With the temperatures dropping and the sun a bit further south in the sky, hiking season is upon us in the San Gabriel’s Front Range. In the Front Range San Gabriel Peak at 6161 ft is second only to Strawberry Peak at 6164 ft, but standing on the summit of the easily accessible peak your head will be a couple feet above everything else for miles around. Panoramic views stretch for as far as the air quality will allow in all directions. Mt Baldy resides on the eastern horizon and the varied folds of the High Country stretch out between. To the west on a clear day Santa Monica Bay gleams in the afternoon sun. The entire coast is visible, from Malibu to Long Beach and beyond to Catalina Island. If it is cloudy in the basin theres a good chance that the air will be crystal clear above 4-5000 feet, in which case the view to the west will be graced with a soft white blanket of clouds for as far as the eye can see.
At the Angeles Crest Highway and Red Box Road turn right towards Mt Wilson. In less than a half mile the trail head will be on the right where a gated road to leads to Mount Disappointment. Directly from the parking spaces, before the gate, the trail steeply switches back and forth up a disintegrating slope. But after a short climb the trail evens out and the trail wanders through the shade of oak and pine trees. The trail occasionally runs parallel to Mt Disappointment road and when it does you can see the typical chaparral vegetation of the southern facing slopes, yucca, sage, and the occasional cactus. Groves of manzanita and small grassy slopes also provide varied viewing along the trail, as well as impressively sized pine cones which litter the forest floor.
About 2/3 of the way though the hike, the trail joins the paved road for a few hundred yards before it turns to make the final climb to Mt Disappointment (Surveyors first thought it was the higher of the two peaks, until more accurate technology proved that San Gabriel Peak was indeed higher. The surveyors were disappointed and let everyone know.). Traversing the saddle between the two peaks you soon begin the final ascent. Hawks glide along the thermals and crows at times will put on impressive singing and aerobatic displays. A few more switchbacks past remnants of the Station Fire and you reach the barren Summit. A USGS marker marks the highest point as well as cairns built by enthusiastic hikers.
Return the way you came, or for a slower more even descent take the paved Mt Disappointment road back down to the trail head.