Trekking Through the Reopened Burn Areas Near Mount Lowe

This week's hike in the San Gabriel Mountains focuses on a section of the newly reopened Mount Lowe Fire Road area, north of Altadena.

Christmas came early for me this year when it was announced that many of the closed trails would be opening this past Monday. I have missed hiking these trails for quite some time. Of course, I wasted no time getting out there; I was up at the trailhead for Echo Mountain/Mount Lowe on Monday afternoon after my shift at work.

To hike up towards Mount Lowe, my preferred method has always been to follow the 2.7 mile trail up to Echo Mountain.   From there, there are a few different routes to take.   In order to get the best view of the burned hillside, I hiked across the Sunset Ridge Trail to Cape of Good Hope, a small storage area used by the Angeles National Forest rangers. As I approached the Mount Lowe Fire Road and Cape of Good Hope, I was greeted by a barrage of Scotch Broom, an extremely bright and fragrant wildflower that is in bloom this time of year.  

I turned right (north) and followed the well-marked Mount Lowe Fire Road. This is where the damage from the Station Fire first became obvious up close. Structures that had existed many years, including the old Dawn Mine shelter, have been reduced to nothing. However, it would be impossible for me to simply focus on the destruction of the fire, since there is so much growth and wildlife coming back, as evidenced by more wildflowers, blooming yucca, and resilient conifers.  

I traveled along the fire road for about 3 miles. The Mount Lowe Fire Road winds and curves as it increases in elevation – this presented me with beautiful views of Los Angeles, Catalina Island, mountains out towards Santa Barbara, and the Los Angeles’ version of the Grand Canyon.

As I traveled on, the amount of singed landscape around me increased, until I reached Inspiration Point, a popular overlook. I could see here that a firebreak certainly did its job in 2009, by the clear separation of what was blackened and what was perfectly green.  

On this night, I foregoed traveling another two miles to the beautiful summit of Mount Lowe and, instead, continued east down the fire road and up to the wonderful exposed summit of Muir Peak. I enjoyed my new traditional summit reward – a Pay Day candy bar – threw on the headlamp, and began my descent home, retracing my steps.  

Two years ago, I watched the Station Fire illuminate the sky and felt saddened and helpless. The catastrophe was widespread and costly. However, this recent hike provided me with optimism and excitement. Life is coming back to our precious forest and now we can witness it up close.


Hike At A Glance:

Difficulty (1-10):  7
Distance 15 miles roundtrip Scenery The view varies; You will experience wildflowers abloom right now, with amazing views of Los Angeles and the south side of Mount Lowe. The scarred burn areas around Brown Mountain and Tom Sloan Saddle are also very obvious. Best time to go:

Year-round, but snow does accumulate in the winter.

Trail condition: Mostly wide, well-maintained fire road. Other considerations: There is seasonal water replenishment at Mount Lowe Campground, near Inspiration Point. There are also water spots in Castle Canyon, one of which is typically year-round. Also, bears and mountain lions roam these areas, so hiking with a partner is especially recommended. Getting there:

Drive north on Lake Avenue to where the street ends – this is the trailhead (it’s the same as Echo Mountain’s trailhead).   No Adventure Pass is required for parking here but please respect the street signs regarding parking regulations.

Amy McLean May 24, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Thanks for yet another inspiring and happy hiking story! A McLean
Tee Ar (initials' names) December 01, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Water Tunnels exist:-- ● Where Millard Creek turns west-ward, 0.8 miles to the South of the Dawn Mine, which is located at the confluence with Grand Canyon to the East. ● < 1 mile away, ``Towering many hundreds of feet above the Dawn [Mine, east-ward] toward Mount Lowe is the No. 1 tunnel which produces the most water for the [Lincoln Avenue Water] company," says my Great Grandfather, its Super-intendent, in an old, brown Newspaper Clipping. (He addressed the West Altadena Improvement Association.) Regarding the Mine, "... extensive shafts have pierced the mountainside in search of gold and [the mining claims were] once the scene of much activity where many a weary traveler [sic.] enjoyed the hospitality of [the Mine's] owners, Mr. and Mrs. Ryan." To the West of the ridge which contains the Mine is Saucer Canyon, ``where you see the beautiful falls in the distance" as seen from Millard Canyon. _ West of that, a "submerged dam and settling basin" conveys water underground. There was a trail extending from Grand Canyon east-ward to Mt. Lowe, as seen on KCET-TV (PBS, L.A.), i.e., "Things That Aren't Here Anymore."


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