Monday, February 22, 2010

Hike 25: Altadena Crest Trail

Feb 22–Eaton Canyon to Sam Merrill Trail via Altadena Crest Trail. 6 miles?

Some time ago, I noticed a sign for the Altadena Crest Trail, near the Sam Merrill Trail, above Altadena. Within the last month, I also noticed signs for the Altadena Crest Trail on the Mount Wilson Toll Road (just west of the bridge across Eaton Canyon) and down on Rubio Crest Road. I passed the former when heading up Henninger
and the latter while returning from Rubio Canyon.

Over the past few days, I googled "Altadena Crest Trail" to learn what I could about the route. Most of the stuff I found was years old. So, today, I decided to try to figure out if this long-talked about trail was a reality.

I started from just west of Old Mount Wilson Toll Road bridge, below Pinecrest. The trail climbs quickly, then heads west. There are nice views to south and west. As you travel (mostly west), you pass several apparent access points, but most apparently at ends of narrow, private streets. One that did not emptied on to where Tanoble Drive turns into Woodglen Lane.Most of this trail was self-evident. There was only one point where I was momentarily confused about which way the trial went. I think this was about 1/2 mile from the end.

Just before the trail makes a LONG detour around most of Zane Grey Terrace. You're at the opening of a narrow canyon, and it appears that the real trail continues across the canyon, up along a very clear terrace. However, it turns out that's someone's private trail on their private property. The real trail actually heads north, up the narrow canyon for about fifty yards, before it again turns west. It runs along a contour for maybe 100 yards before making a hairpin turn back on itself, then heads south, emptying on to Zane Grey Terrance.

Just at the hairpin turn, it is obvious that the trail used to cross what is now a steep ravine, because trail improvements are apparent across the way. There are a few non-official paths that appear to reach towards the old trail. Hower, they are clearly NOT official trails. They're narrow and steep. And I don't know who owns the land on the other side.

So, instead, I exited the trail at Zane Grey Terrace. Head west about 50 yards and you hit Alta Loma Drive. Go north several hundred yards along Alta Loma, and it soon turns into Rubio Canyon Drive. It also crosses the opening of Rubio Canyon. I've seen people hiking and walking dogs on that part of the Canyon, however, I don't see any way to get there without crossing private property (so maybe those hikers were from these properties? I don't know).

About 100 yards after turning into Rubio Canyon Drive, you'll notice Rubio Crest Drive, enterning from your right. Just after that, you'll notice another sign for the Altadena Crest Trail, also on your right. The trail then heads north, running parallel to a concrete drainage basin for about 200 yards. You'll feel almost like you're tresspassing as you continue north. In some points, you are literally five feet away from someone's unfenced backyard. At other times, you'll feel like you're crossing someone's front yard. But just keep following the trail markers. Eventually, you'll drop below street level and being heading up a drainage culvert. No Trespassing signs sprout up facing the trail at several points.

Just as you approach one of those big 1960s-era debris barriers, you see another sign for Altadena Crest Trail. Suddenly, you’re running into the Sam Merrill Trail! Head up to the right 2 ½ miles to get to Echo Mountain. Or head left 100 yards to climb out of your drainage flow and on to “street” level.” From there, the Altadena Crest Trail heads up hill, then climbs a steep fire break. I hiked a little bit that way in the past, before deciding it was ridiculously steep. [Edit--I have since discovered that the Altadena Crest Trail does NOT run up the firebreak, but runs along a contour from above the Cobb Estate for a mile or so to the west. I think later posts say something about that].

This entire trail is on a south-facing, low-altitude slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. In short, don't expect to "get away from it all." And don't take this hike in the heat of summer. It's hilly and exposed. It is, however, something different, and allowed me to connect two trails that I have taken many times before.

The only other thing this trial lets you see is an eclectic collection of homes. This one here reminded me of the Getty Center

Here's a geodesic dome:

And here's some with wildflowers blooming below:

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