Monday, December 6, 2010

Hike 107: West Fork of San Gabriel River

Hiked Monday, December 6.

Same trailhead as Hike 106. As with the last few hikes, you need an Adventure Pass to park here, but you do not need a Wilderness Permit. In fact, today's hike was almost entirely on pavement. It's the road to Cogswell Dam and Reservoir. I hiked as far as I was sure I was allowed, and turned around at the "No Trespassing or Loitering" sign put up the the LA County Flood Control District.

I wasn't even sure if I was going to go hiking today. But by 7am the rain had stopped and there was plenty of blue sky by 9am. I also figured the mountains would be wet and sloppy, which made this hike make so much sense. Walking on pavement, there'd be no problem with mud. Since the hike is largely level, there'd be no problem with slipping. So I put on my tennis shoes and headed up the San Gabriel Canyon. Opting for tennis shoes rather than hiking boots turned out to be a mistake, by the way.

The trailhead is located up CA-39, about a mile past the East Fork Road. It's the same one I used for the Lower Bear Creek trail.

According to the Tom Harrison Map, the trailhead is located at altitude 1575. It also gives a distance of 6.3 miles to Glenn Camp (alt. 2060), and an additional mile to Cogswell Reservoir (alt 2450). In other words, the first 6.3 miles, you gain less than 500 feet. Not flat, but pretty close to flat (although I did feel like I was walking a lot faster on the way back than going out).

The West Fork of the San Gabriel River meanders along to your right pretty much the entire trip, almost always within sight and sound. In some areas, it is nice and riffle-y. In others, it's got slackwater. There are native rainbow trout in the river, and the portion west of the bridge at the one mile point is a catch and release (single, barbless hooks with artificial lures, only) area. There are several platforms along the way for wheelchair access to fishing pools.

Because the early morning and late night rain was still making its way down the mountain, the water was a little murky in the morning. The cliff face to my left reminded me a little bit of Zion's Weeping Rock trail. Ferns and other assorted plants clung to the cliff while water dripped down to the road. In a few places, the water was heavy enough to qualify as a waterfall.

Just before the six-mile marker (there are yellow-painted metal stakes at one mile intervals from 1-6, plus a "7" painted on a metal railing near the helipad), there was a more substantial falls (about eight feet tall). Behind (above) and to the right of this falls was another falls feeding into its top pool. I could barely see part of that second falls. There may be more, but I couldn't safely climb above the first falls (it was even more dangerous than normal because the rocks were wet from the rain of earlier that day).

Shortly after the six mile marker, I arrived at Glenn Camp. There were picnic tables and pit toilets here. Picnic tables were also scattered along the way, and there was another pit toilet around 4.5 miles up the trail.

Not long after Glenn Camp, the road changes from asphalt to concrete, and a brief but steep segment of road awaits you. It levels off near a helipad. After the helipad, there's a chainlink fence and a gate (that was open). The No Trespassing sign was here.

The Harrison Map shows the West Fork National Recreation Trail as continuing to Cogswell Dam. However, the volunteer at the San Gabriel Canyon Gateway said people weren't allowed to go through the often-open gate, so I turned around there. Not sure if he was right about that, but I figured I had walked far enough.

Even with just those few hundred feet of gain at the end of the trail, it was enough to give a nice view to the west, on out to Mt. Baldy.

After heading back down, I made an attempt to go up Glen Canyon (south of Glenn Camp). There are supposed to be some very scenic waterfalls up this way. However, there was no easy trail up that waterway, so I turned around.

Unfortunately, I got a little bit of a blister on one of my feet today. I should have been more careful with how I put my socks on that morning. Or, I should have gone ahead and worn hiking socks rather than athletic socks, then put on my boots. Since I didn't I had a blister that'll keep me off the trail for at least a few days.

As I noted in my last post, this hike is surprisingly placid, despite walking on pavement. I had to step to the side of the road a number of times as LA County Flood Control vehicles and one 16-wheeler hauling bags of cement went by. There was also a small car parked about 1/2 mile in that a couple of young women who appeared to be counting birds came out of. They were either working for the Forest Service or got a permit from the USFS to get special access. But I don't think I saw any other hikers or walkers until I was on my way back. Most of them, I didn't run into until the last two miles or so.

In addition to lots of smaller birds, I saw two great blue heron and one red tailed hawk. No shots of the heron. Only a couple of poor shots of the hawk.

All told, I hiked just over 14 miles, nearly all of it on pavement. I gained only about 800 feet.

The last shot here is just a crop of the earlier shot of the lower fall that was just before the six mile point of the hike.


  1. Wow, beautiful pictures! I can't believe you just hiked up there a week ago. I'm up in Seattle where it's cold and snowy at times and I'm freezing. I really need to pack up the husband and roll down to CA. :)

  2. It's funny because we had a cold (for us) snap a few weeks ago. Daytime highs in the 50s and nightime temps in the 30s. The snow line came down to about 4,000 feet. But now it's warmed up and even the last rainstorm was a warm one. Today's high is going to be in the mid-80s in the San Gabriel Valley. Crazy weather. A few more days like this and I think even the highest peaks in the area will be snow-free, again.

  3. Happy to share!

    Enjoy the great outdoors!