#SoCalDistancing - 5 Trails to Avoid Crowds During a Pandemic
March 19, 2020
As outdoor enthusiasts, minimizing contact with the civilized world seems like second nature, and with our favorite activity being such a far cry from those of the average Joe (ie. concerts, barhopping, etc), it can be easy to justify a small gathering in the woods as "safe" from the epidemic that surrounds us. We're not here to scrutinize anyone for the level of commitment to Social Distancing, but the fact is we can probably all do a little more to ensure that those who still need to work in hospitals, grocery stores, and pharmacies are protected from Covid-19.
With hiking being a great activity for de-stressing in times of crisis, you can expect to see more people on the trail than ever before. We here at TRVRS Outdoors feel that it is our responsibility as frequenters of the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountain Range to help you find routes that are less susceptible to over crowding. We put together this list of (mostly front country) hikes near the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valley that are easily accessed and can help you maintain a high standard for #SoCalDistancing during this crucial time. Happy Hikin'!
First off, here are some guidelines worth following that Jeff Hester from So Cal Hikers put together to reference when choosing a trail. Unfortunately not every route we selected in our list meets ALL of the guidelines, so use your best judgement when selecting a trail that works for you.
1. Mount Bliss via Van Tassel Truck Trail (Duarte)
Mount Bliss is a 3,720 foot peak just north of Duarte and Monrovia.. The peak can be accessed from the popular Monrovia Canyon via White Saddle (Forest Service Road 1N36), however the more fun route is definitely from Van Tassel Truck Trail. Although this is almost 100% fire road, the views along the ascent highlight the complex layers of ridges and spurs that make up the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
From the residential area (34.1515, -117.9388), head north on Opal Canyon Road and cross the yellow gate. Make your way up the cement road and the used trail will continue up the slope behind the water tower. The Van Tassel Truck Trail will appear a little further north near the top of the use trail. At 3,550 feet (and four miles) you will hook your first right and then a quick left on another use trail to the peak. At the top of this lone summit is a register! Maybe avoid signing it this time around unless you have your own pen and some disinfectant wipes!
2. Johnstone Peak via Sycamore Canyon Road (San Dimas)
Johnstone Peak is a 3,182 foot peak that sits above the foothills of San Dimas, California. Although the entire trek is a fire road ascent, the views of the San Dimas Experimental Forest and the San Gabriel Mountain High Country along Sycamore Flats Motorway and Johstone Peak Truck Trail are incredible. Park at the San Dimas Nature Center or San Dimas Canyon Park and walk north along Sycamore Canyon Road. Take a quick right up the steep Sycamore Flats Motorway after 0.4 miles. The road will eventually plateau at a bend. Take the left past a gate indicating the the road is in fact closed to the public a few miles up. There is a use trail that heads directly up the right thirty paces past this sign, but you an stick to the road alternatively and end up in the same place. Avoid junctions that stray left the entire way to the peak.
Red Tape: There are signs at about mile 2 indicating that the San Dimas Experimental Forest is closed to the public. I have personally run into rangers past this point and they mostly ask how my hike is going and warn me about the massive cougar population in the area. Follow leave No Trace Principles and stay on the road, there is really no reason this peak shouldn't be accessed. Again, use your best judgement.
Azusa Peak doesn't necessarily offer the best summit views but as you may already know; life is about the journey, not the destination. The real treat is everything along the Glendora Ridge Motorway. Although you can access this ridge road by driving up the windy Glendora Mountain Road and parking here if you just wanted to get a quick trail run in, we decided to add the Colby Canyon trail ascent because it is a major calf buster and gives this route a little more spice! From the residential parking lot, head north on the well marked Colby Canyon trail. The trail hits Glendora Mountain Road twice but if you just stick to the ridge (left), you will continue along the single track for a brutal 1,500 foot climb in under two miles. A slab of cement indicates the top of the hill, where you can take a long break before heading further north to descend to Glendora Ridge Motorway. From here it is a 3.2 mile rolling hill walk to Azusa Peak. You can ascend the peak via the use trail if you are a purist, but the real views are further along the road looking west. The old Garcia Trail sits below with all of Los Angeles County behind it.
Fox Peak is an obscure mountain north of La Cañada Flintridge, in Tujung California. It can be accessed by way of the Condor Peak trail. Although the trail has spent the last 11 years in disrepair due to the 2009 Station Fire, Lowlifes Respectable Citizens Club ( a local non profit dedicated to rebuilding trails in the Angeles Forest) has taken the time to rebuild it! You can learn more about them by checking out their site and joining their trail work days if they continue to host them after the zombie apocalypse. From the massive parking area, head west on the marked trail head and continue on this path the whole way. There are really no trail junctions besides the Vogal Flats trail which obviously leads in the wrong direction (south). When you hit the 4,700 foot mark at about 6.8 miles, you'll turn South east and take a use trail up to the peak. Enjoy sweeping views of the entire Big Tujunga Canyon as you high five your imaginary friend and then apply some hand sanitizer immediately after!
Although Mount Muir is pretty close to the ever popular Echo Mountain, it is seldom visited and the approach from Rubio Canyon's Lone Tree Trail is perfect for losing the crowds. We gotta admit, this route definitely has a cross country feel to it and the small class 2.5 scramble along the path might be difficult for those that aren't experienced in such endeavors, so we recommend using some form of navigation (ie GPS device, or a Map) and only hitting this route if you are okay with some steepness as you will climb some 1,600 feet within the first two miles. On top of all that there are many trail junctions along this route and the descent we've included on the map below is AS BAD (or good, depending on your perspective) as the ascent.
At the top of Rubio Vista Road and Pleasant Ridge Drive is the Rubio Canyon trail head. Follow this trail for about 600 yards before turning right on a connector trail to Camp Huntington trail. Move southwest for a short distance and the Lone Tree Trail will be on your left. Most of the ascent is right on this ridge with the exception of a small portion moving along its west spur. Obviously the quickest way back down would be returning from the summit the way you came, but we added the slightly less steep Castle Canyon on our map for those of you that still want to avoid getting back to the stresses of a quarantine for just a little longer. Enjoy!