Josephine Peak via fire road
- Location: Junction of the Angeles Crest Highway and Angeles Forest Highway, San Gabriel Mountains. From I-210 in La Canada, drive northeast on Highway 2 for 9.3 miles to the Clear Creek Information Center, where the Angeles Forest Highway meets from the north. Park in a small dirt turnout on the east side of the Angeles Forest Highway, across from the information center if available, or on the opposite side of the Angeles Forest Highway.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
- Distance: 8 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,900 feet
- Suggested time: 4 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
- Best season: October – June
- Dogs: Allowed
- Cell phone reception: None
- Restrooms: Vault style toilets at Clear Creek Information Center (across the street from the starting point)
- Water: None
- Camping/backpacking: None
- Recommended gear: sun hat hiking poles sunblock
- Recommended guidebook: Day Hiking Los Angeles
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Summitpost page here
- Rating: 6
Named for the daughter of local rancher Phil Beque, Josephine Peak (elevation 5,558) is the first prominent San Gabriel summit that greets hikers coming from L.A. on the Angeles Crest Highway. In the cooler months, its relatively convenient location makes it a popular hike. The most common approach, described below, is entirely on fire road, making it less interesting than the route from Colby Canyon. Nevertheless, its significant elevation gain makes it a good workout and training hike. (With a car shuttle or a mile-long walk along the Angeles Crest Highway, it is possible to take one direction up and the other down).
The Josephine Peak Fire Road (2N64) departs from the Angeles Forest Highway, a short distance north of the junction and begins its steady uphill march through terrain that was hit hard by the Station Fire. A few oaks and pines are growing back and in the spring, bush poppies and non-native Spanish Broom plants both provide splashes of yellow. There’s hardly any shade, but with an early enough start, the sun will be blocked by the ridges bordering the trail.
The scenery is dominated by Hoyt Mountain and Mt. Lukens to the west, Strawberry Peak to the east and Josephine Peak’s rocky slopes immediately to the north. As you climb, you get better and better views of Los Angeles. A series of swtichbacks brings you to a saddle (2.5 miles from the start) where the path from the east joins. Turn left and continue your climb, heading west toward Josephine Peak’s summit. This section of the road has more shade, mainly from black oaks. Keep an eye out for poodle dog bush growing along the sides of the fire road.
At the end of the fire road, a short use trail brings you to the summit. Despite an antenna facility just below the peak, the views from Josephine Peak are impressive. If visibility is exceptionally good you may see several of the Channel Islands and the Topa Topa ridge of Ventura County. Closer summits include Lukens, Strawberry Peak, Mt. Waterman and Mt. Baldy.
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.