Get in fighting shape to get into the ring with the turkey and his pals with a moderately-challenging hike to Mt. Islip (8,250 ft.) via the Windy Gap, Islip Ridge and Big Cienega trails. There may still be some remnants of white stuff above 6,000 ft. from last weekend’s storms. That should help put us all in the holiday mood and dispel the recent memories of hiking in 100+ degree heat.
A decade after the Curve Fire destroyed more than 20,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, the damage to the areas surrounding Crystal Lake basin are still very apparent. Through the dedicated work of the San Gabriel Valley Trailbuilder volunteers, a passable trail has been cleared to the top. Photographers will love the beauty of the charred subjects and new growth along the way, as well as the views at the top of Mt. Baldy, Old Saddleback, the San Gabriel Valley, the Mojave Desert, and of course, Crystal Lake.
We’ll start at a slow pace to acclimate to the elevation (our starting point is at about 5,600 ft.) to a carved log bench at the junction of Windy Gap and the Pacific Crest Trail. From there we’ll detour to visit the lovely Little Jimmy Campground, see if the spring is running and take a break before heading up to Mt. Islip. We’ll pose for some shots around the ruins of a stone cabin before heading down via Islip Ridge to Big Cienega, for a gradual descent back to the Mt. Hawkins Fire Road. There we’ll retrace part of our way on the Windy Gap trail to our starting point. Here’s a map of our planned route (which may need to be adjusted, pending conditions on Saturday), posted in the Files section, under “More” above.
Note: if a severe storm comes in late in the week, we’ll opt for a Plan B at a lower elevation (possibly nearby Marshall Canyon). I’ll email all who RSVPed and post a note on the site about any changes after speaking with the rangers.
Gain: ~ 2,600
Distance: ~ 10+ miles
Time: ~5+ hours
Type: Dirt single track trail, loop. Pending weather, trail may have some snow/ice.
Dogs: Permitted on leash, but not advised.
Water: Available at trailhead
Restrooms: Available at trailhead and at Little Jimmy Campground
Parking: Carpool drivers: park in the day use parking lot, just past the Crystal Lake Visitor Center, near the restrooms. National Forest Adventure Pass required ($5/day; $30 annual pass - available at REI, Sports Chalet, Big 5 or at the Forest Gateway Ranger Station at 1960 N. San Gabriel Road, which open @ 7 am Saturday). Carpool riders, see directions below.
Bring: Three liters of water, lunch/snacks to share and cold weather clothing: layers, windproof jacket, gloves, hat, sunscreen, lugsoles. Poles will be helpful as the route may be slick.
From the I-210 in Azusa, take the Highway 39 (Azusa Ave.) exit and head north; Azusa turns into San Gabriel Canyon Road.
Carpool riders: meet between 7 am – 7:10 am at the Azusa Bike Trail parking lot, which is north of Sierra Madre about 1-1/2 miles on the left side (opens at 7 am). There is no sign for the lot. Check the map link below in satellite mode and you’ll see the lot across the street and to the left of the Rainbow Canyon Ranch.
If you get to the Forest Gateway Ranger Station) on the right (1960 San Gabriel Road, Azusa), you’ve gone too far, so do a U-turn, and head back about 50 yards to the lot on the right. We’ll divide into cars there and depart promptly at 7:15 am to drive the remaining ~ 20 curvy miles. Email Shawn if you plan to carpool or can drive so we know who to expect.
Carpool drivers or those who wish to meet at the trailhead: Follow the directions above and from the Forest Gateway Ranger Station, continue north on Highway 39/San Gabriel Canyon Road to Crystal Lake Road (use caution, there are a few sections of hairpin turns). Turn right and drive two miles to the parking area just beyond the Visitor Center.
Here’s a map to the carpool location in Azusa across the street from the Visitors’ Center.
Here’s a map to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. (The Visitors’ Center is across the street from the Crystal Lake Café, at 9877 Crystal Lake Road in Azusa. You can see a photo of it on the Café site.
Shawn’s mobile: 213/[masked] (reception is spotty at Crystal Lake, so if you have any questions
about the directions, contact me in advance.)
The Organizer, Assistant Organizers and event hosts in this group are not professional guides. The function of the organizer is only to organize the trip. Each person who signs up for a trip/meetup/ or outing is responsible for his or her own safety and the safety of his or her guests. By signing up for a hike, or any other event organized by this group, you are acknowledging that you are aware and have made your guests aware of the risks, dangers and hazards associated with any outdoor activity and freely accept and fully assume all such risks, dangers and hazards, and further agree to release and discharge the Organizer, Assistant Organizers and event hosts of this Meetup Group from and against any and all liability arising from your and your guest's participation in the group activities.