Posts Tagged ‘Mount Zion’

Hiking Winter Creek Trail to Hoegees Camp, and Mount Zion, Chantry Flat, CA

12 June 2011

After my meeting on Thursday was done, I had a late lunch, and then hightailed it across LA to Arcadia – about 55 miles. I headed up Santa Anita into the Canyon, up to the parking area at Chantry Flat. When you get off Interstate 210 and turn north, you quickly run out of businesses and into a beautiful neighborhood. If you want to grab lunch, look to head south off of 210; there is a bunch of stuff within a couple blocks.

There is a gate where you get to the hills that states it is closed at 2000; there is apparently a phone number to call in case you get locked in. Just as a general comment, I do not see the logic in closing access to the wilderness between 2000 and 0600.

I got to Chantry Flat in short order, and parked. The parking area is kind of small, and even at 1430 on a Thursday afternoon, it was almost full. You have to pay $5 to access the area; the place to buy the pass is a “general store” that is up the hill a bit, but it’s only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There is a self-service pay station, but there were NO passes there. I paid my $5 and hoped I didn’t get a ticket in the meantime (I didn’t). There were no paper maps in sight; I took a picture of a map on the wall and referred to it a couple times on my Blackberry.

They have water at several locations in the area, so you can fill your bottles on the hill. The temp when I arrived was in the 80s, and it was fairly humid. There are heads at the trailhead.

Hike summary: 8.3 miles, 2300 ft of total elevation gain. The most beautiful hike I have had in Southern California. Started at 1500, finished at 1930.

The Lower Winter Creek Trail starts off going down into Santa Anita Canyon. The trail starts out as a road.

At the bottom you can walk a little downstream to see a couple of waterfalls. I wanted to get started so I headed up the trail, which at this point is packed dirt and occasional rock.

Winter Creek is beautiful. I was amazed at how clear it is. It tumbles over rock, with a lot of little waterfalls. You can almost always hear it running as you walk.

There are a number of man-made dams on the creek as you walk along. Most are of the same basic construction.

In the first photo, note that the water downstream of the dam is clear enough to see rocks on the bottom of the stream even from the distance. That water was beautiful and clear.

The rock formations on the canyon walls were varied and beautiful. Some of them had really neat veining, others were solid chunks. It was a chore to keep your balance as often you get to rock hop on the trail. By the way, you cross Winter Creek about a dozen times on the way up.

Eventually you get to Hoegees Camp. This is one beautiful campsite. It has heads. The water is from Winter Creek.

On the hike up, you pass a number of cabins. I don’t know if those are private, or rented, but the only access is by walking.

I just keep going back to the sheer beauty of this trail. You are shaded the entire time. It’s a fairly steady climb as well, and you occasionally rock and root hop. The melody of the flowing water is there also. I didn’t hear a single human-made sound (as in cars or airplanes) the entire time.

Above the camp, there is a turnoff for the trail up Mount Zion. This trail is narrower, and has some definite watch-out spots.

Right about this time, the batteries in my trusty HP 735 camera went kaput. Fortunately, I had a backup in my Blackberry camera. As I climbed up the Zion trail, I broke out of the taller trees (less water, less woods), and started seeing some valley views. You can see how some of the LA Basic Haze-Crud was present. I think that the antennas visible on the farthest peak are on Mt. Wilson.

This is two shots looking down-valley. You can see the cities of the basin to the right, through the crud.

This really cool cactus-looking plant was at the wye of one of the switchbacks.

I reached the top of Mt. Zion after some hard and sweaty hiking. There is not a lot of cover up there (no trees, just thick bushes), but I sat for a while and rested, had a bag of Sun Chips, ate some chocolate candy, and drank some water. The bushes gave shade when I was there about 1800, but during the noon period this would be very exposed.

Looking down the valley again, and much higher, you can see the crud layer over the LA Basin very clearly.

While I was up on Zion, I noticed this lizard sitting on a bush. It was quite calm and let me get close and look at it. It has iridescent blue and green on the underside. This lizard (I saw one like it on one of the man-made dams, and several others on or next to the trail) will walk a couple steps, and then do some push-ups. Don’t know why.

I saw this very interesting plant on the way down.

After getting back to the Lower Winter Creek Trail, I decided that I had enough time to hike the longer way back on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. There was a bit of a climb after crossing Winter Creek again, but then the trail started down again. The Upper trail is a little more rugged in several ways, and is a little slippery in a number of places.

This is a view of Mt. Zion from the Upper trail.

After going around a shoulder, this light colored outcropping was very striking.

Saw a number of interesting plants. There were some very pretty small flowers, like this one. I also saw an unusual seed pod; it’s about 1 inch in diameter.

Finally, you get a good view of the parking area with about a mile to go.

Here is my GPS route overlaid on the topographic map of the area, the Google Earth Terrain, and finally the altitude plot.

The altitude plot shows the trail dropping into the bottom of Santa Anita Canyon to start, then following the stream uphill. Past Hoegees Camp, I took a side trail off to Mount Zion – that is over 1000 feet of elevation gain all by itself. Then there is another shorter altitude gain to make the “upper” part of Upper Winter Creek Trail true.

There was intermittent cell signal on some of the trails that were on the southeast shoulders of the hills.

I was just astounded at how beautiful the trail was (on the Lower trail along the stream, especially). This was a fantastic hike, not for beginners, but doable especially if you take it easy. I would like to hike some of the rest of this area, but don’t get out there very often, and so don’t know when I will have the opportunity again. I’ve done some hiking in the Mount Wilson area back in 1996, and in the Big Bear area back in 2007 (I think), but this trail blows those away in scenic terms.

On the way up the Lower trail, I passed about 20 people, and on the way down, I passed about 15 more. Coming down the Upper trail, I passed and was passed by about five trail bikers. Several of these were going too fast, and one of them came very close to running me down from behind; I heard his braking skid and leapt to the side of the trail in a very timely manner. Didn’t even get an excuse me or anything. One bike rider rang a little bell as he was coming around every turn (it was the same sound as the message-received tone my friend Gayle uses on her phone, and just for a second I wondered if she was waiting around that corner!). I didn’t see a single person on the Zion trail.

There was not a lot of wildlife. Some very nice birds, including a pair of Hooded Orioles (beautiful birds!), a number of the push-up lizards, and a couple squirrels. I saw one hawk (falcon-shaped), and heard one owl hooing (this was on the Upper trail).

A funny postscript. I did this hike Thursday evening, and then flew back to Oklahoma City Friday. I unpacked my bag in the evening, and set my hiking boots on the floor next to the bag. For the past 24 hours, our two cats have been all over those boots. They grab them with both claws, and smell and lick and rub their cheeks all over the boots, in particular the soles. Raegan says I probably stepped into sand with cougar pee in it, or where a bear crapped. It’s funny watching the two cats act like they are on cat drugs.

This was a great way to spend an afternoon and evening. Recommended.