Burnt Peak/Sawmill Mountain
- Location: Sierra Pelona mountains, north Los Angeles County near Lake Hughes. From I-5, take the Lake Hughes Rd. exit and head northeast for 23 miles to its end at Pine Canyon Rd. Turn left on Pine Canyon Rd. and go 4.7 miles. Look for a large clearing on the left side of the road and begin driving on on forest route 7n23. High clearance vehicles are optimum for this dirt road, although with caution, a standard passenger vehicle shouldn’t have too much trouble. At 2 miles, turn right and continue another 1.2 miles to a saddle where 7n23 turns right (west) and 7n23A also branches off. Park anywhere in this large dirt turnout. Alternately, from Highway 138 near the town of Neenach, take Three Points Road south for 3 miles. At Three Points, continue onto Pine Canyon Road for 4.8 miles. The turnoff for 7n23 will be on your right.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Santa Clarita & Mojave Rivers Ranger District
- Distance: 6 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
- Suggested time: 3 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain; steepness and terrain on Sawmill Mountain)
- Best season: Year round but hot during the summer and possible snow during the winter. Check link above for weather-related closures of the dirt road 7n23 that leads to the trail head.
- Recommended gear: hiking poles sun hat
- Dogs: Allowed
- Cell phone reception: Fair
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None (Vault toilet at Sawmill Campground)
- Camping: The nearest campground is the Sawmill Campground, 1.6 miles west of your starting point on 7n23. Car camping at the trail head may also be an option.
- More information: Trip description here; SummitPost page here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 7
This hike visits two Sierra Pelona summits: the range’s highest point, Burnt Peak (elevation 5,787) and Sawmill Mountain (5,514). The Sierra Pelonas are the northernmost major range in Los Angeles County, about halfway between the San Gabriels and the Tehachapis. Burnt Peak’s prominence of 2,448 feet puts it on the top 100 list for all of California. The Federal Aviation Administration has taken advantage of Burnt’s strategic location to place an air traffic facility on the summit. Thus, the route to the top is a dirt service road, designated as 7n23A. These factors may turn off some hikers, but the views in all directions are not to be missed and adding the short but rugged climb to Sawmill Mountain ups the adventure factor.
From the saddle, follow 7n23A west along Sawmill Mountain’s south flank with Burnt Peak’s round shape in the distance. At half a mile, you reach a saddle. Note an obscure path doubling back uphill; this is the route to Sawmill Mountain. For now, continue along 7n23A, enjoying panoramic views in both directions. After a mile, the trail dips to another saddle before beginning the major ascent. Black oaks border the road, not providing direct shade but helping to block out the sun during the later hours. The trail bends south, taking in views of the San Gabriels and Santa Monica Mountains.
About 2 2/3 miles, you reach a T-junction, the start of a half-mile loop that circles the summit. The FAA equipment is fenced off and off limits, but a use trail goes around the perimeter, providing views in all directions. According to its Hundred Peaks page, Burnt Peak is likely named because of the “frequent appearance of the area” and, prior to 1926, was known as Sawmill Mountain.
After enjoying the vistas, complete the loop and retrace your steps downhill. To reach the mountain currently known as Sawmill, locate the ridge ascending north from 7n23. The bottom of the use trail may be tricky to locate, but it’s clearly visible higher up, so use that as a guide. The trail is overgrown but not to the point of being problematic. A steep (almost 300 feet in a quarter mile) ascent brings you to the top of Sawmill Mountain, where a benchmark designates the summit.
The use trail descends off the north end of Sawmill’s flat summit, passing through an oak-dotted meadow before dropping down to 7n23. Turn right and retrace your steps 0.4 mile back to your starting point.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
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.