Mount Williamson • San Gabriel Mountains
• Los Angeles County


Mount Williamson as seen from the Angeles Crest Highway near Dawson Saddle
 

The lower trail
 

The summit ridge appears
 

Looking back at Mount Islip and the parking area
 

Now on Pleasant View Ridge, Peak 8244 is up ahead
 

A possible summit contender?
 

Looking ahead at Peak 8248
 

Stick Scott, my trusty companion who rarely argues with me
 

Looking west at Mount Waterman, the Twin Peaks, Mount Wilson way in the back, and hazy L.A.
 

The top of Peak 8244
 

Looking over at Peak 8214
 

Trail on north-facing slopes. It looks worse than it really is
 

The peak as seen from old state route CA-39, which was closed back in 1978
 

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Date: May 13, 2013 • Elevation: 8,248 feet • Prominence: 1,568 feet • Distance: 5 miles • Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes • Gain: 1,700 feet • Conditions: Sunny and clear

This Mount Williamson is located in the San Gabriel Mountains along the Angeles Crest Highway, and is not to be confused with the more famous 14,000-foot peak by the same name up in the Sierra Nevada. This Mount Williamson reaches to a respectable 8,248 feet, features a nice trail and lovely views, and is easily accessible from the highway. I was in Southern California for a few days to visit my family. Staying in Wrightwood, the trailhead for Mount Williamson at Islip Saddle is just 20 miles away.

Two days ago, I drove from Arizona and hiked two peaks, Cahuilla Mountain and Thomas Mountain. Yesterday was spent visiting with my folks and my brother's family. Today's plan was to hike Mount Williamson, which didn't look to be a very long hike. I left Wrightwood a little before 7 a.m. and followed state route CA-2 west for 20 miles, parking at the lot at Islip Saddle, at the eastern trailhead for the peak as well as a let-in point for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The drive took slightly less than an hour.

I got everything in order and started my hike at 7:40 a.m. A guy was sitting at a picnic table near the trailhead, so I greeted him. He was doing a multi-day backpack and was looking over his maps. There were a couple other cars at the lot, but I didn't see anyone else for the moment. I then started up the trail near the restrooms.

The trail is lovely, pitched at a consistent grade, not too steep, just enough for me to make steady upward progress without needing to stop to catch my breath. It curls around a small nubbin marked by spot elevation 7103 on the map, then begins a long upward traverse on east-facing slopes. Here, the trail narrows and is cut into the side of a long scree run-out. A fall would likely not be fatal, but I could see one slipping a few dozen feet before sliding to a stop, so I took it carefully here. The sun was already shining brightly, and the day was very dry and slightly warm.

Eventually the trail works around one rib, then switchbacks for one more long upward traverse before wriggling up to a subridge, elevation about 7,900 feet. It tops out on this ridge, and the trail continues westerly, eventually dropping back down to the highway near Kratka Ridge. I took my first water break here. The forest was a shade more dense here, and the conditions were excellent.

I found the spur trail (not shown on the map) that leads north up this ridge, aiming for the summit ridge of Mount Williamson. The map labels Mount Williamson near a point 8214, but a ridge called Pleasant View Ridge emanates northwest off this point, and two spot elevations, 8,244 feet and 8,248 feet, lie along this ridge. The 8,248-foot spot elevation would be the presumed summit, not that 8,214-footer.

Anyway, the trail wastes no time getting up onto this ridge, bypassing Point 8214 on its left (my right as I walked uphill). I stuck to the trail as it neared Point 8244, which comes first. In spots, the trail gets very narrow and offers potential for trouble in the event of a slip. The trail skirts Point 8244 on its right, and I went right past it, intending to go all the way to Point 8248. This I did, and as I got close, I tagged any rock pile along the way, a few of which could be the highest point. At the far end, where the slopes dropped away quickly, I stopped in the shade of a fir tree and had a snack and a drink. The one-way hike had taken a little over 90 minutes.

The views were tremendous. Looking west, Waterman Mountain was just a few miles away, along with the Twin Peaks and beyond them, I could make out Mount Wilson and the haze of the San Fernando Valley. The views north and east into the deserts were excellent too, but the sun was low enough to glare everything into a mush, so I didn't take any photos that way.

On the hike out, I scampered up Point 8244. The Sierra Club's Hundred Peaks Section mentions that the register is often placed here or back at Point 8214. Why they ignore Point 8248 is unknown to me. I didn't see any register anyway, and I stuck around just long enough to shoot a couple photos. I never bothered hiking to Point 8214. Instead, I stayed to the trail and made the downhike in a little over an hour. On the way down I met up with a few more hikers, but being a Monday morning, traffic was light. I was back to my truck by 10:30 a.m.

I had time to kill, so I walked across the highway to the gated road where old state route CA-39 used to exist. The highway runs up San Gabriel Canyon from Azusa, eventually coming to the Crystal Lake Recreational Area. As a small child living in Azusa, we'd drive up this highway as a family, and I have vague memories of playing in the snow at Crystal Lake. In 1978, landslides took out some of road near where it connects to Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2). CalTrans has been debating since then whether to re-engineer that segment, or abandon it.

I was curious, so I walked past the gate and walked southbound on this old highway for about a quarter mile. The road gets occasional attention as a dozer must come through here occasionally to pile up the rocks that accrue on it from natural rock- and scree-fall. My guess is they keep the road to a basic minimum so that firefighters can use it if need be. Old-style stone-and-mortar barriers still lined the highway, neat relics from when it was originally built generations ago. I didn't go much farther, but yes, the road is built precariously into a giant bowl of open sloping rock. It must have been a difficult feat of engineering to put it in here in the first place. I think Mother Nature would win every time here.

After that little excursion, I returned to my truck and drove back to Wrightwood, arriving before noon, much to the surprise of my mother who figured I'd be gone a lot longer. I showered and napped, then later in the day we drove down to Cucamonga to watch my nephew play a soccer game. The next day, on my way back to Arizona, I visited one more peak, Palm View Peak.

(c) 2013 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.