Current General Trail Conditions in the San Gabriel Mountains

This page is no longer being updated!!! Last update of the information below: 20 October 2004. See Average Trail Conditions By Month in the San Gabriel Mountains for average conditions.

See also Information sources for the San Gabriel Mountains.

Latest observations: 9 September 2004.

Last rainfall, Sunrise, Sunset and UV conditions
Road and campground closures and information
Winter road and campground closures
General Trail Conditions
Last Major Fires

Last significant rainfall: 17-20 October 2004. Mt. Wilson received over an inch on 17-18 October, with much more expected on 19-20 October.

In the 2003-2004 rainfall season, the last rainfall was 2 March 2004, with some places getting a minor amount of rain on 2 and 17 April 2004.
The 2003-2004 rainfall season was another pathetic one, with about half-normal rainfall.
We are still in a 6 year drought. It will take at least several years of normal to above-normal rainfall to bring us out of it.

Sunrise / Sunset / UV

DateSunriseSunsetLength of DaylightHigh UV times
October 156:586:1811:20----
October 307:096:0310:54----
October 316:105:0210:52----
November 156:264:4910:23----
December 16:404:4310:03----
December 156:514:459:54----

High UV times are when the UV is greater than 0.4 times the maximum level it ever reaches here (at noon on June 21), and the use of sunscreen is highly recommended. Tom picked the value 0.4 because that corresponds closely with the conventional wisdom to "stay out of the sun between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m." local time in the summer. You can still get sunburned in February, March, October and early November if you are out all day without sunscreen. See Pasadena Sunrise, Local Noon, Sunset Times and Times of Maximum UV Exposure.

Note that the UV intensity increases by a compounded 4% for every 1000' of altitude gain. Hence at 8000' you are exposed to UV light that is 37% more intense than at sea level.

Road and campground closures and information:

The following information is no longer being updated; see Information sources for the San Gabriel Mountains for places to get current information.

Angeles Crest Highway (ACH, SR2): Beginning in June 1999, a special $100,000 state safety grant has produced intensive enforcement of all traffic laws on the Highway. This includes zero tolerance for exceeding the speed limit, the failure to turn on headlights in the special safety zone, or going over the yellow line. As a result, 1400 tickets were written from June 1999 through May 2000, 5-10 times the normal amount, with most written on the weekends. Deaths and injuries have dropped by a factor of two. The special grant was renewed through May 2001. (LAT 7/1/00, B5) A new sign Double Fine Zone from Gould Mesa to Islip Saddle was put up in March 2001, so it is likely that this has been extended after May 2001.

The winter closure will occur whenever significant snowfall is received.

The storm on 20 October 2004 caused a closure of ACH at Sheep Creek, just east of Wrightwood. No estimate yet on when it will reopen.

Barley Flats Road was open on 11/24/02, but was closed at the Angeles Crest Highway in Summer 2001, eliminating access to the upper end of the Barley Flats Trail. It was closed on 22 May 2003. We never knew the reason for the closure, and don't know if it may be closed in the future.

Blue Ridge Road is closed for the season. When it is reopened next spring, it will again be open only to Guffy campground, due to environmental assessment for the Mountain Yellow Legged Frog. Lupine and Cabin Flat campgrounds are open to walk-ins.

Chantry Flat Road is closed, possibly for repairs, but we do not know this for a fact. The road needs repairs caused by a fire in December 1999. $250,000 - $550,000 of major repairs to the road, its culverts and its debris basins are being done. Call (626) 574-5200 before you hike to check the road status. Even bikers and hikers are turned away by police from Sierra Madre and Arcadia when the road is closed. See Chantry Flat for more information.

Crystal Lake, Deer Flats, and Coldbrook Campgrounds are closed due to fire damage.

East Fork Road is open only to Burro Canyon Shooting Park, Camp Williams, and Camp Follows.

Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora Ridge Road are closed to motor vehicles due to damage from the Curve Fire, but open to non-motorized users.

Lake Hughes Road: the road to Cienaga Campground is closed until further notice. Cienaga Campground is closed due to high fire danger.

Little Rock Canyon Road has been closed to all entry including hikers between the Sulphur Springs Road gate and the Joshua Tree Campground gate since January 1999. It will remain closed until the Land and Resource Management Plan for the Forest is revised, and may continue to be closed even after that.

Live Oak Campground is closed due to vandalism, but the picnic area is open.

Lone Pine Canyon Road: The storm on 20 October 2004 took out the crossing at Sheep Creek, just east of Wrightwood. No estimate yet on when it will reopen.

Mount Hawkins Lookout Service Road is closed to mountain biking from Crystal Lake to South Mt. Hawkins, Pigeon Ridge Truck Trail.

SR39 remains permanently closed beyond Milepost 40.2, just beyond Crystal Lake Campground. On 20 October 2004, it was closed two miles north of the West Fork Picnic Area. Hiking and bicycling are allowed beyond the gate. Be aware of logging trucks on the road!

The Wickiup Canyon Access Road in Upper Big Tujunga Creek is gated and closed to vehicle access due to surveying for threatened or endangered species.

Roads near Santa Clarita: The area burned by the Stables (6541 acres near Santa Clarita), Bouquet (3200 acres near the Bouquet Canyon Reservoir north of Santa Clarita) and Copper fires (23,500 acres in Francisquito Canyon) will remain closed through September 2, 2003, for rehabilitation. "The closure area is west of the ROW of Bouquet Canyon Road from the forest boundary to Spunky Canyon Road, south of Spunky Canyon road ROW to San Francisquito Road, east of the ROW for San Francisquito Road down to Dry Gulch Road, south of the ROW of Dry Gulch Road to east of the ROW to Lake Hughes Road, until Lake Hughes Road intersects the forest boundary and along the forest boundary until it meets back up with Bouquet Canyon Road" (quote from Angeles National Forest Recreation Update December 2002).

Winter road and campground closures:

These roads and campgrounds will remain closed, even after the ANF reopened on 20 October 2004, rather than open up for the brief period of time remaining before the first snows. Road closures are generally only to motorized vehicles; hikers and mountain bike riders are ok.

The Angeles Crest Highway between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap is still open, but will be closed when significant snow is received.

General conditions:

Over 12% of the San Gabriel Mountains burned in 2002! This has caused, and will cause more, significant problems for the trails in the burn areas. The fire itself can make a trail impassable by toppling trees and rolling boulders onto the trail. The fire-fighting efforts can also damage trails through bulldozing material on top of the trails, or stockpiling brush-removal on the trails. Rehabilitation teams are working to restore damage done by fire-fighting, but some of the burned areas will be closed for a full year to rehabilitate the areas (see above). Finally, the biggest danger to the trails is debris (loose soil, mudslides, rockslides, dead trees) falling onto the trail from rains. Do not assume that any trail within or near a burned area will be passable.

Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains is a rejuvenation process. Plants in the burn areas are already resprouting: for example, the San Gabriel Mountains leather oak has sprouts one foot high. Other species that have resprouted are chamise, yerba santa, buckwheat, sycamore, live oak, scalebroom, and mulefat. Some species have even responded to the fire by blooming, including some yuccas and goldenasters! Watch for great wildflower shows in spring 2005, including the fire-followers you may have never seen before.

Due to the extreme drought, many usual water sources are not present. Thus do not assume you can obtain water from streams and springs where you have found water in the past. It will take several years of normal or higher rainfall to begin to make up for the drought of the last four years.

A thunderstorm from a monsoon or rainfall from hurricane remnants can occur in September, and the rainy season starts in October, so storms may occur at any time now. An average of one day of rain from hurricane remnants occurs sometime in August or September. However, these are still very light rainfall months, so few rainy days are expected. However, check the forecast for rain and snow predictions.

The water level in canyons can rise much faster than you realize, and people have died from floods while hiking. Don't hike if it might rain unless you know how to evaluate the safety of the area you are hiking in for flooding. Many people have had to be rescued because they couldn't cross suddenly-swollen and dangerous creeks.

Snow may fall at elevations above 3000 - 8000' during any given storm, and quickly make your trail disappear, which could be followed by your own permanent disappearance unless you know how to handle such conditions.

Last winter's light rainy season has not caused essentially any new problems for the trails, so they remain in pretty good condition overall. Ted Finamore reports that only a single fallen tree that was easily negotiated mars the entire Gabrielino Trail.

Lower elevation trails (below ~6,000'), such as the Condor Peak Trail, are probably still "foxtail heaven", as Roy Randall puts it, and either wear protection such as gaiters for your socks or be prepared to spend a lot of time picking out foxtails. Higher elevation trails (above ~6,000') generally are free from annual grasses.

Hiking season in the high country is about to finish, with temperatures falling rapidly. The Angeles Crest Highway closes between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap (sometimes farther east) with the first snowfall, usually sometime in October through December, eliminating access to a number of trailheads.

However, Santa Ana wind conditions, accompanied by extreme heat and high fire danger, often occur in September and October. So these are months to pay attention to the weather before starting on a hike.

Bugs are still present in places, although usually much-reduced from their number earlier.

Bears have apparently become more of a problem in 2004 since campers have not been careful about putting their food into bear-proof containers. Three bears were killed at Chilao Campground after campers foolishly left their food out, and then even more foolishly threw things at the bear to "distract it". See Bears in the SGM and Food Brings People And Bears Together; Bears Pay The Price

It's still the smog season through October, so check the smog forecast before hiking in mid-day. Remember, the mountains can be just as smoggy as the basin. Worse, even air qualities of 50 for ozone, at the boundary between good and moderate quality air, can affect people doing extended strenuous exercise, such as hiking. If you breathe deeply after a hike, and then have to cough, you've been smogged and have temporarily lost significant lung capacity.

If you come across a washout or landslide, think hard before deciding to continue. One person fell to their death by using the washed-out section of the Mt. Wilson Trail that had a washout in February 2000 just below First Water that has now been bypassed.

Individual trail conditions are sometimes given in the links for each hike, and in Updates to Trails of The Angeles 1998 edition and Updates to Afoot & Afield in Los Angeles County 2000 edition.

David Sotnick reports that a connection trail between the Bailey Canyon Trail at Jones Peak and the Mt. Wilson Trail is now open in good condition. See Bailey Canyon Trails.

See also:

Last major fires:

2003: 2003 Fires

2002: 86,565 acres burned by the following fires (not a complete list)


2000: There were no major fires in 2000, despite it being the worst year for fires nationally.



Nationally, 2002 was the year with the second largest area burned due to fires, with 6.6 million acres burned as of September 30. The year 2000 was the largest, with 6.9 million acres burned to September 30. The 10 year average acreage burned is 3.5 million acres. Source: Wildfire Season Summary.

Current bug and snake reports

Plants blooming now

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Copyright © 1997-2002 by Tom Chester and Jane Strong.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester | Jane Strong
Last update: 24 December 2004 (added note about Information sources for the San Gabriel Mountains on 23 February 2007).