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One of my favorite hiking locations near Cypress, CA is about one hour away due north in the Big Santa Anita Canyon area of the San Gabriel Mountains. The tallest peak in the area at 5,710 ft. (1,740 m) is Mt. Wilson, one of the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks (includes this mountain, Mt. Baldy a.k.a. San Antonio, Mt. Cucamonga, Mt. San Bernardino, Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. Gorgonio) recommended to climb when training for Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the Continental US outside of Alaska, located near Lone Pine, California. Despite being right above the bright lights and smog of the global metropolis, the peak is home to the Mt. Wilson Observatory.
Mt. Wilson is not only one of the taller local area mountains, it’s also one of the most popular mountains in the area due to it being adjacent to the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. On a fairly clear day, you can in fact see it from much of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. It’s identified by the tall antennas that sit on the top that transmit area television and radio broadcasts which appear as trees from the distant. There are several ways to get up to Mt. Wilson peak. The easiest is to take the car by way of the Los Angeles Crest Highway 2 in Pasadena and entering the area via Mt. Wilson Rd. This is fine and good for the casual visitor or for people who work at the observatory.
But this defeats the purpose of hiking which is getting a good exercise, being part of nature, and all the other good stuff that comes with it. Most hiking trips up Mt. Wilson usually starts at the Chantry Flat Pack Station. Except for the weekends and holidays, which I usually avoid, when the area is filled with casual hikers (the Sturtevant and Hermit Falls are popular) and bicyclists, there is ample parking in the morning. Parking on the National Forest requires the purchase of a Adventure Pass parking permit at the Pack Station store. If you have little kids, they might be able to see some donkeys and goats there too. The Pack Station store often serves/sells food in the weekends and holidays. There is also a nice picnic area along the slope next to the parking.
From Chantry Flat, you can take any combination of trails that ultimately takes you up to Mt. Wilson – Upper/Lower Winter Creek and Manzanita trails, Zion Trail, Sturdevant Trail, etc. Going up Mt. Wilson via Newcomb Pass seems to be one of the longest route at just shy of 20 miles, according to the signs. You go down to Sturtevant Falls (or near there), take the Gabrielino Trail to Newcomb Pass, then take the Rim Trail to Mt. Wilson. I’ve been up Mt. Wilson several times and I have to say that this route is also the most leisurely and most scenic one, especially along the Rim Trail, and with decent amount of shade. You won’t be disappointed.
As you can see from the pictures below, you get much time and walking to see, smell, and think as you gradually go up. The trails start you off by suggesting via sign that “May your search through nature, lead to yourself.”A full day hike, there is plenty of time for thought. There are plenty of nice distractions on the way. The spring is especially bountiful with flowers, bees, trees, squirrels, lizards, greens on the trees, and the occasional hikers. There were many flowers and maybe just as many lizards – way more than fellow hikers one of whom had a 35 lb pack on and training for Colorado.
Remember that safety is always important in hiking. California is in a drought and it’s the same at Santa Anita Canyon – the streams didn’t have a whole lot of water in them. And as always, it’s dangerous to play in streams whether it is full or not. Take sufficient food, supplies, clothes, medical aids, water, map, etc… and caution. Twice, I walked through a swarm of bees – once fully clothed and with a face net protection. But on the way back, I walked straight through without any protection, because I forgot about it and was walking fast down. Fortunately, I did not get stung. So a bee sting ointment in your medical pack might be advisable.
On the last stretch of the hike where you climb back out of the canyon to the parking lot on the paved fire road, I saw a rescue helicopter flying out of a gorge. I new the area where it was coming out of. It’s the Hermit Falls area, popular with college kids who jump off of a steep rocky cliff into a pool of water. Somebody must have missed the target or hit that shallow part of the water. It kind of ended an otherwise splendid day on a somber note.
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