Angeles National Forest is a massive park that has so many exciting activities for you to do.

 

When most people think about Los Angeles, hiking is probably something that does not come to mind. However, after you have had your fill with Hollywood, shopping, and city-life, there is nothing better than a little mountain escape. Located just 26 miles away from downtown Los Angeles, Angeles National Forest should be on the top of any outdoor enthusiast’s list for Southern California.

This area is part of the California chaparral and woodlands. It is a unique ecosystem that actually requires fires in order to thrive as some plants such toyon and coffeeberry need a periodic fire to release their seeds. There are also many animals from coyotes, to bears as wells as mockingbirds, robins, thrushes, so be sure to bring your binoculars!

The Real California

 

When most people think of California, what comes to mind is images of the beach, palm trees, green lawns, and pools. What they don’t realize, however, is most of southern California is a desert and countless movies and books have described how the desert is trying to reclaim the land that it lost.

Angeles National Forest gives you the chance to see California as it looked before there were massive cities and suburban sprawl. Not only this, but the season changes dramatically the look of the park. In this part of the state, typically it only really rains in the winter and then it becomes progressively drier throughout the year.

As a result, the desert comes to life in the winter. Plants sprout up, flowers bloom and there is an abundance of green everywhere. Not only this, at higher altitudes, there is even snow and there are some areas of the park where you can ski, bobsled and do other snow activities.

By late summer, there usually has not been a decent rain in months and the world looks totally different. The landscape is dry and sparse and there is often a high fire hazard rating. Nonetheless, this is a great time for hiking. The dry landscape has a beauty unique to itself and the weather, particularly in the early morning or evening, is just perfect.

 

Activities

 

What can do largely depends on the season? Here is a list of links to the park’s website for information on the following activities:

 

 

Remember, the park is massive. It covers over 1,000 square miles so you need to choose specifically what you want to do before you go there otherwise you might be driving all day. Depending on where you go, you may also need a National Forest Adventure Pass so be sure to look into that as well.

There are sixty-six campgrounds and three different lakes in the park. Only Pyramid Lake allows the use of motorized boats, however, on the majority of lakes and rivers you are allowed to kayak or use other non-motorized vessels.

 

Recommended Hikes: Top 3

 

With so many places to see, it can get difficult choosing where exactly to hike. There are plenty of places you can drive to in the park if you just want a nice walk. However, if you are looking for a real hike then check out our top three recommendations.

 

For the Experts: Manker Flats Loop

This 11.25-mile tough loop will take you about seven hours. The trail is in good condition and you will see an elevation change of over four thousand feet.

To get there, you need to take I-210 an exit at Mountain Avenue. Follow Mountain Avenue and turn left at Shinn Road, then right at Mt. Baldy Road. Continue on this road through two tunnels, Mt. Baldy village and finally up to Manker Flats.

Since it is a long hike. It is a good idea to plan your breaks! There is a light-green ski hut at 8200 feet. This is a great place to rest. After that, it is a fairly rapid climb to the 10064 feet of Mount Baldy (San Antonio) summit.

You won’t be surprised that you need to be careful during the Devil’s Backbone section of the hike. This is not a good place during rainy conditions and it is easy to slip and potentially fall down the side.

Towards the end of the hike, if you have gotten your fill of walking, there is a ski lift you can take for $15 at Baldy Notch Ski Hut at 7800 feet which can save you an hour of walking.

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A Little More Chill: Icehouse Saddle

Just south of Mt. Baldy, this trail is a must-do during the winter. It offers a fantastic view of the San Gabriel Mountains.

This hike is a little easier to get to as well. Take I-210 until exit 15. Turn left onto Baseline Road then right onto Padua. After this turn right on Mount Baldy and you will continue through to the ranger station. You will need to get a permit here and they will direct you accordingly where to go afterward.

The hike follows along the river up to the saddle and you can do it in just a few hours. Not only this, since this is a fairly popular hike, the trail is well-maintained and there are many places that you can stop along the way for a rest.

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Worth the Effort: Cucamonga Peak

At nearly 9,000 feet, Cucamonga is one of the highest peaks in California. The trail begins at Icehouse Canyon which is on the way to our last hike, Ice House Saddle. Simply head to the same ranger station and they will tell you how to get there if for some reason do not see the more than ample signage.

This is a strenuous 13 miles and you should be sure to allow plenty of time to do it. For much of the climb, you are behind the mountain until you make several switchbacks. After this, you will have a fantastic view of California’s Inland Empire (the combined cities of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ontario).

Be sure to bring extra water as it can get hot in some spots of the hike and there are huge chunks of it where water is not available. There are many ways to ascend to the top of Cucamonga so it is a good idea to consider doing it over a couple days. We recommend that you ask the rangers where you can camp along the way to the top. This will give you a lot more flexibility and time to really enjoy the climb.

 

Angeles National Forest: A Stunning Place

 

You can spend weeks exploring the massive park. There are so many excellent places for camping, hiking, fishing and other activities. Not only this, it is home to rare and endangered plant and animal species that you can only find there. So whether you want to escape into the woods for a few weeks or a few hours, head out to Angeles National Forest and see the Real California!

 
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