Mt. Lowe Front Country Loop
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Trail: 16.4 miles, 2500 ft. gross vertical gain Time: 2 days, 2 nights round-trip. Driving: 1.5 Hours Difficulty: Day 1: 3.6 miles; Day 2: 6.3 miles climbing 2500 ft.; Day 3: 6.5 Season: This makes a good local winter trip because of I its relatively low elevation. There may be snow in January and February. Highlights: LA and ocean views; an awesome canyon hike alongside a river.
Relevant Guidebooks & Maps
GThe best map is the Angeles Front Country Trail Map, which is a 1:63,360 scale (1 inch is a mile), but has Topo lines and a clearly marked trail and campsites. The gear room has two of these and they are available at RE1 for $9. USGS 7.5' Maps: Condor Peak, Pasadena, Chilao Flat, and Mt. Wilson are available in the OTL Gear room. Useful Guidebooks: Schad, Jerry. 101 Hikes in Southern California Wilderness Press: 1996. includes pieces of this hike with informative descriptions. For part of this hike and a somewhat useful map see: Robinson, John W. Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels. Wilderness Press 1998, 7th Edition.
From Claremont take 1-21 0 West for 24 milesto Highway 2. Be careful to stay on 1-210 when it splitsfrom Highway 134. From 1-210, exit Highway 2 North(turn right) and drive 9 miles to Switzer visitor center andcontinue on Highway 2 for another mile to Switzer Parking/Picnic area. The Switzer picnic area is well markedby a National Park Road sign that says "Switzer" and hasa picnic table picture. Leave your car at the picnic areaand begin your hike following the Switzer trail westward.
This front country hike offers good views ofLA and the ocean from atop Mt. Lowe at 5603 ft. Afterleaving the popular Switzer picnic area the trail descendsslowly into Red Box Canyon with multiple pools forswimming, lush vegetation, and smooth canyon walls.Departing from the Switzer Picnic Area, cross thebridge and hike westward on the trail that begins as a roadinto the wilderness and slowly fades into a hiker's route.Traveling for 1.4 miles through this weekend wildernessescape used by far too many Pasadena residents, you willreach Switzer Camp. This area is not the ideal place tocamp, but if you arrive late on Friday night and leaveearly on Saturday you will miss the crowds even here.Beyond Switzer Camp the casual hikers fade and the trailbecomes more scenic. Another 2.2 miles of a gradual descenttakes you to Bear Canyon camp with fire pits andpicnic tables alongside a river. You must fill water here.There is no water for the next 6.3 miles until you reach theValley Forge camp where you spend your second night.This is the best place to camp in the canyon because youwill not be able to find another flat area in which to pitchyour tent.On the second day, continue along the trail 1.8miles to Tom Sloane saddle. Three trails meet here. Donot take the southward trail that goes toward Dawn minenor the Bear Canyon trail eastward which goes to a fireroad. Take the middle trail, which is the Sloane trail 1.9miles ascending southeast toward Mt. Lowe. You willreach a fire road, turn right (south), and hike less that ?4 amile to the trail that has a sign for Mt. Lowe. It is 1.4miles to the top via the left or West trail, or 1.2 miles viathe right or East trail. The western trail is a nicer hike, butviews are good from either trail. From the top of Mt.Lowe you can see Mt. Disappointment (named by surveyorswho hiked to the top in hopes that they had found thehighest peak in the area) and San Gabriel peak (which isthe highest peak in the area). Both Disappointment andSan Gabriel have radio towers on them, so they are poorplaces to camp. Descend Mt. Lowe going northeast followingthe Markman trail. It is a steep 1.1 mile descent toMarkman Saddle where you reach a fire road. Follow thefire road due east for a % mile until you reach the pavedroad that goes to Mt. Wilson. Here you cross the road andpick up the trail that goes to Valley Forge camp. It is a2.7 mile descent in a huge canyon with awesome views ofthe San Gabriel Wilderness Area When you reach the Tintersection after this 2.7 mile trek, you meet the Gabrielino Trail, turn right, west, and find the Valley Forgecamp within a few hundred yards of your intersection. Ifthere are other people at this camp, continue hiking alongthe river and there are other good sites that have better privacy.Spend the second night here.On the third day follow the Gabrielino trail Westfor 2.3 miles to Red Box Camp, a public parking lot thathas clean water available. From Red Box you continue onthe Gabrielino trail for an easy 4.2 mile descent throughCloudburst Canyon. You complete the hike back at SwitzersPicnic area.
There is no water available near Mt. Lowe so besure to bring extra water containers. This is not a very remotetrip, but still offers some good hiking, nearby, atlower elevation. For a group of two, this trip can be shortenedby 5 miles by hitchhiking from where you cross theroad on day 2 at Eaton Saddle. Hitchhike down the roadto Red Box camp and pick up the trail there. Also, the tripcan be shortened by 3 miles for a larger group by followingthe trail to Mt. Disappointment. From Markman Saddlehike due North on the trail (not the fire road). Thetrail crosses Mt Disappointment and meets up. with theroad to Mt. Wilson 2.3 miles from Markman Saddle. Hikefor a half mile on the road to Red Box camp and resumeyour hike there.The nearest Ranger Station is located adjacent tothe trailhead. After driving 9 miles on Highway 2 turn lefton National Forest Highway 59 toward "The Pines", thisis the only time there is a paved left tum before the trailhead.Also, along Highway 2 halfway between the 210and the trailhead there is a Forest Service Facility where\ you can often find a ranger. Both offices are only openfrom 8:30-4:30. You can call ahead for a permit and arrangeto pick it up outside the office if you are getting inlate. The ranger phone number at Arroyo Seco Station is(818) 790-1 151.
Edited by (in order): OTL Staff
Last updated: 05/25/2009