Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA

Bare Mountain via Southeast Ridge (Angeles National Forest)

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    • Location: North central San Gabriel Mountains. From La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway (highway 2) northeast for a total of 28.4 miles. At Three Points (shortly past Newcomb Ranch) turn left on Santa Clara Divide Road (3N17). Follow this paved, one-lane road for 3.8 miles to a junction. Bear right onto forest road 5N04. Follow it 1.1 miles to its ending at a white metal gate, just past the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail and the road to Sulphur Springs Campground.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest
    • Distance: 5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
    • Suggested time: 3 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain, terrain)
    • Best season: October – June (some parts may be icy/snowy during the winter; mid  October to mid November is deer hunting season)
    • Dogs: Allowed but exercise caution on warm days; watch out for debris and broken glass
    • Cell phone reception: Weak at the summit, none on the rest of the route
    • Restrooms: None
    • Water: None
    • Camping/backpacking: The nearest campgrounds are Bandito and Horse Flats. The route itself does not lend itself to backpacking, although the summit may be an option for camping.
    • Recommended gear: sun hat hiking poles insect repellent
    • More information: Summitpost page here; Hundred Peaks page here; Map My Hike report here
    • Rating: 7

Though it’s not exactly unknown among Los Angeles hikers, Bare Mountain receives surprisingly little visitation, especially considering that it is closer to many areas of L.A. than other popular San Gabriel summits such as Islip and Williamson. On weekends when the Switzer and Red Box parking lots are filled, hikers may well have Bare Mountain to themselves. The hike has its drawbacks: part of the route goes through an old firing range and there is leftover debris; some hikers may be turned off by the 3/4 mile of the route that follows a forest road and others might be deterred by the lack of an established trail. Nevertheless, the isolation that this hike provides, plus impressive mountain and desert views, make it a worthwhile addition to any L.A. hiker’s resume.

The southeast ridge is the shortest of several possible routes to the top. It still offers quite a workout, however, with about 1,400 total feet of elevation gain, almost half of which is crammed into half a mile. Begin by heading northeast on forest road 5N04, at first uphill and then gradually downhill. Pines on both sides of the road provide the only shade on the entire route (unlike many hikes on the north slope of the San Gabriels, this one will feel more like desert the higher you climb.)

At 3/4 mile from the start, look for a rusty metal sign on the right side of the road. To your left is an obscure fire break that heads uphill, past a drainage pipe. Follow it for 0.6 mile, some of which is quite steep, to the top of a ridge. Here you get a rest before the real work begins.

From this point on, you are not on an established trail but an easy to follow fire break that often feels like a single-track. The trail drops off the ridge to a saddle and then begins the main ascent of the route, moderate at first but soon becoming very steep and loose. As you grind your way up the break, you are rewarded with increasingly panoramic views, especially of Little Rock Creek’s south fork, far below.

At 1.9 mile, you get a respite as you reach the south ridge of Bare Mountain (this is where an alternate route, up the southwestern ridge, joins). The round summit itself comes into view here and you make your way toward it along the ridge, descending briefly before forging a final push to the top (elevation 6,388). Here you can enjoy views of the high desert to the north and the nearby summits of Pacifico, Will Thrall et. al to the south, east and west. Other than an occasional small aircraft overheard, there are virtually no sights or sounds of civilization. A summit register can be found in a large rock cairn. Make sure you rest your legs for the steep descent and 200 feet of additional elevation gain that await you on the return trip.

Forest road 5N04, Angeles National Forest, CA
Heading down forest road 5n04 at the beginning of the hike
Fire break, Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA
Start of the fire break (3/4 mile from the beginning)
Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA
Start of the steep fire break
Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA
The summit, half a mile away
Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA
Looking east from the summit
Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA
Looking west from the summit
Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA
Making the steep descent down the fire break
Forest road 5N04, Bare Mountain, Angeles National Forest, CA
Dusk on forest road 5N04

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.

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