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Hiking | Sunset Peak

A great place to let your dog run off leash, this beautiful (and mostly easy) 7-mile stroll along an old fire road offers panoramic views much of the way up. At the top, look for a United States geological marker, remains of an old tower, and a rusted rainwater collection system. Come here on a clear day so you can take advantage of all the views… and look for bear tracks. Also a good place for trail running. Britta’s dog-friendly assessment: four paws up.

I love this trail because it really is beautiful the whole way up. At the flat peak, the vegetation is arranged in such a way that you’d think someone planted them. Lots of colors and textures, I wouldn’t mind doing this in my own backyard. From here, you have panoramic views all around you. It was so clear on this trip that I found Lake Mathews in Riverside County. The pictures don’t do this place justice. This is a view looking northeast towards Thunder Mountain, Telegraph Peak and Ontario Peak.

The trailhead options. There are two trailheads that get you up Sunset Peak:

-          East entrance – 5.8 miles. This trailhead starts south of the road and heads southwest towards the peak. At 1.9 and 2.5 miles, you change directions and have the option of either following the fire road or shortcutting up rocks on an old fire break to reach the peak. This trail, using the shortcut, is 5.8 miles round trip.

-          West entrance – 7.8 miles. This trailhead starts on the south side of the road and heads east towards the peak. The only steep portion is the final climb to the top. If you follow the Forest Service Road (2N07) all the way up, this easy hike is 7.8 miles round trip. We used the road the whole way up and back.

Getting there – the east entrance version:

-          I-210 to Baseline Road

-          West on Baseline Road

-          North on Padua

-          Right on Mount Baldy Road

-          Left on Glendora Ridge Road: On your right after 1 mile will be a dirt lot at Cow Canyon Saddle. Park across the street from that (on the south side of the road). Start hiking up the gated fire road on the south side of the road, going southwest towards the peak.

Getting there – the west entrance version:

-          I-210 to Baseline Road

-          West on Baseline Road

-          North on Padua

-          Right on Mount Baldy Road

-          Left on Glendora Ridge Road: On your right after 1 mile will be a dirt lot at Cow Canyon Saddle. Go past that. Continue past the sign that says “San Dimas Experimental Forest (See left photo below).” You’ll follow the road for a few miles… keep going until you see a turnout on the right. Past that will be your first view of the Los Angeles basin. At the next bend in the road, park to the left of the street. (See pink arrow at right photo below.) The trailhead is past the locked gate behind you.

Our visit on February 4, 2012:

Bear tracks. We spotted these within the first fifty yards. And what’s the thing with the heel?! We also saw plenty of coyote poop on the trail, but didn’t actually see any critters on this hike.

Wintertime plants. While it’s still too early for wildflowers, we saw plenty of neat things: an acorn with ice on its bottom, lots of fern (even growing out from under rocks), some buckwheat and sage… and lots and lots of moss growing on rocks.

Dogs on the trail. If you have a well-trained dog, this is an especially nice trail for some off leash time. It’s a straightforward path with a steep hill to one side and a drop-off to the other; nowhere to go but forward! (You hope, anyway.) I’m not sure if this is true year-round, but in our 3+ hours on this hike, we passed maybe five or six other groups. Not a lot. In summary, there’s plenty of un-interrupted roaming and sniffing time.

Panoramic views. Some hikes promise you a panoramic view once you reach the top. This trail gives you that view the whole way through. These are photos taken before we reached the peak. Clockwise from top left: 1) The Los Angeles Basin from near the trailhead. 2) A view looking northwest. 3) A view looking southeast towards the Cleveland National Forest in Riverside and Orange Counties. 4) A view looking north at the San Dimas Experimental Forest. Note: For the past 70-80 years, this outdoor laboratory has been the site of controlled fire experiments for research purposes.

Friends on the trail. Clockwise from top left: 1) The walk across an acorn-laden path. 2) Hanging out at the saddle near the peak. 3) Example of the wide, flat path. 4) Almost back to the car!!!

The last turn before the peak. The last mile wraps around the north side of the peak; this is where it gets a little steeper, a little tighter, and the rocks get a little bigger. But this is also where the vegetation gets a little brighter. At the top, you start to see the remains of a fire lookout that stood here from the 1920s to the 1970s; the lookout was transferred from nearby Lookout Mountain.

The peak. Have I mentioned how gorgeous the vegetation is at the top? Lovely panoramic views. Looking southeast, I was able to spot Lake Mathews in Riverside County.

The United States geological marker sits on top of a piece of granite. Be careful getting there; I got stuck on yucca leaves; ouch.

Rustic remains of a tower and rainwater collection system are still onsite. The orange hues complement the vegetation nicely, dontchathink?

Hike log. We took a minute out of our time to sign the hike log, hidden in an old coffee can under some rocks.

The panoramic view. Clockwise from top left: 1) Ontario Peak to the east, 2) Cleveland National Forest to the southeast, 3) mountains to the northwest, and 4) Lookout Mountain to the north.

A self portrait. And a yucca flower drying out in the winter sun.

Britta the Weimaraner. One final note: try not to let your dog climb away from you… squirrel!

Happy trails,

Kim and the gang

Guidebook:

- Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles, Jerry Schad (Angeles Forest: San Antonio Canyon and Old Baldy, Trip # 3)

Other Recommended Reading:

- Squirrel on the Trail (February 2012): Sunset Peak

- Nobody Hikes in LA (October 2010): Sunset Peak (this write-up is on the shorter, steeper hike alternative that we didn’t take)

- Modern Hiker (January 2008): Hiking Sunset Peak (we followed the longer route identified on this hike)



About

Weimaraner addict. Garden warrior. Chicken keeper. Picture takerer. Food maker. Thirsty for beer. Hungry for travel. Sayin' hi from the So Cal 'burbs!


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