Many APU students experience nearby Garcia Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains. Garcia is a favorite for its easy accessibility (east on Alosta Avenue, north on Barranca Avenue, left on Sierra Madre Avenue; park near the fire station; trailhead is left of the station). The short but semi-strenuous hike gives a bird's eye view of the valley to the south, and the APU campus. The view to the north reveals an expanse of mountains with waterfalls, a mysterious bridge, camping, wildlife, and an observatory hidden just beyond this range of hills.
Exploring the San Gabriel Mountains is always an adventure, with much to discover. The guidelines here are only suggestions. If you go on a long hike, refer to a map and guidebook.
Closer to the Sky
Numerous trails lead to Mount Wilson (5,600'), home of a historic observatory. A drive up the Angeles Crest Highway gives a view of the Los Angeles basin without a strenuous climb (though mountain bikers may be interested in the ride up the road and down a trail.) The Mount Wilson Observatory is not operating as it once did, but the telescopes are historically valuable. Astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble discovered the expanding universe with their aid. The observatory is open Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Several easily accessible (but difficult climbing) trails lead to the peak of Mount Wilson. These trails include Mount Wilson Toll Road from Altadena (9 miles each way), Old Mt. Wilson trail from Sierra Madre (7.5 miles each way), Chantry Flat to Winter Creek Trail (6 miles each way), and Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Trail (8 miles each way).
To get to Chantry Flat from APU take the 210 Freeway east, exit Santa Anita Avenue, and drive six miles north to Chantry Flat. For trail guides, see Trails of the Angeles by John Robinson.
Beginning at Chantry Flat, the trail to Sturtevant Falls is a great beginner hike (500' of altitude gain). The five-mile roundtrip meanders along a stream and ends in a view of 50-60' high falls. If you continue to Mount Wilson, take the upper-falls trail, which veers sharply to the left before the debris barrier, and head right to the upward trail. This trail leads to a downward view of the falls, and eventually to the peak of Mount Wilson via Spruce Grove Trail Camp. (Be prepared – the peak of Mount Wilson is eight miles one-way and strenuous. It is best to have a vehicle waiting for you at the peak.)
I'll Take the Highway
The Bridge to Nowhere was originally part of a highway planned to connect the San Gabriel Valley with the high desert beyond the mountain range. A flood in 1938 washed away the construction project, leaving the bridge. The trail takes you through the East Fork of the San Gabriel Canyon, a rough, and sometimes unmarked, trail with many stream crossings. For trail guide, see 101 Hikes in Southern California.
Tips for Local Hiking
A National Forest Adventure Pass is needed for parking in the Angeles National Forest. You may park without a pass on free days (the last Saturday of the month). Purchase a one-day pass for $5 or a one-year pass for $30.
Trail maps may be purchased at REI and Sport Chalet. The Comstock Backpacking Guide to California is available at the APU library, listing six local hikes. The Pasadena Public Library carries Hike Los Angeles Vol. 1, Vol. 2, 50 Best Short Hikes in California's Central Coast, Hiking Trails of the Santa Monica Mountains, Day Hikes Around Los Angeles, and more. A library card is easy to obtain if you are a California resident. Get driving directions to Pasadena Public library.
When hiking, water is a must. Hydration systems allow you to carry water on your back, drinking through a tube. If you're planning to use a portable water filter, keep in mind that a stream shown on the map may be dry or seasonal.
If you've had enough of freeways, fast food, and computers, unload the textbooks from your backpack and toss in some granola bars. Whether a short hike, or an extended backpacking trip, heading to the mountains gives new perspective on God's creation and the city below.