Strawberry Peak as seen from Mt. Deception, Angeles National Forest

Mt. Deception from Eaton Saddle

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Mt. Deception from Eaton Saddle

    • Location: Eaton Saddle, Angeles National Forest.  From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2) northeast for 14 miles. Take a right on the Mt. Wilson Red Box Road and go 2.3 miles to Eaton Saddle. Park on the right side of the road in a small turnout.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,150 feet
    • Suggested time: 2.5 hours (add an extra half hour each for detours to San Gabriel Peak and Mt. Disappointment)
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, terrain)
    • Best season: Year round but possible snow during the winter and hot during the summer
    • Dogs: Allowed but exercise caution depending on conditions
    • Cell phone reception: Weak at summit, none anywhere else
    • Restrooms: None
    • Water: None
    • Camping/backpacking: The nearest established campground is the Valley Forge Trail Camp, a three mile hike from Eaton Saddle. Remote (dispersed) camping is allowed in the Angeles National Forest and the summit ridge of Mt. Deception is a possible camp site.
    • Recommended gear: sun hat hiking poles insect repellent long pants and long sleeved shirts
    • More information: Hundred Peaks site here; Map My Hike report here
    • Rating: 7

The presence of several closely grouped summits north of Mt. Wilson make the area popular among peak baggers, who can typically knock off five in a day. Mt. Deception might be considered the “black sheep” of the group that includes the more popular San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Lowe, Mt. Disappointment and Mt. Markham. Its reputation is hurt by its lack of official Angeles National Forest recognition, by a summit (really a bump on a ridge) that some find anti-climatic and by requiring almost a mile each way on pavement, but it’s still a worthwhile hike, even if it’s your only peak of the day. Should Mt. Deception not quench your thirst for peak bagging, you can easily add Mt. Disappointment (one mile round trip, 200 feet of elevation gain), San Gabriel Peak (0.8 mile round trip, 350 feet of elevation gain) and even Mt. Lowe (2.2 miles round trip, 400 feet of elevation gain.)

The route from Eaton Saddle offers an interesting mix of scenery and terrain. Begin by following Mt. Lowe Road for 0.5 miles that will be familiar to anyone who has hiked from Eaton Saddle. After passing through the tunnel and arriving at the saddle, turn right on the San Gabriel Peak Trail. It ascends quickly, climbing a steep group of switchbacks before leveling out, providing panoramic views of Bear Canyon below. The trail skirts the southwest slope of San Gabriel Peak, at times cutting very close to the edge. Keep an eye out for poodle dog bush which, though not rampant, can still be found in Station Fire burn areas such as this one.

At 1.2 miles, you reach a T-junction. The right fork climbs to San Gabriel Peak. To reach Mt. Deception, turn left and climb to meet the Mt. Disappointment Service Road at a hairpin turn. Head downhill for a pleasant if not particularly exciting 0.9 mile on the service road. Pines and black oaks provide shade; in between them you can get glimpses of Strawberry Peak to the north and the higher San Gabriel summits to the east.

At 2.1 miles from the start, shortly after passing mile marker 2.00, the road bends north. Look for a use trail heading steeply uphill to the west. This last stretch to the summit will provide any sense of adventure that you may feel was lacking from the rest of the hike. The use trail is loose in spots but never too difficult to follow as it climbs 200 feet in less than 0.2 mile. After leveling out, it follows a ridge line west before bending north to reach the high point (5,796 feet.) With thick vegetation on the summit, you won’t get a 360 degree panorama, but there are good views to the west, including Mt. Lukens, the Verdugos, the Hollywood Hills and the distant Santa Monica Mountains. For better views to the north and east, follow the ridge to its end. On the way back, views of Mt. Disappointment, San Gabriel Peak and Wilson are prominent.

While Mt. Disappointment’s name is part of L.A. hiking lore, Mt. Deception’s name is of uncertain origin. The Hundred Peaks website offers a tentative theory that the name was conceived as a companion to Disappointment. There are two other famous Mt. Deceptions: one in Washington State’s Olympic Range and one in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Both of those are apparently named for the difficulties hikers and climbers encounter due to volatile weather in the area; not likely to be factors in how this Mt. Deception got its name.

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

San Gabriel Peak Trail, Angeles National Forest, CA
Looking west from the San Gabriel Peak trail
Angeles National Forest, CA
View of Twin Peaks from the service road
Mt. Disappointment Service Road, Angeles National Forest
Descending  Mt. Disappointment  Road
Mt. Deception, Angeles National Forest, CA
Start of the fire break heading to Mt. Deception
Mt. Deception, Angeles National Forest, CA
Looking west from Mt. Deception
Mt. Deception, Angeles National Forest, CA
Black oaks near the summit of Mt. Deception
Mt. Deception, Angeles National Forest, CA
Following the ridge back from Mt. Deception
Mt. Deception, Angeles National Forest, CA
Descending the fire break back to the road











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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