- 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: 10.7 miles (via loop with Pacific Crest Trail and 3N17; slightly shorter or longer variations possible)
- Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
- Suggested time: 5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain, steepness, terrain, trail condition)
- Best season: April – June; September – November (check road accessibility before going)
- Dogs: Allowed
- Cell phone reception: Weak at the summit, none on the rest of the route
- Restrooms: Vault style toilets at Pacifico Mountain Campground
- Water: None (two springs en route may provide some water, but don’t count on it)
- Camping/backpacking: Pacifico Mountain Campground is on the summit; there is an overlook about 3 miles from the trail head via the P.C.T. that would make a good camping spot as well.
- Recommended gear: sun hat hiking poles insect repellent
- More information: Trip description here; Map My Hike report here; Hundred Peaks page here
- Rating: 7
Pacifico Mountain (elevation 7,124) is the tallest of the northwestern San Gabriel Summits. Most hikers opt for the western route, from Mill Creek, but the summit can also be reached from the east, as described below. This route tends to attract fewer crowds.
From the parking area, backtrack a short distance to the Pacific Crest Trail and head west. After a stiff initial climb, you settle into a gradual ascent through an area recovering from the Station Fire. At 6,000 feet above sea level, the vegetation is varied, including yucca, black oaks and pines. Though some veteran hikers might find the first few miles of the trail a little tame, it goes by pretty quickly and the views to the south are impressive.
At about 2 miles, the trail skirts the north face of the ridge, providing views of the high desert. The trail then bends to the north, skirting the northeastern slopes of Pacifico Mountain. At 3 miles from the start, you pass an attractive, pine-shaded clearing with panoramic vistas; a good spot to catch your breath (or to camp if you are backpacking and are off to a late start).
Continue north along the trail, watching for poodle dog bush, a plant that causes a poison oak-like itch. Poodle dog bush grows in high elevation areas that have recently been burned; these specimens were caused by the Station Fire. As of this writing, they are starting to die out (their life span is 5-10 years) but they are still to be avoided.
Just over four miles from the start, the trial enters a grove of pines. As it makes a pronounced bend to the right (north), look for a gully heading southwest. This is the start of a cross-country route to the summit (it is also possible to reach the summit by continuing another mile or so on the P.C.T. and using road 3N17H). While the cross-country route doesn’t save much time due to its difficulty, it adds adventure to what has thus far been a straightforward hike.
Follow the gully up to a ridge, climbing over boulders and fallen trees and avoiding poodle dog bush. At the ridge, head south where you will soon see the pyramid-like summit. You drop briefly to a saddle before making your final push to the top, forging whatever route you can.
At the top you are greeted by the campground. While Pacifico Mountain is technically a drive-up destination, unlike Mt. Wilson, it receives far less traffic (it was empty when I was there, on a Sunday morning) and offers a 360-degree view if you walk around the entire summit. The true high point is a pair of rocks at the south end. If you are hesitant about climbing these rocks, you can still enjoy an outstanding view to the south, extending to Old Saddleback in Orange County and the ocean, if visibility is good.
After enjoying the summit, you have a few options. You can return via the same route or you can descend the dirt access road (3N17H). While dirt roads usually aren’t prime hiking routes, this one offers some panoramic views to the south including Strawberry Peak and Mt. Wilson. In a mile, it meets the Pacific Crest Trail, which you can follow for about 5 miles back to the starting point. Alternately, you can continue on 3N17H to a junction with 3N17. Turn left and follow 3N17 generally east for 3.2 miles, taking in views of the Alder Creek drainage below. When you meet the junction with 5N04 (the paved road on which you drove in), turn left and follow it 1.1 miles down hill back to the starting point. This last stretch, almost entirely shaded by pines and receiving light if any traffic, goes by quickly.
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.