5 Best San Diego to Do in San Diego

GABRIELINO NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL

Walk across the oak-covered picnic area, and cross the footbridge over Arroyo Seco Creek. Follow the paved path downhill, parallel to the south side of the creek through the cool wooded glades. Pass pools along the rock- filled creek as the paved path turns to a dirt path. Cross the creek, passing more pools carved into the bedrock. Stay on the canyon floor, crossing the creek five more times. After the sixth crossing is Commodore Switzer Camp, a primitive camp on the banks of Arroyo Seco Creek. An undesignated path leads straight ahead through the camp to the brink of upper Switzer Falls on the edge of steep, rocky walls. This overlook is dangerous with unstable, slippery rock. It has been the scene of numerous falling deaths and is an ill- advised route. If you take this route, use extreme caution!

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Bear right at the signed Gabrielino National Recreation Trail sign, and cross Arroyo Seco Creek. Head up the exposed west canyon wall, leaving the riparian vegetation behind. Pass overlooks of the narrow, rock-walled chasm, with bird’s-eye views of the 50-foot upper tier of Switzer Falls and the pool etched into the rock. At 1.4 miles is a Y-fork with the Bear Canyon Trail. The Gabrielino National Recreation Trail continues to the right, leading 3.7 miles to Oakwilde Camp and 6.5 miles to Gould Mesa Camp (Hike 17). Take the Bear Canyon Trail to the left, perched on the vertical canyon wall. Descend 0.7 miles and reunite with Arroyo Seco Creek under the shade of oaks to a posted fork. To the right, the Bear Canyon Trail continues to the Bear Canyon Campground. To hike to the base of lower Switzer Falls, go to the left and follow the rocky creek 0.2 miles upstream into the gorge. I

Hiking distance: 3 miles round trip Hiking time: 1.5 hours Configuration: out-and-back Elevation gain: 500 feet

Exposure: mix of exposed hills and forested groves Difficulty: easy to moderate Dogs: allowed

Maps: U.S.G.S. Mount Wilson Harrison: Angeles Front Country Trail Map Harrison: Mt. Wilson Trail Map

Mount Lowe is located 1.5 miles west of Mount Wilson and its observatories. The 5,603-foot peak was named for Thaddeus Lowe by his friends on their first horseback ride to the summit on September 24, 1892. Known as Oak Mountain until that time, Lowe built the Mount Lowe Railway from Echo Mountain to the foot of Mount Lowe, a thousand feet shy of the summit. A trolley then offered access to the Mount Lowe Alpine Tavern, a Swiss-style hotel. The historic site, located south of the peak at the current location of the Mount Lowe Trail Camp, operated from 1893 through 1935. The railway enabled guests to ride from Altadena to Mount Lowe via a tram up Rubio Canyon to the Echo Mountain Resort (Hike 18). The trolley took guests a few miles farther, from Echo Mountain to the Mount Lowe Tavern. The tavern burned down in 1936. Several foundations and rock wall ruins remain, along with interpretive panels describing the tavern and its history.

The scenic 5,603-foot summit of Mount Lowe also has interpretive panels and viewing scopes of Mount Disappointment, Mount Markham, Mount Baldy, San Gabriel Peak, Mount Wilson, and Mount Harvard. This hike begins off of Mount Wilson Road on Eaton Saddle (also known as Mount Lowe East). The trailhead is tucked between San Gabriel Peak and Occidental Peak. The trail route passes through a tunnel built in 1942 to Markham Saddle between Mount Markham and Mount Disappointment.

Atop Mount Lowe are comprehensive views of the urban basins below and sighting tubes which identify the surrounding peaks.

To the trailhead

From the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in La Canada, exit on the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2). Drive 14 miles north to the signed Mount Wilson Road turnoff on the right. Turn right and continue 2.3 miles to Eaton Saddle by a metal vehicle gate on the right. Park in the dirt pullouts on either side of the road. An Adventure Pass is required for parking.

The hike

Walk around the trailhead gate to a close-up view of Mount Markham and San Gabriel Peak. Follow the Mount Lowe Fire Road, an old gravel road perched on a vertical south cliff of San Gabriel Peak. Along the road are great vistas that span from the head of Eaton Canyon to the San Gabriel Valley. At 0.3 miles, walk through Mueller Tunnel, carved through the southern base of San Gabriel Peak in 1942. At a half mile, the historic road reaches Markham

Saddle and a posted junction. To the right, the trail leads 0.8 miles to Mount Disappointment and 1.1 mile to San Gabriel Peak. Straight ahead, the fire road descends and circles Mount Lowe counterclockwise to Mount Lowe Trail Camp, nestled in a grove of oaks and big cone spruce.

Instead, take the footpath to the left. Enter a shaded oak canopy and a chaparral landscape. Traverse the west slope of Mount Markham at a level grade, directly toward Mount Lowe to a saddle between the two mountains. Continue 220 yards through a pocket of oaks to an unsigned fork. The Mount Lowe East Trail goes straight ahead to Mount Lowe Trail Camp. Go sharply right on the Mount Lowe West Trail, and climb 0.3 miles to a signed fork. The right fork Mount Lowe West Trail descends to Mount Lowe Trail Camp as well. Veer left on the undesignated Mount Lowe Summit Trail, and continue less than 0.1 mile to the exposed summit. From the 5,603-foot peak are metal sighting tubes directed at the surrounding mountains and views across the San Gabriel Valley, the Verdugo Mountains, Griffith Park, downtown Los Angeles, and the San Fernando Valley. Return by retracing your steps.

Hiking distance: 4.8 miles round trip Hiking time: 2.5 hours Configuration: out-and-back Elevation gain: 230 feet

Exposure: mostly forested canyon with some exposed areas Difficulty: easy to slightly moderate Dogs: allowed

Maps: U.S.G.S. Pasadena Harrison: Angeles Front Country Trail Map Harrison: Mt. Wilson Trail Map

Arroyo Seco Creek forms from three stream forks near Red Box Gap on the south flank of Mount Lawlor. The scenic creek weaves through the deeply cut canyon from the upper San Gabriel Mountains. The perennial waterway flows through the communities of La Canada, Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena, and northeast Los Angeles to its terminus at the Los Angeles River, just north of downtown Los Angeles.

The Gabrielino National Recreation Trail follows the Arroyo Seco through the canyon, from the foothills on the northwest corner of Pasadena to the headwaters at Red Box Gap. The 28-mile-long Gabrielino Trail continues east from Red Box Gap through Santa Anita Canyon to Chandry Flat north of Arcadia (Hike 24).

This hike follows the lower portion of the Gabrielino Trail from Hahamongna Watershed Park, a 1,300-acre park with oak groves, picnic areas, and walking paths (formerly called Oak Grove Park). The trail passes the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, then enters the gorgeous stream-fed canyon. The trail was originally a road in the 1920s that provided access into the canyon to resorts and rustic cabins. Now the multi-use trail follows this historic route along the creek through dense groves of big leaf maples, white alders, sycamores, Douglas firs, and live oaks. The trail leads to Gould Mesa Camp the turn-around point for this hike then continues up canyon to the Angeles Crest Highway.

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