Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hike 2012.006 -- Hastings Peak via Little Santa Anita Canyon

Hiked Saturday, February 4.

Late start, but I still got a decent hike in today. Headed out of Little Santa Anita Canyon. This is the trailhead for the Mt. Wilson Trail, and is located at the intersection of Mt. Wilson Trail Road and Mira Monte Avenue. From the Foothill Freeway (I-210) exit at Baldwin Avenue and head north. If you're coming from the east, head straight off the ramp at the light and continue north on Baldwin. If coming from the west, turn left at the light, left again after you get under the freeway and hit Foothill Blvd, and right where Baldwin continues, north of Foothill.

About 1 1/2 miles north of Foothill (after passing Sierra Madre Blvd and a whole bunch of churches, make a right at Mira Monte. About 500 feet later, you'll pass Carter Avenue. Mt. Wilson Trail Park is a bit past Carter. Mt. Wilson Trail Road is just west of the park.

Walk up Mt. Wilson Road to reach the trail.

This is the same trailhead I took on Hike 2011.098, late last year. It also has a similar end point to my Hike 2011.097, so I've obviously been in this area recently.

A sign at the trailhead provides mileages for several points of interest along the way. If you go all the way to Mt. Wilson, it's 7 miles, one way. Most hikers seem to go only as far as First Water, which is listed as 1.5 miles each way. The next reliable water crossing is not until Decker Springs, 3.5 miles away. Just past that is Orchard Camp (3.5 miles), which is just before the trail makes a steep ascent towards Manzanita Ridge (5.2 miles), which, itself, is just before reaching the Toll Road (5.8 miles). If I'm feeling good and have some free time next weekend, I may try to do Mt. Wilson via this route.

For today, my goal was initially Jones Peak, although I wound up going to Hastings Peak, instead.

The trail through little Santa Anita Canyon (and, really, all the way up to the Toll Road) is rather steep, and has a lot of southern exposure. This makes it hot in the summer, though pleasantly warm if the weather is cool. As you weave along the face of the hillside, there are plenty of views up canyon, where you can see the climbing that lays ahead of you.

There's also the sound of running water on your right. Don't know if there's any feasible way to reach that water, but several waterfalls are visible from on high. I took a short video of one of them (linked at the end of this post), because still pictures don't really make the waterfall very obvious.

This is a heavily traveled trail--not as heavy as Echo Mountain, and definitely not as heavy as Fish Canyon when you take the Azusa Rock shuttle vans, or Eaton Canyon to the waterfall or Henninger Flat, nor as heavy as Chantry Flat trails, but you won't have much solitude unless you either leave the Little Santa Anita for Jones Saddle or if you push on past Orchard Camp.

The trail to Jones Saddle is somewhat past First Water. I initially thought it was about one mile past, but I have reconsidered the distance in light of the fact that I could see the "Helipad" on the way back down, and it was within easy earshot of that bare spot of ground. According to the sign at the trailhead, the Helipad is 2.7 miles from the start, or 1.2 miles past First Water. That would put the Jones Saddle trail 1.1 to 1.2 miles past the First Water cutoff.

There's no signage at this split, and it's an "informal" trail, though obviously maintained by someone. At the fork, there was an orange tie around a shrub branch, and about three fallen trees and logs. Head up that way about 100 yards, along the base of the ravine. It won't really feel like you're on a trail, but after those 100 or maybe 150 yards, a clearer trail weaves up towards your right. From there, the trail is obvious, though not always wide.

I'd estimate (based on my travel time back down) that it's about a mile of switchbacks up the hill 'til you reach the Jones Saddle trail. A left turn there would take you towards either Jones Peak (significantly lower than where you would be standing at the moment), or all the way down to Bailey Canyon.

I've hiked from Bailey Canyon up this way several times, but never tried accessing Jones Saddle or Hastings Peak from the Little Santa Anita Canyon side. It was actually not as steep on that last bit as I thought it would be (though I did take my time, and my legs are still pretty tired from yesterday).

Because I hate giving up hard-won altitude, I decided to head up and right, towards Hastings Peak, rather than down and left, towards Jones Peak.

The path is easy to follow, though not as blatantly obvious as it was the first time I hiked this way. The scar of the fire break has been softened by several years of annual growth. Dead herbaceous stems are thick, and there actually is a single trail rather than a wide swath of exposed earth to follow. It's actually easier to walk this way (though still steep and slick in spots) than it was before.

The elevation of Hastings Peak has given altitudes of between 4000 and 4163 on various Internet sites. That means a bit over 3000 feet of vertical gain from the Mt. Wilson Trail trailhead. My estimate of distance would be between 10.5 and 11 miles total, with a gross altitude gain of about 3400 feet. Gross is somewhat larger than net because there's a section of Mt. Wilson trail that was washed out years ago. The detour requires a substantial gain in altitude, via many switchbacks. Much of that altitude is given right back on your way to First Water. You also need to give up some altitude as you travel between Hastings Peak and the mound just southeast of it.

From Hastings Peak, the various mounds below, and on down to Jones Peak, are to your southeast. Santa Anita Race Track is just beyond that. The Santa Ana Mountains are farther east, and off in the distance. The small antenna/microwave complex above Chantry Flat is to your east. San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Mountains are all far off and on your horizon. The lower reaches of San Antonio (Mt. Baldy) is mostly obscured by closer the ridges of closer mountains, though the top is easily visible.

To your north is Mt. Harvard. Mt. Wilson is eclipsed by the closer (but shorter) Ivy League mountain. I'm moderately sure that the next mound along the fire break you're standing on (before reaching the fire break) is Mt. Yale. Continue over Yale, drop down several hundred feet, then climb back up even more, and you'd be on the Old Mount Wilson Toll Road.

I enjoyed the quiet and the view for several minutes. The sun glared off of the Pacific Ocean, in the distance. Palos Verdes and Santa Catalina Island were to the southwest. Just north of them was tiny Santa Barbara Island. Further to the north, I thought I could see another larger island, though that might have been my imagination.

Finally, I started down on my return trip. It's steep and slick, so I walked slowly, shuffling my feet a little, eyes down, watching my steps carefully. Suddenly, I became aware of the sound of thundering hooves. I looked up in time to see a herd of 15-20 deer, running across the clearing right in front me, right to left, maybe 200 yards ahead of me. I have never seen such a large herd of deer in the San Gabriel Mountains. But by the time I got my camera on and pointed, only the last straggler was there to be photographed. He paused for a moment, staring up at me, before bounding towards the cover of the trees, to the left.


  1. Wow, that really is a great view from high atop that mountain. Looks like you had a great hike.

  2. Bet those mountain lions would be excited to see all those deer. Looks pretty brown out there. Are you guys getting enough rain this year?

  3. Yep, Kay--Great hike ;D

    Mark--I'm actually thinking this may be why the mountain lion spottings are becoming more common--there's more food.

    It was pretty wet out here in October and November (when I wasn't here!), but it's been pretty dry since then. Well, except for some rain tomorrow. I seem to recall it's pretty dry in the Sierra, too. Dry may be the new normal.

  4. This seems like a great one! Are the paths to the peaks fairly obvious or signed?

  5. It's been a year since I last visited Hastings Peak; a return is well overdue. Glad to know that plowed firebreak is developing more and more into some sort of visible trail. Did you return via Bailey Canyon? I always find Little Santa Anita Canyon more scenic and enjoyable.

  6. ADK--The split from the Mt. Wilson Trail is not too obvious, unless you're looking for it. No signage. Also, the first 100 yards, it seems like there's no trail there. It's pretty obvious after that, though narrow. Once you reach the saddle, just make a right and keep going about 1/2 mile, until you reach the peak with the metal poll sticking out of it. That's Hastings Peak. If time and stamina allow, you can continue over Hastings Peak to the toll road, and on to Mt. Wilson.

    John--I was initially going to make a loop of it and come down Bailey Canyon, then got lazy and just came back down the way I came, and where my car was parked.