Valley Forge Trail Camp from Red Box via Gabrielino Trail
- Location: Red Box Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest. From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway northeast for 14 miles and park at the Red Box Picnic Area, at the junction with the road to Mt. Wilson. From the high desert, take the Angeles Forest Highway south to Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Turn left and go 9 miles to the Angeles Crest Highway. Turn right and go 4.3 miles to Red Box, which will be on the left. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
- Distance: 4.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain)
- Best season: Year-round (depending on conditions)
- USGS topo maps: Chilao Flat, Mt. Wilson
- Recommended gear: insect repellent
- More information: Red Box trail head information here; Valley Forge Campground information here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
This is an enjoyable reverse hike in the front country of the Angeles National Forest, leaving from the popular Red Box picnic area and descending to the Valley Forge Trail Camp, via the Gabrielino Trail. While it lacks the dramatic scenery and variety of the nearby Devil’s Canyon and Shortcut Saddle hikes, it offers a good workout in a secluded part of the Angeles National Forest. The Station Fire damage is obvious, but new growth can also be seen. A seasonal stream and a nice variety of plant life, including pines, sycamores, black oaks and manzanitas, adds to the appeal.
From the signed Red Box trailhead information board, descend the stone staircase to the Gabrielino Trail and head left. You follow the highway for 0.2 miles, with some nice views of Mt. Baldy to the east, before descending into the canyon on some switchbacks. Beneath the shade of some black oaks, the descent continues, roughly following the stream bed of the San Gabriel River’s west fork’s upper reaches.
At 0.7 miles, you reach a dirt road where you pick up the trail on the opposite side. Soon after you pass Camp Hi-Hill, an outdoor education facility. The trail makes a hairpin turn to the left and a sign reads “Valley Forge Trail Camp.” That doesn’t mean you’ve arrived; the bottom of the sign, indicating a distance of 1.5 miles, is missing. After passing the broken sign, continue toward the stream, making the first of several crossings.
At 1.7 miles, you come to a private cabin in a clearing. Continue following the trail, making another stream crossing and passing two more cabins. At 2.2 miles, you reach a split. The Valley Forge Trail heads uphill, leading to Mt. Wilson Road, three miles away. To reach the trail camp, however, bear left and make a few switchbacks down to the creek. On the opposite side is the trail camp, where you can sit on a picnic bench and enjoy the sound of the stream and the shade of the trees.
You can return via the same route, or to make a loop, you can use the service road just beyond the camp. If you want to extend the hike, you can make it into a loop by taking the Valley Forge Trail up to Mt. Wilson Road and descending back to Red Box; you can also continue following the Gabrielino Trail to the West Fork Trail Camp and take the Silver Moccasin Trail up to the Angeles Crest Highway, an option if you’ve arranged for a shuttle.