Monday, August 30, 2010

Hike 84: Bailey Canyon Park to Mt. Wilson

Hiked Sunday, August 29. I've covered all of this ground before, but this was the first time I decided to try to go all the way to the top of Mt. Wilson and back after starting at Bailey Canyon Park. There's a fairly good chance it'll be the last time, too. :D

After getting only one hike in over the previous two weeks, I was eager for a longer hike. Since Sunday was looking to be my only chance for a few days, I sort of figured on Friday that this would be my Sunday hike. I knew the weather would be moderate, and that always helps when you're going to be hiking at lower altitudes. And, being a Sunday, I figured the Ice House Canyon trailhead that I would need to use to access Ontario Peak (the last major segment out of Icehouse Canyon that I haven't hiked yet) would be full.

Bailey Canyon is not nearly as well-known as the other access points towards Mt. Wilson, so that was my plan.

I got to the trailhead about 9:30am (already later than I wanted), laced on my boots, then. . . Uh, oh. That's weird. I noticed that the soul of my right boot was peeling off from the upper. And one of the seams of the upper looked to be pulling apart, too.

This is what I get for buying cheap boots. They're a set of Coleman waterproof boots, which I think I paid all of about $40 for back in March. They are (were?) definitely more comfortable than the $20 boots I bought in December, and provide(d) much better ankle support. Their waterproof-ness proved useful when hiking through the snow on the way to Mt. Wilson in the past, and in many stream crossings all over southern California. And, yes, I have done a lot of hiking in them in just six months. Still, I expected they would last longer.

So I drove back home and switched to my $20 boots ("Bear Paw Cascade"), and returned to Bailey Canyon Park. It was now about 10:40am, which was WAY later than I wanted to start. Fortunately for me, the clouds stuck around and it was still not too hot on the way back up.

An hour and a half later, I was at Jones Saddle. Passed maybe six hikers coming down, and three heading up. That's not much compared to what I would have passed going up any alternative route.

From Jones Saddle, there are a series of pretty steep segments on the way over Hastings Peak and over the unnamed peak beyond it. Then there's a substantial drop, followed by 250 or so feet up the fire break to the Toll Road. My legs were tired after that climb.

I also discovered that going up the Toll Road from the fire break to the intersection with the Mt. Wilson Trail, when heading uphill, seems a lot longer than when you're heading down.

On the walk from Jones Saddle to the Toll Road, the red heads of buckwheat were thick and gave the ridge on the way up an almost Autumnal glow. Most of the lupine were starting to dry out, but a few were still blooming.

The sun poked through the clouds a few times, but, for the most part, it was overcast. Nonetheless, I noticed the dome housing one of the biggest solar telescopes in the world was open.

Made it up to the top around 2:30pm. As I rounded the fence that surrounds the staging area where supplies and equipment are unloaded for repairs and construction near the summit, I saw a sign that said, "Cosmic Cafe," and an arrow, pointing to the pavilion. I also passed a couple that was sitting under some trees, looking out at the LA Basin. They confirmed that the cafe was open until 4pm.

I'm happy to report that the restrooms behind the pavilion are now also fully functional.

The cafe is open from 10am until 4pm on weekends only (although they will also be open on Labor Day, Monday, September 6). Their prices are on the high side, but that's only reasonable--With the Angeles Crest Highway closed, they're a two hour drive from the LA Basin, and not a lot of car traffic makes it up here. Hikers and mountain bikers make a pretty substantial portion of their clientele. And, although the cloud layer made my hike enjoyable, I guess some hikers and bikers were scared away by the clouds. I only saw about four bikers when I was on the short segment of the Toll Road between the firebreak and where the trail departs from the road and heads to the pavilion.

Although I had plenty of food bars and plenty to drink in my backpack, I wanted to patrionize the cafe, since I want them to survive and be there the next time I come hiking up. My lunch of a bowl of chili and an iced tea ran $5.25.

I ate my lunch while sitting at a bench, looking at the antennas, the clouds, and the hummingbirds that were visiting the several feeders hung around the patio eaves.

Headed back around 3:30pm, and got back to my car around 7pm. Felt tired, but good. Despite the inauspicious start to the hike, I achieved my objective with time and daylight to spare.

Not sure about some of later hikers I passed. I was 20 minutes below the saddle, around 5:30pm, when a couple heading up asked me about getting to Jones Peak. I'm not sure if they had time to get from there to the top and back before the park's gate is locked. I sure hope they did!


  1. How did your Bearpaw Cascade Boots hold up?

  2. Well, on the down-side, they only lasted a little over a year before I had to replace them (with another of the same type). But, during that year, I wore the Bearpaws on probably 90-100 hikes, covering an average of 5-8 miles each. I doubt most people put that kind of mileage on their boots.

    I prefer the Bearpaws because they're so light, but I use my Coleman (which I patched with Sho-Goo--they're still going strong) if I'm expecting river crossings or moisture, or for longer hikes where I'm willing to accept the higher weight in exchange for better ankle and foot support.

    For the $20 or so I spent on the Bearpaw (using a Big Five coupon, which they're always sending out if you sign up for their e-mail list), I can't argue with the cost/benefit balance.

  3. I hiked this trail up to Jones Peak recently. Is it pretty straight forward to get to Mt. Wilson from Jones Peak? I didn't really see any signs while hiking. Would you recommend returning via the Mt. Wilson trail to Mira Monte Avenue?

  4. It is straightforward, although the last bit before you reach the Toll Road is very steep.

    When you get to the saddle behind (north of) Jones Peak, just go the other way. There was a sort of non-professionally posted sign just a 200 yards or so north of Jones Peak with an arrow pointing down and to the right, towards the Mt. Wilson Trail. If you instead just keep going along the firebreak, it runs smack into the Old Mt. Wilson Toll Road (after going over 2 or 3 intermediate peaks, including Hastings Peak). You "can't" get lost, though you do need to be careful on the steep section.

    Walking the surface streets between Bailey Canyon Park and Mt. Wilson Trail Park is also pretty straightforward. You can take a look at a google map of the northern part of Sierra Madre to make sure you make the correct turns. I'm sure they're less than a mile apart.

  5. Just hiked up to Hastings Peak today. The fire break is somewhat grown over from two years ago. It's still clear from above, but less clear from below. Instead of a barren, 50-foot wide barren swath, it's now mostly covered with dried annual grasses and herbs. There's a clear trail that weaves up the firebreak, though. Easy to follow, at least to Hastings Peak. The toll road is obvious, so you just need to head to the north and northeast from Jones Saddle to reach the Toll Road.

  6. In fairness to the Coleman Dakota books, with periodic Shoe-Goo treatments, they've still my primary medium-duty boots. The Bearpaw Cascades don't give me enough padding for the longer hikes (10-14 miles).

  7. I'm leaving Sierra Madre today (Monday, October 9, 2017) for Death Valley. On Friday I hiked from Bailey Canyon Park to Mount Wilson Observatory. I started out at 7:45 a.m. and returned at 6:30 p.m. I went up via Bailey Canyon Trail through Mount Wilson Toll Road and came down via Mount Wilson Trail, the Connector Trail, and Bailey Canyon Trail. I wore Merrell hiking shoes with Vibram soles and had no problems other than some slight pain in the flat of my right foot near the end. Nothing serious as I hiked Mishe Mokwa/Backbone Trails in Point Mugu State Park, Malibu the next day with my six year-old granddaughter. I have been hiking since late August and didn't consider these trails difficult, except the final steep climb from Bailey Canyon Trail onto Mount Wilson Toll Road. (There is a rusty cable to help pull yourself up the final 40 feet or so.) These trails have some great views, and I would gladly do it again. Did I mention that I recently celebrated my 74th birthday out on a hiking trail?

    1. Congratulations, Roger! Glad to hear you'really staying active and getting some hikes in!

      I have been getting disappointingly few hikes the past few years, and not even managing to get all of those written up. But I do enjoy revisiting some of these hikes from years past.

      Thanks for your comment!