Pines on Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest

Occidental Peak

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Occidental Peak

    • Location: Near Mt. Wilson in the Angeles National Forest. From the 210 Freeway in La Canada, head northeast on the Angeles Crest Highway (highway 2) for 14 miles. Turn right on Mt. Wilson/Red Box Rd. and drive 3.8 miles. Park in a dirt turnout on the left side of the road, just before the turnoff for the KCBS antenna. Approximate trail head coordinates are N 34.2315, W 118.0708.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 550 feet
    • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG
    • Best season:  Year-round
    • Dogs: Allowed
    • Cell phone reception: Weak
    • Water: None on trail; may be available at the Mt. Wilson Observatory
    • Restrooms: None on trail; may be available at the Mt. Wilson Observatory
    • Camping/backpacking: Nearest campground is the Valley Forge Trail Camp
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles
    • More information: Trip description here; Summit Post page here; Yelp page here; video guide to the hike here; Map My Hike report here
    • Rating: 5

For a short hike that never gets far from civilization (the antennas on the western end of Mt. Wilson and the road leading up from Red Box) Occidental Peak feels surprisingly adventurous. The route follows the remnants of a trail built by students at Occidental College (hence the peak name). Easy to follow in spots and obscure in others, the route provides a taste of the off-trail experience without requiring full-on wilderness navigation skills. Expect that your route up and down might not be exactly the same, but also keep in mind that you shouldn’t have too bushwhack too heavily or boulder scramble for an extended period of time.

From the turnout on Mt. Wilson/Red Box Road, just before the road leading to the KCBS antenna, cross the street and begin hiking alongside a fence. There’s no definite trail but it’s pretty easy to follow the fence, up then down and up again to an abandoned heliport (0.3 mile from the start.) Here, you get your best views of the hike: Eaton Canyon, downtown L.A. and the ocean to the southwest; Mt. Baldy and the taller peaks to the east.

Leave the heliport via a steep, rocky path (be careful of two black wires just above the ground) and follow the “trail” as it descends into an attractive forest of black oaks and pines. Faint at times, the trail hugs the northeast side of the ridge, paralleling the road below, visible between the trees. There are a few spots where two different use trails have been carved; they will invariably rejoin soon so don’t worry about which one you take.

After reaching a bump on the ridge, a little rock scrambling brings you to the true summit. Trees and bushes block most of the view, but you can still get a nice aerial perspective on Eaton Canyon that you won’t find from the other nearby peaks. While some hikers might find this trip to be too short to justify the long drive up the Angeles Crest Highway, it can easily be combine with other nearby peaks such as Mt. Lowe and San Gabriel. Being almost entirely shaded, it’s also a good one to keep in mind for hot summer days.

Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Trail to Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
“Trail” and  the fence
Trail to Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
Descent along the fence
Helipad near Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest
The helipad
View from the helipad near Occidental Peak, San Gabriel Mountains, CA
View from the helipad
Trail to Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
Black oaks on the trail past the helipad
View of Mt. Wilson from Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
Mt. Wilson from Occidental Peak
View from Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
Looking west from Occidental Peak
Trail descending from Occidental Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
Returning from Occidental Peak






Text and photography copyright 2016 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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