Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Mt. Wilson Trail (Up to First Water)

(GPS: N34° 10.170 W 118° 02.940)

This begins a series of blogs that I have delayed for some time. When I did this one I was trying to kill two birds with one stone. One reason was to make sure my legs were in hiking shape at the time. The second reason was that the Mt. Wilson trail, and mountain itself, has important historical significance.

One thing I want to point out from the start is that this is one of those hikes that most of the pictures and video you will see were done on the way back down. Normally, I am forced to do this because I usually start hiking early in the morning before dawn. I always try show what can be seen with the best lighting available. However, on the day I did this southern California was going through what is known as "June Gloom" even though I did not do it in June.

Basically, there was a high amount of fog on the trail that morning. I could not see very far in any direction until I passed the cloud level later. It was fun to hike through since I could not see where I was going, but it was nothing worth taking pictures of since there was nothing to show. So, the following pictures are presented in a way that you can actually see what the trail is like, from the bottom to the top, even though it does not really show you what I experienced on the way up that morning.

The gps coordinates take you to the beginning of the Mt. Wilson trail near the historic Lizzie's Trail Inn and the Don Richardson House next to it. The inn was created in 1895 to serve the needs of hikers that used the popular trail during that era. The trail, as we know it, goes back to the mid-1860's. Lizzie's Trail Inn has an interesting history that I will link to below, and it is a museum today. For my purpose, I just parked on the street in front of it and passed by the inn on the left side to begin the trail.

The beginning of the hike passes a residential area. Some slight covering of trees like this, but it does not last for long.After gaining some elevation you can see some of interesting looking houses. Like I said, during the morning I could see none of this because of the fog. This was to my advantage though because the first third of the hike is out in the open where on a hot sunny day it could make one miserable. A nice dam making sure these houses and the rest of the city do not get flooded. After switching back and forth on the trail, gaining elevation, you might be able to see the Santa Anita racetrack. It can barely be seen slightly off to the right in the background. This is the direction the trail was going. It would eventually take me more off to the right side and higher up. Again, I could not see any of this in the morning. It really was kind of spooky, but I loved doing it at the time. Some people say you should be concerned about the drop offs on the trail. Honestly, that was not much of a concern for me on this one due to my own experiences on worse mountain trails. The trail is not that wide though. There was something about this that bothered me about this I knew I might have to face on the way down, but I will mention that later. After 1.5 miles I reached this sign telling me that I was at First Water. One can descend to the right to the stream below here. In fact, just hiking to this point is a workout in itself and people do come here just for this. I bypassed this point and continued. It was around this point that two young athletes ran right by me. Many people do run up and down this trail. I was just slow and steady on this 4,600 ft. elevation hike over 7 miles.

The Mt. Wilson Trail (Youtube Version)

The Mt. Wilson Trail (Vimeo Version)

Lizzie's Trail Inn (
Lizzie's Once Entertained Hikers (San Gabriel Tribune article)