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The Angeles National Forest encompasses much of the San Gabriel Mountains and Sierra Pelona Mountains just 30 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles. With over 557 miles of hiking trails—including 176 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, a wide selection of campgrounds, mountain bike trails, and high alpine lakes loaded with trout, the Angeles National Forest offers a lovely reprieve from the crowded streets of L.A.
Before heading into the Angeles National Forest, make sure you purchase a National Forest Adventure Pass. This pass is required to park at trailheads and recreation sites in Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests. You can order a pass online in advance or pick one up at many convenience stores across southern California. The “America the Beautiful” Pass is also good in Angeles National Forest.
Angeles National Forest Camping
The Angeles National Forest has over 50 campgrounds operated by the National Forest Service not including numerous backcountry campsites, private campgrounds, and RV resorts that surround the recreation areas. Just remember, all Angeles National Forest camping visitors must display a National Forest Adventure Pass or America the Beautiful Pass in your car, while parked at any developed or dispersed campsites.
Located just 50 miles from Los Angeles, Buckhorn Campground offers 38 first-come-first-serve sites ideal for tent campers. Amenities include drinking water, picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. Given its proximity to the city, the campground fills up quickly on weekends, especially during the summer, so arrive early or secure your spot on a weekday if you can. Several trails can be accessed right from the campground including the Pacific Crest Trail, the Burkhart Trail to Cooper Canyon Falls, and the Silver Moccasin Trail. Open season for Buckhorn Campground varies based on snow conditions.
Crystal Lake Campground
Located in the Crystal Lake Recreation Area, the Crystal Lake Campground offers over 200 first-come, first-serve campsites. A more limited number of sites are made available during the winter months. Campsites can accommodate RVs up to 22 feet in length, but no hook-ups are available. Several nature trails leave right from the campground including the one-mile hike to Crystal Lake and the Windy Gap Trail, which links the San Gabriel River Valley to the Pacific Crest Trail. A cafe at Crystal Lake sells comforting home cooked meals. Plus, they also sell essential camping supplies to campers and Pacific Crest Trail hikers alike.
Table Mountain Campground
The Table Mountain Campground is a quieter Angeles National Forest camping option in the Wrightwood area of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Forty-three nonelectric campsites are situated amid the grassy meadows and oak and pine forest of Table Mountain. All sites have campfire rings, picnic tables, access to drinking water, and nearby vault toilets. However, only some of the sites also come equipped with bear boxes. Sites are reservable in advance but be warned, many of the campsites are hilly and not suitable for large tents. Table Mountain Campground is typically open early May through October.
Soledad Canyon Camping
Soledad Canyon RV and Camping Resort is a year-round campground located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains—less than an hour from downtown Los Angeles. The resort offers tent sites, cabin rentals, and RV sites with full hook-ups, satellite TV, and WiFi. Other resort features include a swimming pool, hot tub, laundry facilities, dog park, and easy access to hiking and mountain bike trails.
Hiking in Angeles National Forest
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the Angeles National Forest, from any of the numerous trails that criss-cross the forest. Hikers will find short jaunts to waterfalls and scenic vistas, as well as multi-day treks on the Pacific Crest Trail or the 53-mile Silver Moccasin Trail.
Mount San Antonio, most often referred to as Mount Baldy, is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains and one of the most popular hikes in the Angeles National Forest. Several routes of varying difficulty lead to the mountain’s summit. The nearest campground is located at Manker Flats. Mount Baldy also hosts one of the most popular and challenging mountain runs in the country – the Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top.
Other popular Angeles National Forest hikes include the family-friendly trail to Sturtevant Falls, the 28-mile Gabrielino National Recreation Trail, and the incredible panoramas of the Mojave Desert from atop Mount Baden-Powell.
Other Activities in Angeles National Forest
The 66-mile Angeles Crest Highway is a scenic two-lane highway over the San Gabriel Mountains, and a popular road bike ride. The 121-mile round trip ride is extremely challenging and offers over 13,000 feet of vertical ascent. The road to Mount Baldy is another popular ride and is frequently used in the Tour of California road bike race. The West Fork National Scenic Bikeway is an easy paved path perfect for riders of all levels. Mountain biking is also allowed on all trails in the national forest, except for the Pacific Crest Trail.
On weekends, from April through November, take a guided tour of the historic Mount Wilson Observatory above Pasadena. Tour-goers get to see and learn about one of the most powerful telescopes in the world. The observatory also houses a small astronomy museum and is surrounded by additional hiking trails.
This article was brought to you by Travellers Autobarn.