Kenyon DeVore Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains: Mt. Wilson to West Fork Campground

The Kenyon DeVore Trail is the renamed old Rattlesnake Trail which follows Strayns Creek between Mt. Wilson and the West Fork Campground on the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Due to the closure of the West Fork Road since ~1998, only the Mt. Wilson trailhead is accessible to automobiles.

The Mt. Wilson trailhead is at the beginning of the one-way loop road around the antennae on the top of Mt. Wilson, 4.4 miles from Red Box. Park along the road just before the loop begins, or continue around the loop and park on the north side of the loop just before it returns to the two-way road.

Kenyon DeVore (the L.A. Times has spelled his name both DeVore and De Vore) came to the ANF in 1913 and grew up on the West Fork of the San Gabriel River at his parent's trail resorts. While a teenager, he worked at the Mt. Wilson hotel leading a pack mule train that supplied the resorts and others using the Rattlesnake Trail. He remembered an incident along the trail for the rest of his life:

When he was 15, he and a friend were leading a pack train along the narrow Rattlesnake Trail near Mt. Wilson. One burro lost its footing and its two back legs slipped off the trail. "We tried to hold onto it but couldn't. He rolled all the way down the mountain."

DeVore, who had no gun, had to reach the dying burro and put it out of its misery. "That was a nasty experience. And I don't want to go into how I killed it. I had to do what I had to do."

Each burro's name was painted on its wooden saddle. "There was Hank, Pedro, Worthless, Bunch, Bill, Jim. They all had names and personalities, just like dogs."

But as he spoke of that dark time, he could not recall the name of the burro he killed.

LAT, 2/7/1993.

Kenyon then became a U.S. Forest Service patrolman on horseback, and worked most of his life for the L.A. County Flood Control District as a dam operator and hydrographer, mostly in San Gabriel Canyon. When he retired in 1971, he volunteered for the ANF and then became a part-time employee, greeting visitors at Chantry Flat for 15 years.

Fittingly, the Rattlesnake Trail was renamed for him sometime between 1995 and 1998. A painting of DeVore, commissioned by his mother and depicting him on a horse leading a pack train, hung at the Chilao Visitor Center in 1993, and perhaps is still there today.

The trail itself descends ~3 miles from Mt. Wilson (~5630') to the intersection with the Gabrielino Trail. Turn right (east) and go ~1 mile to the West Fork Campground, off the dirt road from Red Box (~3205'). (This section is part of both the Kenyon DeVore and Gabrielino trails.)

Reports of Trail Conditions

17Dec01: David Rosenberg reports:

In regards to snow levels, on 12/17/01 I hiked the Kenyon DeVore trail aka Rattlesnake Trail down to Kenyon DeVore campground, up to Newcomb Pass and back to Mt. Wilson along the Rim to Ridge trail. The Kenyon DeVore trail was covered with snow almost the entire way down to West Fork probably through high 3000's in elevation. On the way up to Newcomb Pass there was fortunately only slight patches of snow. The Rim to Ridge trail climbs up the east ridge to Mt. Wilson but mainly follows the north side. I would say about a mile into the trail from Newcomb Pass snow started appearing with the last mile being pretty much covered, with requisite icy patches as well. The temperature was very pleasant probably mid 60s at 1 p.m. and I was quite comfortable with a long sleeve shirt and a sweater.

The snow level at the top was a couple of inches with some spots especially where the trail switchbacked much deeper (slogging comes to mind). The trail seemed very evident to me part of this may have been due to the nature of the trail being cut into the side of the mountain, there weren't too many options to go wrong. The trail appeared to be eroded in a couple of spots and combining that with snow and sometimes ice spots it did make it challenging in spots. I passed two fellows on their way back up who told me it was very icy and that they had turned around. I found one spot that had the ice rink feel and used the rocks on the sides of the trail to get a grip if my feet wanted to rebel. I did this probably 5 times with it really being needed once.

02Sep01: Dodie reports:

Pam and I hiked down to the West Fork campground from inside the Observatory grounds and found the Rattlesnake Trail to be quite an obstacle course. There are downed trees and branches near the Strayns Creek area. Some erosion and loose sandy gravel will be encountered also.

Strayns Creek has some water in it. The West Fork is pretty dry right now, with only a few small standing pools of water. We got a late start (10 am Sunday morning 9-2-01). I would encourage anyone hiking, running or biking to get an earlier start as it is very hot and dry. Take plenty of water or a good filter.

Overall, a challenging hike for a couple of veteran hikers.

19Aug00: Tom Chester reports:

I hiked from Mt. Wilson to the junction with the Gabrielino Trail this afternoon, turning around there due to bugs. The bugs were terrible on the trail today, requiring me to wave my hands to keep them away from my face nearly the entire hike. These bugs love shade, and this trail is 95% shaded at this time of year.

The trail is in good condition, with no obstacles. The tread of the trail is gone in a very few parts, but there is no problem traversing the mountain slopes in those places.

On the way back, I heard the call of owls and was hoping not to see any bears in this dark forest of trees.

The mountain mahogany is in beautiful full seed. If you look toward the sun through one of these large shrubs, it produces a postcard view much like the sun shining through ice on a tree, but without the below freezing temperatures. Poison oak is also in its beautiful red fall color now.

So today I experienced three seasons (the bugs of summer, fall leaf color and winter ice views) all in one day!

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Copyright © 2001 by Tom Chester.
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Updated 26 December 2001.