill and El Prieto. The hike begins in a wide driveway between the second and third houses on El Prieto north of Cloverhill on the west (left) side of the street.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 5.2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
    • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • Recommended gear: Insect repellent, sun hat, hiking poles
    • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days; be careful of mountain bikers)
    • Cell phone reception: Good at the trail head; weak to none for most of the route
    • Water: None
    • Restrooms: None
    • Camping/backpacking: There is a small clearing at the junction of the Fern Truck Trail and Brown Mountain Truck Trail (see description) that might make a suitable camp site. For more information about dispersed camping in the Angeles National Forest, click here.
    • More information: Map My Hike report (longer route starting from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) here; Hiking Project report (also from the JPL) here; El Prieto Canyon Trail Yelp page here
    • Rating: 7

Updated September 2018

This enjoyable loop provides a good workout, offers scenic variety and often feels pleasantly isolated, especially considering how close it is to civilization. The route described below, one of several possible hikes in this corner of the Angeles National Forest, is suitable as a half-day family adventure or a training hike for longer trips. It is a mirror image of the El Prieto/Sunset Ridge/Altadena Crest loop, with which it shares about a mile through El Prieto Canyon. The route is popular with mountain bikers and hikers alike.

Begin by heading up the short alleyway branching off on the west side of El Prieto Road and entering through an intimidating looking but open gate. A short spur leads you down to the main El Prieto Canyon Trail, where the loop begins. Head left and begin your descent through the oak and alder shaded confines of lower El Prieto Canyon (hiking clockwise, as described here, is a good choice if you are getting off to an early start – though there is no shade on the fire road, the ridges will help block out the sun on your ascent. Later in the day, hiking counter-clockwise allows you to climb through mostly-shaded El Prieto Canyon.)

At 0.6 mile from the start, you reach the Fern Truck Trail, which is more like a single-track than a fire road. Head right and begin a steady ascent, climbing 1,100 feet over 2.5 miles. On the way you get increasingly panoramic views of the San Gabriel Valley, the Verudgo Mountains and the Hollywood Hills. Near the top, the trail passes under some impressive oaks, providing welcome shade.

The Fern Truck Trail ends at the Brown Mountain Fire Road (named for nearby Brown Mountain, in turn named for Jason and Owen Brown, sons of Civil War abolitionist John Brown; the brothers lived in the area in the late 19th century). Here you can sit on a bench and enjoy a view of the canyons below. After resting, begin your descent, following the Brown Mountain Truck Trail downhill for just under a mile.

Four miles from the start, you reach the top of the El Prieto Canyon Trail. Follow it downhill for just over a mile, staying right at the first junction with a spur that leads to El Prieto Road and staying left at a pair of other junctions with unofficial use trails. You also pass by a picnic area before returning to the spur (5.1 miles from the start). Follow the spur back uphill to El Prieto Road.

El Prieto Road, Altadena, CA
Gate at the start of the hike on El Prieto Road
El Prieto Canyon, CA
Oaks in lower El Prieto Canyon
El Prieto Canyon, Altadena, CA
Alders, lower El Prieto Canyon
Fern Truck Trail, Altadena, CA
Junction with the Fern Truck Trail
Fern Truck Trail, Altadena, CA
Verudgo Mountains seen from the Fern Truck Trail
Fern Truck Trail, Altadena, CA
View of the lower Fern Truck Trail from near the top
Fern Truck Trail, Altadena, CA
Oak near the top of the Fern Truck Trail
Fern Truck Trail, Altadena, CA
View from the junction with the Fern Truck Trail and Brown Mountain Truck Trail

Text and photography copyright 2018 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.

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