Josephine Peak

Park directly across from the Clear Creek Information Center. The trailhead is off Angeles Forest Hwy, a short walk from the parking lot. A gated fire road will appear on your right. The trail starts behind that gate. There are no signs after the trailhead but the trail is well-maintained and you won’t have a problem getting to the peak as long as you stay on the fire road. The city below was covered with rain clouds which looked like about to open up but when we arrived at the trail, we had blue sky and sunshine. Although it’s never too steep, you will break a sweat to get to the peak.

wp-1487196787335.jpgSoon I felt the tranquility you only get to feel in the nature. I was enchanted by the views of nearby peaks and the layers of San Gabriel Mountains. Unlike other nearby peaks in the front range like San Gabriel Peak, Mt Lowe and Mt Disappointment, there were no towers and antennas to make you feel like you never left the city. Ok, not until at the peak but even then, it’s not bad.

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The prominent peak located on the northeast of Josephine Peak is Strawberry Peak at 6,165 ft. It did not leave our sight throughout the trek.

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At the summit

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I know many hikers are down on fire roads. But I think this is one of LA’s best kept secret trail and I hope that people are continued to be uninterested to go here so I can have it all to ourselves. 🙂 We like it so much that we went back with our friends Kristine and her pup Trooper on Xena’s birthday. It was foggy and cold but we had a blast!

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Photo credit:  @TrooperandMoe

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Nice catch, Trooper!

As about 2/3 of the trail faces south, snow melts fast and the trail is usually snow free. And the north facing part of the trail near the top didn’t have enough snow to use microspikes. But since the condition could quickly change in the mountains, I recommend you have microspikes with you when you hike during winter and definitely have layers of moisture-wicking clothes. Based on my experience, it gets windy and cold at the peak. Hot soy latte tasted especially good at the peak. 😉

To get back to the trailhead, go down the way you came up. As always, please leave no trace.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  11.20.16 & 1.2.17
  • Distance:  8.4 miles RT, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  1,833 ft
  • Josephine Peak elevation:  5,558 ft
  • Difficulty rating:  Moderate
  • Trailhead:  34.271097, -118.153699
  • Adventure Pass required for parking
  • Almost no shade. Great for Spring, Fall and Winter.
  • Toilet available at Clear Creek Information Center

 

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Photo credit:  @TrooperandMoe

Happy Hiking!

New Favorite! Mt Islip

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Xena was a grump that morning. She is not a morning dog so when I rush to get ready super early in the morning when it’s still dark outside, she is usually grumpy. Don’t talk to me until 8 am or give me coffee. That grumpy face dissipated though when we arrived at the Islip Saddle parking lot little after 7 am. Then she was super happy when my sister arrived.

The Mt Islip trailhead is across from the parking lot on the south side of the Hwy 2.

The hike started on Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on an uphill and it continued on for a while. The trail was mostly shaded as it faced north. It quickly revealed the stunning views of surrounding San Gabriel Mountains.  When you reach this sign, you’ve hiked a mile and gained 569 feet. Stay on PCT and go toward Little Jimmy Trail Camp from this junction.

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Next mile was easier with only 236 feet elevation gain. At the 2.1 mile marker, you will reach the Little Jimmy Campground on your right. I goofed and kept going until we reached a fork. We turned around and came back to the campground to find the trail to the summit.

Take the trail that goes through the campground. Soon, there will be a small wooden sign for Islip Peak. The peak is 1.2 miles from the sign.

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Up to this point, the trail was moderately shaded. However, once we left the campground and continued our ascent, it was mostly exposed. The sun didn’t bother us much though since it was middle of November and the beauty of Mt Islip was just about to reveal itself to us. Turn after turn, I was wowed. Then, this view! This hike became my new favorite instantly! I could sit there all day…really.

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A stunning view was waiting for us at every turn.

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When you come to this old stone cabin which used to be a fire lookout at some point, you made it to the peak. It’s literally just around the corner.

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After I set up a place for lunch break,

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On bag duty

we signed our names (including Xena’s) in the log.

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We had the summit to ourselves for about 30 minutes which was a real treat. At one point, I caught Xena taking a summit snooze.

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Enjoy the unparalleled 360 degree view from the summit. We were there early enough to find some shade but if you go in the middle of a day, there will be no shade so be prepared. After the break, go back down the way you came up.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  11.13.16
  • Distance:  7.5 miles RT, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  1,561 ft
  • Mt Islip summit:  8,250 ft
  • Trailhead:  34.356975, -117.850516
  • Difficulty rating:  Moderate 
  • National Forest Adventure Pass required for parking
  • Restroom available at the parking lot

 

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Happy Hiking!

2 for 1: Vetter Mountain and Mt Mooney

We got on the road super early that morning to meet up with a friend at the Charlton Flats Picnic area parking lot before the sunrise. It was the last weekend before the daylight time savings ends. After that, we would have to wake up even earlier to see the sunrise so this was our last chance before the winter begins.

Much to my surprise, I enjoyed driving in the mountains in the dark. I drove without constantly having to pull over for the speeding cars behind me. Then, a fawn came out of nowhere. I came to an abrupt stop and watched this beautiful creature staring back at me with wide eyes. Why are you alone? Go find your mama, I whispered. Once the shock lifted after a few seconds, it finally turned around and retreaded.

There were men with rifles in the parking lot. I learned that it was a hunting season and there was only one more week left. I’ve never been around hunters so seeing men carrying guns made me very uncomfortable. Luckily, Katherine was more familiar with the hunting culture so she explained things to me which helped me feel better. But still, I thought about the baby deer I ran in to earlier and hoped he hid from the hunters.

Since it was my first sunrise hike, I was a bit nervous about the dark (and the guns) and excited about the new adventure at the same time. It was definitely more challenging to get ready in the dark even with the headlight and Xena did not make it easy on me by staying still. This was all new to her too so she was a bit excited. Once we started hiking on the fire road away from the group, I felt the tension released from my body.

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This sign in the dark made me laugh. Follow the Vetter fire lookout sign.

We must’ve taken longer at the parking lot than we planned because the sun already started to rise from the east. It was beautiful.

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It’s a short distance to the fire lookout (1.7 miles from the sign).

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Built-in doggy door at the fire lookout? 🙂

Xena doing her part of fire lookout

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Photo credit: @robinventures

We had a pleasure meeting a couple who were volunteering at the fire lookout. The husband pointed out the helicopter pad near us where a helicopter waits for an emergency call. We also learned that there is at least one fatal accident every week and that it usually involves a speeding motorcyclist. Every week. That’s just horrible. Please slow down.

Normally, we would try side trails but with the hunters in the area, we decided to stay on the fire road with the pups on the way down as well. Since it’s a short 4-mile hike, we planned to do another short hike to Mt Mooney across the Hwy 2 from the parking lot.

After 0.65 miles, you will get to a tiny parking area, you need to take an inconspicuous side trail on your left. From here to the summit requires some scrambling as there is no clear path. Just keep going toward the top. It is about 0.4 miles from this junction. The summit isn’t clearly marked so if you are at the top, you reached the summit.

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Next two photos were taken on our way down to show you the trail condition.

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Photo credit:  @robinventures

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Next, we headed back to the Charlton Flats picnic area for some hang time. It was a gorgeous sunny day with a gentle breeze. Hammocking was a must. 🙂 We took a nap and just hung out listening to the sound of breeze passing through the trees. It was wonderful. Two hours went by fast.

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Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  11.5.16
  • Distance:  7.36 miles (Vetter Mtn – 4 miles)
  • Elevation gain:  1,089 feet
  • Vetter Mountain elevation:  5,909 ft
  • Mt Mooney elevation:  5,860 ft
  • Trailhead:  Charlton Flats Picnic Site (34.296746, -118.006773)
  • National Forest Adventure Pass required for parking
  • There are multiple bathrooms on Vetter Mountain fire road and they were well maintained. We were impressed. 😀

Happy Hiking!

 

 

 

Cougar Crest Trail to Bertha Peak in Big Bear Lake

Bertha Peak is a must when you visit Big Bear Lake. The peak is located north of the lake near the center so you get the panoramic view at the top.

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Cougar Crest trailhead is located off N Shore Dr. Stop at the Big Bear Discovery Center beforehand if you don’t have an Adventure Pass already. You need it for parking at the trailhead. Soon, you will come to this sign. Stay on the Cougar Crest Trail for 2.25 miles.

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Are you ready for an adventure?

The trail is a gradual but steady ascent except the last mile. The terrain changes from dirt to rocky then back and forth but it’s mostly rocky. I recommend proper hiking shoes for this hike.

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This picture was taken when we were on our way back down to show you the rocky terrain.

After 2.25 miles or so, you will come to the sign below. To be accurate, you will see the back of the sign. Follow the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and take the trail on the right. From here to the peak, the terrain is very rocky. It’s easy to get distracted with the uncovered beautiful lake view on your right so watch your steps.

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When you reach the Bertha Peak sign, turn right and go up the fire road. But first, you might want to stretch your legs. The most challenging part of the trail is about to begin. The last mile to the peak is steep. Hang in there. The panoramic view from the top will be worth it.

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Xena waits for me. My sister? No.

Hello, Bertha Peak!

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Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  10.2.16
  • Distance (RT):  7.3 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  1,289 feet, Peak at 8,201′
  • Difficulty rating:  Moderate
  • Time:  4 hours including breaks
  • Trailhead:  Google Cougar Crest Trailhead
  • Bathroom available at the trailhead
  • Adventure Pass is required for parking.  You can purchase it at the Big Bear Discovery Center. $5/day.

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Happy Hiking!

Sunset Peak in Mt Baldy

There are two trailheads off Glendora Ridge Road for this hike. If you enter “Sunset Peak Trailhead” in to the google map, it will take you to the first trailhead located at Cow Canyon Saddle. If you start from here, it will  be a shorter hike but expect a much much more steep incline. I saw the steepness from the road and felt dizzy already so drove 3.3 miles further to the second trailhead.

We started around 10:15 am which is much later than usual. I miscalculated how much cooler it would be up there with higher elevation (start 4,361 ft) and all. We had a heat wave in the LA area that week and the temperature was already in the mid 60s at the trailhead. Around 0.9 miles, non-biting gnats appeared out of no where and wouldn’t leave me alone for the next 3/4 mile or so. It was beautiful though..

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As we gained more elevation, the terrain started to change more rocky and the gnats disappeared. Free at last!!

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Tall pine trees started to appear

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and we were spared from the sun’s heat at times.

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Around 2.16 miles, you will come to two trails. Take the trail on your right. The one on the left is the trail from Cow Canyon Saddle. Steady uphill continued and we had fabulous views of San Gabriel mountains! I couldn’t get close to the edge like Xena so she modeled for me.

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Yep, we were up high.

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After a close call with a rattlesnake this time last year, I’ve been super careful with scoping out the place before we settle for a break. Near the peak, I found us a nice secluded area off the main trail and did my careful checkout of the area. Now, it was time to relax and enjoy the earned views.

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After the break, we both felt rejuvenated so I thought maybe I should try a selfie. After 4 attempts, I got a decent photo of us. Xena’s too cool to look at the camera but I smiled for both of us so it’s OK. (I think I see a snot hanging off her right nostril. Hahaha!) Here is to our trail adventure on Valentine’s Day! ♡

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Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  2.14.16
  • Trailhead: 34.219018, -117.712337 (copy/paste to your GPS app)
  • Distance (RT):  7.5 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,469 ft
  • Time:  3.5 hours including breaks
  • No restroom

 

Happy Hiking!

La Tuna Canyon to Vital Link

The trailhead is right off La Tuna Canyon Road in La Crescenta, CA. There is a small dirt strip on the side with a picnic table. Park there and walk to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Parkland trailhead sign. There is a use trail behind the parking area but ignore it.

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The single track quickly takes you away from the road and in to the wilderness. We absolutely loved exploring La Tuna Canyon with my sister. It’s hard to believe this secluded off the beaten path is part of Verdugo Mountain. We never saw anyone on this trail until we reached Verdugo Mtwy.

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Such a cute picture of my sister and Xena

For the first mile, we were exposed and the trail was dry. Then, somewhere in the mile two, it started to get green and I felt the moisture in the air. Soon, we were greeted with tall trees and shades. Rocks were covered with multiple shades of green lichens and wild mushrooms were growing out of fallen trees. Did you know Lichens obtain their water and nutrients from the atmosphere? The hike became very interesting!

Without obstacles and challenges, it wouldn’t be an adventure.

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The trail was blocked by fallen branches.

The trail was pretty easy to follow. Overall, the trail had a steady incline. Some parts were steeper than others but just for a short distance.

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Eventually, we were out of the shaded area and were exposed again. At about 1.8 mile mark, you will come to a split. Turn left here towards the Verdugo Mountain. The trail ended when it met up with Verdugo Mtwy in 0.4 miles and there was a chair waiting for us. So we sat and enjoyed the incredible views from the top. 🙂

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Mountain kisses are the best!

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La Tuna Canyon

We knew we were pretty close to the top of the Vital Link trail we did in November, just weren’t sure how close. We decided to hike to it and “connect the dot” so to speak. It didn’t look that far from the map. As we climbed further up on Verdugo Mtwy, the weather started to shift. It was foggy and rain clouds were visible. Here are some pictures I took on the way. Fog made the views dramatic.

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Burbank and Wildwood Canyon Park below and Griffith Park ahead

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View of Vital Link Trail (first ridge)

By the time we reached the top of Vital Link, it was misty and cold. It made my sister happy to “connect the dot” though. Vital Link is in her backyard practically so she often hikes this. She enjoyed arriving to the top from a different trail. We were at 2,949 feet and we gained 1,784 feet.

We took a short break then started back. We didn’t want to get rained on. I don’t know how but we missed this old abandoned pickup truck on our way up on La Tuna Canyon Trail but we spotted it before the shaded area when we were going down. Interesting trail!

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Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  1.18.16
  • Trailhead:  34°13’59.5″N 118°18’40.9″W (copy and paste this to your GPS app)
  • Distance (RT):  7.5 miles (La Tuna Canyon only 4.4 miles)
  • Elevation gain:  1784 ft (La Tuna Canyon only 925 ft)
  • No restroom

 

Happy Hiking!