San Gabriel Peak via Eaton Saddle

There are two locations where you can start this hike. One is from the trailhead near the Red Box Picnic Area (Bill Riley Trailhead) and the other is from Eaton Saddle. Well, I thought I started from the Bill Riley Trailhead.. because that’s what I planned on doing when I left the house that morning. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself on a different location on the map when I checked the GPS in the middle of my trek. Whaaat?! Haha! In hindsight, I am glad it happened.

I raced against a group of mountain bikers at the parking lot to get ready. I guessed there were about 30 of them. I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of the group. The hike began on Mt Lowe fire road. It was a clear sunny day so I was able to see the nearby cities (Altadena and Sierra Madre) to the south. First part of the Mt Lowe Rd is an rocky uphill. At 0.31 miles, we arrived at Mueller Tunnel.



The rocky fire road continued at the end of the tunnel. At the 0.78 mile marker, you will come to a junction. Take the San Gabriel Peak trail is on your right next to the water tank.

San Gabriel Peak trail is exposed all the way to the peak but early in the morning, some parts were shaded. A little bit of scrambling is required at certain sections and some parts of the trail were very narrow but it’s doable. Just watch your step.



When we got close to the top, the north-facing side of the trail was icy.


The short hill from the bottom of the peak to the top (maybe 0.1 mile) was covered with thick ice. Many people were turning around when we got there. It was too slippery to climb at that point without spikes. I brought mine with me just in case but never tried them. Woohoo! I get to put my microspikes to the test. They better work! I put them on over my boots with a bit of effort (at least I knew they wouldn’t come off while walking) but overall it was quick and easy. I took my first step on the ice, the same spot I slid earlier without the spikes. OMG. I instantly fell in love with my spikes! Haha! I quickly learned to dig in to the ice when I walk so the spikes can have a better grip of the surface. Going up to the peak was piece of cake after that. Since most people turned around at the bottom of the peak, we found the summit empty which I enjoyed very much.

To return to the trailhead, go back the way you came up.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  12.4.16
  • Distance (RT):  3.5 miles, out and back
  • Elevation gain:  1,209 ft
  • Difficulty rating:  Moderate-Challenging
  • San Gabriel Peak elevation:  6,161 ft
  • Trailhead:  34.239379, -118.093359
  • Adventure Pass required for parking
  • Toilet available at Red Box Picnic Area



Happy Hiking!

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.



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.



At the summit




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!


Photo credit:  @TrooperandMoe


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



Photo credit:  @TrooperandMoe

Happy Hiking!

New Favorite! Mt Islip


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.


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.


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.


A stunning view was waiting for us at every turn.



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.



After I set up a place for lunch break,


On bag duty

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


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.


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



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.


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.




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


Built-in doggy door at the fire lookout? 🙂

Xena doing her part of fire lookout



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.


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


Photo credit:  @robinventures


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.



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!




Bright and Early at Big Horn Mine

The Big Horn Mine near Wrightwood has been closed off for a long time but in early 1900s it used to be a profitable gold mine. Now this abandoned mine is a popular hiking destination for SoCal hikers.

I planned to meet up with Katherine (@robinventures) super early at the trailhead because we wanted to see the sunrise as we drove up the mountain. The sunrise was stunning that morning as we hoped. I had to pull over to take some photos.


We hoped to run in to each other on the way but that didn’t happen. We met up at the Vincent Gap trailhead as planned. We were shocked to see a big group already getting ready in the parking lot. We began the hike following the sign for Mine Gulch.


When you see the sign below, stay on the Big Horn Mine road on the right.


We think the big group was hiking the Mt Baden-Powell (on my next year’s wishlist) because we never ran in to them again. We pretty much had the Big Horn Mine fire road to ourselves. The fire road started out wide but it became narrow at times and the terrain changed to very rocky.


After two miles, we reached the ruins of the old mine building. You can even explore the mine if you feel adventurous. I opted out though.


We set up our hammocks and two pups hung out with me. It was raining lightly on and off and the wind picked up but these two kept me warm while Katherine was walking around and being busy as usual.


Photo credit: @robinventures

The view of San Gabriel Mountains was stunning along the trail but it was especially spectacular from the mine. I am looking forward to going back next year and summit Mt Baden-Powell (9,407 ft/2,867 m) with my favorite trail buddy.


Photo credit: @robinventures

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  10.23.16
  • Total distance:  4 miles
  • Elevation gain:  650 ft
  • Trailhead:  Vincent Gap parking lot (34.373351, -117.752030)
  • National Forest Adventure Pass required for parking
  • Restroom available at the trailhead



Photo credit: @robinventures

Happy Hiking and Happy New Year!

Mt Waterman Loop

First time I hiked here, I tried the loop counter-clockwise and got us lost. There was no sign and it gets confusing when you get to the ski lift area. The second time I went back, I did the loop clockwise and loved it! So, I am going to show you how to do the loop clockwise.

I got us out of the house before the sunrise to get to the trail around 7 am. I was coming up from the west so the actual sunrise was blocked by the mountains but I was still able to enjoy the soft glow while driving up on Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2).


The parking area was on my left and the area was empty when we arrived. It’s right before the Buckhorn Day Use Area sign. There is a picnic area and a toilet if needed.

There are two trailheads – Fire road trailhead is across from the Buckhorn Day Use Area sign and a single trek trailhead with the “Trail” sign is across from the other end of the parking area. The single trek is the one Modern Hiker trail guide starts from and that’s where we began. Either way, you need to cross the street.

Follow the “Trail” sign until you meet the fire road. Here, you will see a sign for Mt Waterman Loop to your left. See below. Follow this sign and you will avoid the fire road until later and you will do the loop clockwise.


It was a lovely trail with lots of shade.


We were surrounded by pine trees and pine cones were everywhere.


We continued to climb and enjoyed the view.


Once the trail leveled out a little, I found a place to set up my hammock. It’s my first hammock and I was super excited to put it to use. On the other hand, Xena was unsure about this new floppy thing so she practically laid on me and held on to her dear life in the hammock. You should see her now though. She loves snuggling in the hammock.


We shared mini carrots and apple slices and hung out in the hammock for a while. When I had a fill, I packed up our gear and continued on. The view from this side of the trail was stunning.


The trail steadily climbed up then eventually, we came to this sign. Go to right toward Trail Summit. You are 3/4 mile away from the Mt Waterman Summit from here.


When you see the summit to your left, go up, check it out then come back down to the trail. You will eventually come to the sign below. You are at the half way mark at this point. Soon, you will come to the fire road.


You will pass by ski lifts. This picture was taken when we hiked here first time and I got us lost. I kept taking us to different ski lifts. We went to all three of them! She was on to me by this time. Her look though. Haha.


This rock formation was right off the fire road, she found herself a nook and wanted to stay there so we took a break here.


From here on, there are no signs to guide you. Just stay on the fire road when in doubt, it will take you back to the trailhead.

Good to Know:

  • Hike date:  9.17.16
  • Distance:  6.4 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,350 ft
  • Trailhead:  34.346761, -117.921113 (copy/paste to your GPS app)
  • Aventure Pass ($5/day or $30/annual) is required for parking
  • Restroom available at Buckhorn Day Use Area
  • You will climb up to 8,000 elevation. You may feel mild altitude sickness or also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) if it’s your first time hiking at that elevation. Everyone is different. Some people are more sensitive to it than others. Just listen to your body and take it easy if you do.

Happy Hiking!


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