McGill Trail (Los Padres National Forest)
Like nearby Mt. Pinos, the McGill Trail offers a pine-shaded escape into the high country barely a dozen miles from Interstate 5 and the hot Tejon Pass. It doesn’t pay off with a panoramic summit like Mt. Pinos but has the advantage of being entirely on a single-track trail, one that offers solitude and some exceptional views.
From the parking area, follow the trail uphill into the woods. The ascent is steady; hikers sensitive to altitude (6,200 feet+) may find themselves stopping to catch their breath, although it never gets too steep. At about a mile and a half, the trail begins a few switchbacks on a north-facing slope, providing a panorama of the lower end of the San Joaquin Valley. Farther on, the trail bends south, following an eastern slope with great views of Lockwood Valley and Cuddy Valley far below; beyond are the Liebre Mountains, the range in northwestern corner of the Angeles National Forest.
Just over three miles from the start, you reach a junction with the Whitethorn Nature Trail. This short trail also leads to the campground; you can make a small loop by using it one way and the McGill Trail the other. The McGill Trail continues to a T-junction. Here, bear left and begin a brief descent, reaching the campground at 3.6 miles.
The campground might seem like an anti-climatic destination after a long hike, but it’s still a nice, quiet place to relax beneath some tall pines. If there are free sites nearby, you can sit and enjoy a snack at a picnic table before returning. The McGill Trail is popular as a point-to-point hike, although in addition to having to arrange a shuttle, you will also have to pony up the $8 day use fee.
Text and photography copyright 2015 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.