Barely 30 minutes from the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, and just north of Pasadena, the urban jungle gives way to the forests, rugged slopes, and rocky canyons of Angeles National Forest. Encompassing the San Gabriel Mountains with terrain that ranges from the high desert to the lofty summit of 10,064-foot Mount Baldy, Angeles National Forest is L.A.’s wilderness next door—a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, and campers.
On clear winter days when the peaks of the San Gabriels are dusted with snow, the mountains of Angeles National Forest look close enough to touch. And from parks in the foothill communities of Altadena, Monrovia, and Sierra Madre, you can hike trails that quickly lead into the San Gabriel front country.
Follow a section of the 28-mile Gabrielino National Recreation Trail along the sycamore-shaded Arroyo Seco for an easy day hike to Gould Mesa Campground, or for more challenging treks deeper into the mountains. The eastern trailhead for the Gabrielino Trail is at Chantry Flat and leads up Big Santa Anita Canyon to impressive Sturtevant Falls, one of several waterfalls in the front range.
Farther east, drive into the mountains from Claremont and into the Inland Empire to reach Mt. Baldy Resort for snow play and skiing in winter, as well as outstanding hiking in warmer months. Ride the ski lift 15 minutes to the Top of the Notch, then follow the narrow Devil’s Backbone Trail to the summit of Mount Baldy on a 6.6-mile round-trip hike that includes 2,350 feet of climbing.
A nearly 350,000-acre section of Angeles National Forest is also part of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which was established in 2014. Starting at La Cañada Flintridge head out along the serpentine, 66-mile Angeles Crest Highway and into the monument’s high country. On weekends from April through November, take a docent-led tour of the historic Mount Wilson Observatory to learn about one of the most important landmarks in the world of astronomy.
About 50 miles from La Cañada Flintridge, challenge yourself on the 8-mile round-trip hike through shaded forests on the way to the top of 9,399-foot Mount Baden-Powell. The roughly 2,900-foot climb to the bare summit is worth it for 360-degree panoramas that take in the Mojave Desert. After the hike, refuel with a stack of pancakes or an Ortega cheeseburger at the Grizzly Café in Wrightwood.