One of my adventure goals for this summer was a sunset hike in the Angeles National Forest. I picked Mt Williamson (8,214′). Total length of the hike is only 5 miles and since it’s doesn’t get dark instantly after the sunset, we would need to hike back in dark less than 2.5 miles.
It was mid July and the sunset was at 8:07 pm. We met up our friends at Islip Saddle around 5:30 pm. This is the same parking lot for the Mt Islip hike. It was humid and warm at 6,683 feet in elevation. We geared up quickly and began our hike on Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
This less trafficked trail was very narrow and rocky. The first 1/2 of the trail was on the east side of of the mountain and the sun was already on the other side so the trail was completed shaded.
It wasn’t until half way up, we saw the sun. By then, it was soft and gentle.
At about 1.65 mile marker, you will come to a junction. This is where you leave PCT and go north to your right toward the peak. It got buggy at times to my surprise. I never had to deal with mosquitoes in the Angeles National Forest but then again it’s always been in the morning. Bugs love me. Luckily, my friend brought a bug repellent. Little I knew, it was nothing compared to the full attack that would be waiting for me to hike back down in dark.
The peak of Mt Williamson is 2 miles from the trailhead. The summit register, however, is not at the peak. It is at another location past the summit. If you want to go there, stay on the trail you were on toward west. That’s what we did. It’s 1/2 mile from there. Terrain will get more technical. Be careful and watch your steps.
According to the map we were using, we made to the place where the summit register should be but we couldn’t find it. We decided to stop there anyway and have a break. We agreed to hike back the most challenging area while there is still some daylight left. We had about 30 min before we needed to head back. Sunset was stunning as I imagined.
Chilled wine was even better with a sunset on a mountain top. After a quick bite, we began our descent.
We made through the most challenging part of the trail while there was still daylight. After that, it started to get dark quickly. It was time to get our lights out. Xena likes to hike behind me but I wasn’t comfortable with that in dark. An animal might snatch her and I wouldn’t even know. She is so quiet. I used a rope light as a leash and had her walk in front of me. It was so bright! Xena was a walking lamp. Haha!
Needless to say, we made back safely to our cars. I used all the lights I brought – rope light, flashlight and headlamp. It was an exhilarating experience (even with the mosquito attack) and I’d like to do it again!
- Mosquitoes do live up in the higher altitude and they bite through your clothes.
- Take a strong bug repellent. Deet-free products do not work as advertised. I had the same bite counts before the repellent and after I applied it and had quarter-size welts to prove it. (I wasn’t still convinced until my other hike…painfully……that story will be coming soon)
- Fall might be better time for sunset hikes if you are not a night owl. Sunsets are earlier so you can start early and end earlier. I live about 1.5 hours from the mountains. I have to admit. That drive home was rough because it was past my bedtime. It probably is less buggy too.
- More the merrier! That’s not the expression I normally live by but for night hikes, it was true. More people/dogs, more lights, more bug repellent and etc. I felt safe having our friends with us when we were hiking in dark.
Good to Know:
- Hike date: 7.16.17
- Trailhead: 34.357104, -117.851402
- Length: 5 miles RT
- Elevation gain: 1,490 feet
- Difficulty rating: Challenging
- California Adventure Pass required for parking
- Vault toilet at the trailhead
Have you done a hike in dark? What were your lessons learned? Please do share!