Distance: 13.6 Miles (Out & Back) Difficulty: Strenuous Elevation: 5,710 Feet Elevation Gain: 4,517 Feet Location: Sierra Madre, CA
In preparation for our JMT Adventure we decided to finally complete the 6 Pack of Peaks Challenge that is put on by SoCalHiker.com. We wanted to do this last year but never got around to actually signing up and making the effort to finish it. Well, this year we have no excuses. We have to train and the best way to train is to hike the highest peaks here in Southern California. The peaks that are on this list are Mt Wilson, Cucamonga Peak, Mt Baldy (San Antonio), San Bernardino Peak, Mt San Jacinto, and finally San Gorgonio (which is the highest peak in Southern California). Every time you summit a peak you share a beer with your fellow hikers and enjoy the view. Its perfect and we couldn't wait to start! First up, Mt Wilson!
There are two ways to do this hike; Starting at Mt Wilson Park or Chantry Flats. Chantry Flats is the easier of the two but the longer way to the summit, while the Wilson Park is a shorter hike by a mile but a bit more strenuous with more elevation gain. Needless to say, we decided to do the harder way. Even though we didn't start at Chantry Flats we did do some research on it and found that the parking is a bit more difficult. You will need an adventure pass and it fills up pretty fast, especially on weekends. For Mt Wilson Park the Adventure pass is not needed and there is plenty of parking along the street. We did this hike on a Sunday and had no trouble finding a place to park.
The hike starts off steep which sets the tone for the rest of the hike. It is a constant climb up with only a few flat sections that give some relief. The first 2.3 miles are very exposed which is one of the reasons we suggest starting this hike early in the day to avoid the heat. But once you hit the covered tree area it transforms into a whole other world! Green! Lots and lots of green everywhere! Its gorgeous and an amazing relief from the blistering heat put off by the sun. My sister-in-law had said it reminded her of the hikes back east. There is nothing more enjoyable and peaceful then being covered by overgrown trees with the sound of rushing water in the creek below you. It helped give us that extra push to continue on.
About three miles in you come the a creek crossing. It is a great place to enjoy a break and relax (or to take pictures). There is a small waterfall cascading over a fallen tree. You can go hunting for salamanders or other creatures in the flowing creek. Once you are ready to continue on, its only a little farther to the half way point to the Summit which is the Orchard Camp. This is a great place to take a breather! Many people hike to this point then turn back around. But not us! We pushed on to the summit :)
Continuing on the trail does become a bit more exposed at times and eventually meets up with the Chantry Flats trail. Once the trails meet up, you will continue on up towards a road. You will hike along this road for a bit but don't miss the trail to the right that leads to the summit! We would have missed it if there weren't hikers coming down as we were passing. Going up the last bit of the trail is gorgeous with beautiful flowers and the sun shinning down on us. We were definitely exhausted but ready to reach the summit.
The summit is a giant parking lot with an amazing overlook of the city below. We came at a great time in the day because the clouds were rolling in below us which made it look like a blanket of fluff! It was a view that was worth the hike. At the top there is the Cosmic Cafe that serves some delicious food and a water refill station for those brave enough to hike all the way up (that's us!). It was nice to have a seat, take off our shoes, and share a summit beer with each other. This hike was definitely a lot tougher then we had anticipated but the joy of finishing the first peak in the challenge made it worth it. We are definitely ready for the next peak! Cucamonga here we come ;)