Mt. Wilson/Devore Camp Loop
This loop offers a different perspective on Mt. Wilson from the approaches from Chantry Flat, Sierra Madre and Altadena. Starting from just off of the summit, the hike drops down to the West Fork of the San Gabriel River via the Kenyon Devore and Gabrielino Trails and returns via the Gabrielino and Rim Trails, creating a prime example of a “reverse hike.” Although the elevation gain isn’t as big as the hikes from below, terrain and sometimes navigation add to the challenges. Many sections of the trails have been washed out, requiring extra caution, and the stretch between the two trail camps requires multiple potentially tricky stream crossings. You will also need to keep an eye out for poison oak and poodle dog bush. Despite these difficulties, this hike is a very enjoyable one, exploring some of the lightly traveled country of the San Gabriels and providing an excellent workout. Adding to the appeal is the fact that the majority of the route is shaded.
From the Kenyon Devore trailhead, follow the trail downhill, heading generally north. There are a few sudden switchbacks that may be easy to miss; keep in mind that if the navigation and terrain become too difficult, you have probably lost the trail and should back track. You follow the contour of Strayns Canyon and as you descend the pines and black oaks give way to alders and maples. There are a few spots where fallen trees can make the route a little bit obscure, but it never strays too far from the canyon.
At about 2.8 miles, bear right on the Gabrielino Trail. Follow it into a meadow where you will see Mt. Baldy and its neighbors to the east. The going is fairly easy, although you will want to keep an eye out for poodle dog, which grows in abundance during this stretch. The trail leaves the meadow and heads back into the shade for a little bit before dropping down to the West Fork Trail Camp (4.2 miles.) Just before reaching the camp, you’ll make a tricky hairpin turn to the left–not helped by the fact that the trail has been washed out, likely requiring use of hands as well as feet–and that there’s a fair amount of poison oak.
From West Fork, look for the sign indicating the continuation of the Gabrielino Trail. You cross the stream bed and follow the trail farther down the canyon of the West Fork. Although there’s not much elevation change here, this is one of the tougher parts of the hike: much of the trail becomes over grown and the spots where the trail crosses the stream aren’t always obvious. Expect to do a little bit of bushwhacking. After several crossings, the trail rises to the north side of the canyon, staying above for a little while before dropping back down. One final stream crossing brings you to the Devore Trail Camp (5.5 miles.) Here you can sit at a picnic table and rest up for the major ascent that now awaits you.
Continue southeast on the Gabrielino Trail which rises quite steeply at first and maintains a steady incline for the next mile, when it climbs about 900 feet to cross Rincon Red Box Road. On the opposite side, switchbacks bring you up another 400 feet in half a mile to reach a junction called Newcomb Pass (7 miles from the start.) Here you can sit at another picnic table and relax before starting the final leg of the hike.
Follow the Rim Trail, which climbs more gradually, heading west toward Mt. Wilson. On the way, you get some nice glimpses of the Angeles National Forest to the north and as you climb higher, you can see the San Gabriel Valley to the south; if visibility is good you can see Old Saddleback. Other than a few short open stretches, the Rim Trail is shaded, mainly by black oaks.
The incline becomes a little more noticeable as you near Mt. Wilson. As you climb you’ll spot antennas between the trees. At about 10 miles, you’ll see the first of several golf ball-shaped telescopes. The Rim Trail skirts along the north side of the broad Mt. Wilson summit, finally reaching the paved road at 10.6 miles from the start. Bear right and follow the road to the large parking area by the Cosmic Cafe, where you can get your best view of the hike from a picnic table. Though it’s not a 360-degree panorama, pending good visibility, you can see Catalina Island, the Santa Monica Mountains, downtown L.A. and more. (If you have time and energy, you can walk up to the observatory for an even better view.)
From the parking lot, follow the paved road just over half a mile back to the Kenyon Devore trailhead. If you were wondering, Kenyon Devore (1911-1995) was a former L.A. County employee and Angeles National Forest volunteer.
Text and photography copyright 2014 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.