2 night / 3 day SoCal backpacking trip

1:38 a.m. on September 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Three friends and I are looking to do a 3 day backpacking trip in the third week of September around SoCal. We would be driving out of Pasadena.

We are relatively fit college students but most of us are first or second time backpackers and aren't looking for something super strenuous.

The parks we are mostly looking at are Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Angeles National Forest, San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. 

Three options I've gathered so far are:

Sequoia: A Jennie and Weaver Lakes loop.

One day to Jennie lake, one day to Weaver lake, and one day back to the car. 

San Jacinto: A longish round trip to the summit:

One long day to the summit, one short day to Castle Rocks, and one longish day back to the car.

Angeles National Forest: Start at the Joe Elliot trailhead, one day to cucamonga peak, one day to comanche camp, one day to lytle trailhead. 

One other option I would be looking at would be the east side of Sequoia/Kings Canyon so that we could get to some of the higher areas quicker.

Any suggestions/recommendations?



3:15 a.m. on September 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Usually hiking/camping in the mountains around LA is getting very warm by end of June.  Many head for the eastern Sierra (faster to east side than west).

Pasadena to Lone Pine is quickest/shortest going I-210 North from Pasadena exiting in a few miles to go over Angeles Crest Hiway to Palmdale.   It is a lot of mountain driving for around 40 minutes.  Be sure to watch for the right turn to US 395 as you leave Mojave (good breakfast spot).   If you leave around 4AM you will be on most of these trails by 9AM or so. 

Cheapest gas is Mojave ARCO across from Denny's

Every town (and some wide spots) have access to the higher Sierra from US395 from Lone Pine up to Bridgeport. Many of the passes either start at around 6,000 (the ugh passes, like Taboose, Sawmill and Shepherd) or 9,500+ feet. Army, Kearsarge, Biship.  They all lead to Kings and Sequoia NP at the pass.   Lakes and great scenery usually within 6 miles or so.

You will need a Wilderness Permit for all of these trips reserved ahead of time. White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop or Lone Pine Interagency Visitor Center.

Get "100 Sierra South Trails" guide from REI on Santa Anita off of 210 East.  Tom Harrison Maps (.com) are good.  Other end (north) on Santa Anita is 14mile r/t hike to Mt Wilson.

You can usually get to 11,000' by mid June at Cottonwood Lakes.  First sticking snow is around Thanksgiving (give or take).  High season is July and August but good overnights up thru October - cool tho.

Lone Pine:  Destination Cottonwood Lakes and Army Passes (New and Old): Trail head starts end of 26mi curvy road at Horseshoe Meadows. Trail to the lakes and Army Pass starts around 10,400'. Be sure you are not taking trail to Cottonwood Pass which is about 1/4 mile farther along the road.   First lakes are at 11,000' and about 6 miles in.  I like Muir Lake for overnight.  There is a use trail between Lake 1 and Lake 2 that will get you over to Long Lake in the other drainage.  I prefer Old Army Pass especially if heading for Mt Langley 14,000'+ (a good day trip leaving early) from the lakes. Visitor center has a map that shows location of abandoned OLD Army pass trail.   Langley trail is dry so take plenty of water. There is a trail junction to Army Pass.  Stay to right not crossing meadow to get to lakes.


Independence: Destination: Kearsarge Pass and the lakes beyond.  Trail head at roads end in Onion Valley.   You can also investigate Golden Trout Lake and summit Kearsarge Peak.  Lots of abandoned mining activity at the higher reaches of the mountain.  Once at K Lakes you could head over to Glenn Pass and Rae Lakes for a long day trip.  Good fishing usually at the lakes.   There is a 4-5 day relatively strenuous loop here that includes Shepard Pass.  Catch the trail head on Symmes Creek from the Onion Valley road - about 2 miles south.  Thumb a ride up/down from Onion Valley to complete the loop.


Big Pine: Destination: Big Pine Lakes nestled below the largest glacier in California. Trailhead near Glacier Lodge. Take a couple of nights trip to explore the entire upper drainage of Big Pine Creek and even up North Fork to an over look up between Puzzle Peak Gendarme Pk.  Or even Rainbow Pass.


Bishop: Destination Bishop Pass,  Dusy Basin and perhaps Knapsack Pass as a cross country. Trailhead from South Lake.  Long Lake is about 3 miles, pass is 7 and 8 or so to upper lakes of the basin.  Many other lakes to explore if you don't want to go high and long. This leads to the back sides of the 14'rs out of Big Pine.


From North Lake is Piute Pass and the grandeur of Humphrey's Basin and the high Sierra.


Lake Sabrina also a trail head of significance.

And many many more.

11:45 a.m. on September 1, 2012 (EDT)
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For a short trip, after Labor Day maybe you can try something closer to home like Icehouse Cyn on Mt Baldy or the San Jacintos from Idylwild.  I used to hike that country 40 years ago.

9:28 p.m. on September 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Wow thanks speacock for the detailed reply. I'll definitely look at those trails you suggested.

I'm going to pick up "Sierra South" today and start looking.

@ppine, I'll also take a closer look at San Jacintos.


3:34 p.m. on September 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Around the SoCal area, Angeles Mountains are getting too warm about the time the Sierra has lost most of its snow.   There are some terrific conditioning trails that you can use in between your over night trips.

All of the lower hikes are better as 3 season (Fall-Spring)excursions. Baldy and higher peaks farther to the east can be very dangerous in the winter.

North end of Lake Ave is Echo Mountain.  5+ miles round trip.  When you get to the old rail bed for the electric train turn right and for some good history with pictures from the 1890's.  You can continue straight past your trail up for about another mile r/t to the old road up Wilson, or other destinations.

North end of Santa Anita is Chantry Flats and the start of trail at the road that goes down and away from the way you drove up.  It is well marked at the top. Save some energy to make it back up this road at the end of your hiking day.  It is brutal in the summer. Cross the creek at bottom.

If you turn left you will make a loop back to the parking lot via the Lower Winter Creek Trail then back down the Upper Winter Creek trail.

If you turn right you will go up some coffer damns, burned out remains of 1880's camps, some current residents and then to the falls.  Just before you get to the falls is a trail to your left that takes you above the falls and up to Sturtevant Camp and then continue up to Mt Wilson.  You can return to catch up with Upper Winter Creek Trail for a 14 mile r/t.  There all kinds of options for a day hike and loops in that area, including a car shuttle to pick up the OLD Mt Wilson trail in Sierra Madre.

The following become more of a mountaineering adventure and you should keep a close eye on on the snow cover and weather especially from Nov on through the Spring. Be off the tops of high mountains like Baldy and Gorgonio before 2PM if thunderstorms are predicted.  They both get record setting biblical type deluges that last only an hour or so.  Hogee Camp on Mt Wilson trail , for example, l has a Guinness record for most rainfall during a short period.

Mountain Ave to Mt Baldy Villiage (reserve and get wilderness permits here) out of Claremont,  gives you access to Mt Baldy (Mt San Antonio) and the peaks on the ridge to the east. As ppine suggested the Ice House Canyon (just out side of the Villiage) gives access to several good options as well as an almost loop to the west over the 3Ts (a goal for summit collectors) of  Thunder, Telegraph and Timber that goes from Ice House Saddle, to Baldy Notch and then catch the ski lift down to catch a ride back down the hill to Ice House.   OR, from Manker Flats up to San Antonia Falls and continue up past the switch back looking for a trail taking off steeply to the left.  Traditionally this has not been marked, hoping to keep the riff raff out of the Sierra Club Hut.  There is camping there (check with current rules with ranger) and early season water.   From the hut, cross the creek and follow the trail leading  up and to the left with the idea of getting to the high ridge above you.  From the ridge follow the trail to the top of Baldy.  Return via Devils Backbone and to Baldy Notch.  Best as an EARLY morning start on all of these trails. 

Redlands, up Mill Creek (reserve and pick up your wilderness permit from Mill Creek Forest Ranger station) and Forest Falls is Vivian Creek Trail.  First mile separates the goats from the kids (both ways).  There is camping at Half Way and High Creek.  High Creek is a good place to spend the night for a Mt San Gorgonio summit run either that night or early next morning.

Flip the map over and go to the same place from the north at Jenks Lake over Poopout Hill and up to Dollar Lake and that evening or the next day over Dollar Saddle to catch the trail to the summit of San Gorgonio.  OR take a more leisurely trip on Fish Creek (my favorite way) up the other ridge via Mine Shaft Saddle to the summit.

That should keep you busy on the Angeles Mountains.

Lots of good hiking guides along that range.  Again REI will have the latest with some help on the better one for your interests.

5:58 p.m. on September 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Big fire at Angles Mountains, check before you get out here to make sure they will grant access. They kick out a lot of campers Saturday.

6:12 p.m. on September 4, 2012 (EDT)
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Could be there will be restrictions because of fire danger in lots of places. Be sure you can use your stove where ever you are planning and what the red tape will be.  Especially check here:


Current large fire is north of Azuza near hiway 39.

5:02 p.m. on September 6, 2012 (EDT)
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ppine said:

For a short trip, after Labor Day maybe you can try something closer to home like Icehouse Cyn on Mt Baldy or the San Jacintos from Idylwild.  I used to hike that country 40 years ago.

Yea Ice House Canyon.  About a mile up the trail a fork (left and up hill) will take you up to Cedar Flats, a nice overnight destination with water.  Day hike to higher elevations from there.

I also reccomend doing San Jacinto from Idlewild.  Use the Devil's Slide Trail originating from Tahquitz Rocks; Don't use the little Round Valley Trail unless you are up to doing a steep, rugged, hike.  You will find water near the saddle at the top of Devil's Slide, or at Round Valley, or Little Round Valley.

San Gorgonio via Poop Out Hill Trail is a grand hike.

I just completed a little jaunt to Hilton Lakes, via a trail originating from above Tom's Place in the Sierras.  Only one other group camped at Lake #2 during the five days we were there, regardless the reservation board indicated the Hiltons were totally booked up.  This is one of the easier East Side Sierras hikes, less than five miles and only 600' gain.  Pretty lakes and some of the best angling I have ever experienced in fifty years fishing the Sierras. 

9:52 a.m. on September 9, 2012 (EDT)
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There goes another 'secret' fishing hole.  Geesh. :)

Sounds like you had a good time.  What else did you do up there?  Scramble up to the south ridge to look into Pioneer Basin or the Recesses? Standford to the west is a bit of a long slog.  Better than up to Stanford Lake from below, tho.  I'd guess no more than a handful of people have been to Standford Lake in the last decade.

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