Hike Organizer: Paul Kemp
Hike Location: Angeles National Forest
Distance: 13 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet (gain); 2,800 feet (loss)
Hike Classification: 6.5/10 (moderate to strenuous)
Time: 7-8 hours
THIS HIKE INVOLVES BOULDER HOPPING AND STREAM CROSSINGS FOR SEVERAL MILES AT THE TOP OF BEAR CANYON SO PLEASE BE PREPARED WITH APPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR IF YOU SIGN UP FOR THIS HIKE.
INTRODUCTION: 5,111’ Smith Mountain stands tall on the divide separating the North Fork of the San Gabriel River from Bear Creek, right on the eastern boundary of the rugged San Gabriel Wilderness. The superb view from the summit of Smith Mountain takes in the eastern half of this wilderness area, with the deep chasm of Bear Canyon right below. The lower 4-mile stretch of Bear Canyon is a particular highlight of this trip – Bear Creek dances and cascades under tall stands of big-cone spruce, alder, and oak, interspersed with chaparral glades. There are grassy flats where the canyon widens, and rock-ribbed corridors where it narrows.
HIKE DESCRIPTION: The Bear Creek Trail begins at Highway 39 and switchbacks 3 miles up to Smith Saddle, at which point there is a ½ mile hike/scramble to the top of Smith Mountain. After taking in the view from the summit we return to Smith Saddle and then continue down the Bear Canyon Trail into the San Gabriel Wilderness. The trail takes us first to the creek at Upper Bear wilderness campsite, 7 miles in, and then down-canyon, across the creek, and on to West Fork Bear wilderness campsite. Continuing down the canyon, we emerge from forest cover and scramble across boulders where the creek turns into a rocky wash, passing under oaks and alders to Bear Creek wilderness campsite. It is a short distance from here to the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, which we cross and follow the fire road east for 1 mile to the parking lot at Highway 39.
WHAT TO BRING: Make sure that you wear appropriate footwear as there will be stream crossings and some rock scrambling. Bring at least 2 liters of water, copious amounts of sweet snacks to munch along the way, and lunch.
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD: Exit the 210 Freeway at Azusa Avenue (Highway 39) and drive north to the junction of the North and West forks of the San Gabriel River, approx. 11 ½ miles north of Azusa, to the parking area where we will be ending the hike. At this point we will arrange a car shuttle taking some of the cars to the Bear Canyon Trailhead 6 miles farther north.
An additional carpool place will be Monrovia Park and Ride on the west side of Myrtle Avenue just south of the 210 Freeway for those people driving from the west, at 7.30 a.m.