83-1: Vincent Gap to Jackson Lake via PCT, Jackson Lake Trail

Participants: Tom Chester and Jane Strong
Date: 21 September 1999 (Written up 22 September 1999)

Description: This delightful hike starts at the Punchbowl Fault, ends at the San Andreas Fault, and journeys over the Blue Ridge, a fault slice between them. In addition to both up-close and distant views of those faults, there are good views of the Mojave Desert, the Tehachapis and Southern Sierras to the north, and the Wright - Pine - Baldy - Baden-Powell high country to the south. See calculated elevation angles and azimuthal angles to visible features, as well as an expanded plot to show the Sierra and Tehachapi Peaks and the dry lakes to the north better.

A car shuttle is needed between Jackson Lake and Vincent Gap, requiring ~30 minutes at each end of the hike.

From the PCT Parking Lot and Restrooms at Vincent Gap, pause for a moment to appreciate the Punchbowl Fault. The topography of the trace is easily seen in the linear alignment, from west to east, of:

At Vincent Gap, the fault has also created a rare exposure of red sedimentary rocks within the ubiquitous bluish gray granites. The red rocks have been carried from some distance away right along the fault, forming an obvious line right at the fault.

After admiring the view, cross the Angeles Crest Highway and take the signed PCT to the right of the gated fireroad. The hike begins in a forest of Canyon Oak, with fremontia shrubs providing yellow blooms in early summer and tan-colored, strawberry-shaped seedpods in the fall. The forest of oaks turns quickly into a forest of pines, which continue virtually uninterrupted for the entire hike, providing lots of shade. In fact, you might wish for fewer trees in order to better enjoy the views!

At ~0.8 miles, the PCT crosses the upper branch of the road that began at the trailhead, and continues up and around the ridgetop. Enjoy the impressive views toward the western end of Antelope Valley (Mojave Desert). This small patch without trees has an abundance of wildflowers in the summer.

At ~1.75 miles, about 0.75 miles after rounding the northwest corner of the ridgetop, an unsigned junction occurs with a trail leading to the ridgetop. Go right on that trail, and another 0.25 mile brings you to the road again. Go left on the road, which leads to Jackson Flat Campground after another 0.25 mile.

At the first road junction within the campground, there is a fairly massive wall for bus parking. Head a short distance northwest of that in the treeless area to get the best views from this end of the Blue Ridge. Such views are hard to come by in this heavily forested area.

The Campground provides running water and flush toilets, as well as good sitting areas to enjoy a lunch.

Continue through the Campground to the northeast side to pick up the PCT again. Go left for 0.7 miles to meet the signed trail (the name, Jackson Lake Trail, however is not given until the bottom) and take it right and downhill. Although you are headed toward Jackson Lake, you won't actually see it until the very end of the hike. This may be a bit disconcerting, since the trail is not identified and the destination is not visible! However, the linear trace of the San Andreas Fault can hardly escape notice, especially the view along the fault to the northwest. Have faith that Jackson Lake is out of sight to the east along the bottom.

The Trail dead-ends at another road after 1.6 miles, with a sign finally identifying the trail you have been on as the "Jackson Lake Trail". Take the road right, and continue on that road curving right around the ridge. The road finally heads north again at a private camp with an impressive amphitheater. There are two cutoff trails to head down to Jackson Lake, either of which will work. The second one has a trail marker at the top, and the trail sign at the bottom.

Jackson Lake is a sag pond, created when the many closely-spaced branches of a typical fault drop a block of the Earth down, allowing water to stand in the depression that is created paralleling the fault. Opposite the lake on the northern road cut is a good exposure of rock crushed by movement along the fault. Another exposure, called one of the best anywhere along the entire San Andreas Fault by Earthquake Country, an illustrated guide to the fault (see books), is just southeast of Appletree Campground, just east of Jackson Lake. Follow the fire road at the eastern end of the campground one half mile to a steep south-facing scarp of whitish rock. Simply touch the cliff to verify that this is indeed rock powder, far from solid rock.

Trail condition: The trail is in great shape the entire distance. The PCT has been very impressively brushed fairly recently, with the mountain whitethorn being cut 3' away from the trail.

Plants in bloom: Rabbitbrush and the strawberry-shaped seedpods on the fremontia were in their full glory. Sulphur buckwheat makes beautiful displays in several areas, accompanied by lesser quantities of naked buckwheat and some remaining flowers on the prostrate Wright's buckwheat. Red berries and yellow leaves of squaw currant are impressive just north of the Blue Ridge on the PCT. A few examples of California buckwheat, California fuchsia, penstemon, paintbrush, aster, golden eardrops, bush mallow, snowberry berries, coffeeberry fruit, chinquapin, and goldenrod were present. There were even a few blooms from mountain whitethorn still present!

Weather: Interesting. We hiked as the remains of a tropical storm streamed over our area. Hot, humid weather at the start quickly gave way to cool, humid weather and then a few raindrops when we tried to see the view at the top. The temperature remained cool through the end of the hike.

Bugs: Tom was surprised at the number of black flies surrounding both of us for the hike up, after having found zero bugs a few days earlier at higher elevation from Wright Mountain to Baldy. The flies vanished during the rain, but a few came back near the end of the hike.

Number of ticks: Zero.

Number of rattlesnakes: Zero.

Other pests: None.

Explanation of columns for all trip logs

#MileageTime arrivedTime leftAltitudeComments
00.000:00 6450Vincent Gap. 77°. Sign: "PCT Grassy Hollow Campground 3 1/2; Blue Ridge Campground 7; Guffy Campground 10"
10.700:42 6950Canyon Oak now gives way to Pines
20.800:54 7050Jct. Road. 70°
31.751:43 7300Jct. Trail to Ridge Top. Went right on it
42.001:51 7350Jct. Road. Went Left on it. Sign farther along road: "To Jackson Flat"
52.302:062:277400Jct. Jackson Flat Geological Trail, aka West Loop Nature Trail. 60°
62.552:39 7400Jct. PCT. Went left
73.253:03 7300Jct. Jackson Flat Trail, went right on it. Sign: "Adopt A Trail: E.T.I. Corral 9"
83.803:20 7000Trail turns into a wide road just for a short distance here.
94.253:39 6700Possible trail jct., with a trail going up the draw to the right.
104.753:55 6400Jct. Road. Sign: "Jackson Lake Trail PCT 1.6 mi"
115.524:18 6100First Cutoff trail to Lake on right
125.624:22 6050Second Cutoff Trail, signed "Trail" with left arrow at its top. Went right on it. At the bottom, on the parking lot road, sign: "Jackson Lake Trail. Parking (arrow to parking lot), PCT 2.4 mile (arrow going up trail)
135.754:24 6050Car in Jackson Lake Parking Lot.

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Copyright © 1999 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
Updated 29 November 1999.