In October 2014, after more than a decade of advocacy by various locals, lawmakers and environmental organizations, President Barack Obama designated nearly 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument. Stretching the entire length of the Los Angeles metro area, from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino County, this special location is often referred to as Los Angeles’ recreational “backyard”. The designation of a national monument allows for increased protection of this magnificent natural area for generations to come.
From Devil’s Punchbowl to Strawberry Peak, here are eight special places worth a visit in San Gabriel Mountain National Monument.
Commonly known by locals as Mount Baldy, Mount San Antonio, at a height of 10,068 feet, is the highest point in Los Angeles County. The lower part of the mountain contains clusters of tree species scattered within the yellow pine forest community – white fir, sugar pine, lodgepole pine, and western yellow pine. The upper parts of Mount San Antonio, below the treeless alpine zone, consist strictly of lodgepole pine forest. One of the most popular trails on the mountain is the nearly 10-mile (10-mile) Mount Baldy Notch Trail, although the challenging route contains steep sections over loose gravel and is only recommended for experienced hikers.
Named after a nearby town, Ontario Peak is one of many high peaks located in the Cucamonga Wilderness section of the San Gabriel Mountains. The 8,696-foot-high peak is renowned among outdoor enthusiasts for the challenging hiking trail that leads to it. Ontario Peak Trail takes hikers along a 12.1 mile round trip route that offers plenty of beautiful mountain views. The trail is often quite busy so hikers are recommended to arrive early for their ascent.
Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area
The Devil’s Punchbowl is a scenic geologic formation located along the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. The Punchbowl is characterized by a 300-foot-deep canyon known as the Plunging Syncline (a compressed V-shaped fold in the sedimentary rock of the earth). The sandstone covered area contained an education center for visitors until it burned down in the Bobcat fire in September 2020. The mile-long Devil’s Punchbowl Loop Trail is a family hike that offers incredible views of the famous canyon and surrounding mountain peaks.
Located along the northern border of the San Gabriel Wilderness is the 8,041-foot-tall tree-covered Waterman Mountain. The popular recreation spot is often covered in snow from winter to early spring and contains several small ski areas, including Mount Waterman and the Buckhorn Ski Club. During the warmer months, Waterman Mountain welcomes hikers along the moderately difficult six-mile Mount Waterman Loop Trail. The climate is home to a population of bighorn sheep that can often be seen grazing on the grassy slopes. Go in the spring, after the snow melts, to see these slopes covered with wild flowers.
Bridge to nowhere
Built in 1936, the pedestrian arch bridge known as the Bridge to Nowhere was originally part of a large plan to connect the nearby town of Wrightwood (north of the mountains) to the San Gabriel Valley ( south of the mountains). After the 1938 Los Angeles swept away the road connecting East Fork, which was still under construction at the time, the project was scrapped. Today, the Bridge to Nowhere remains secluded deep in the Sheep Mountain wilderness, although it is often visited by intrepid hikers.
Jackson Lake is a small, tree-lined body of water located in a canyon east of Wrightwood. Fed by melting snow from nearby mountains, the lake sits above the San Andreas Fault and is known as a great spot for fishing where rainbow trout, bluegill and bass at large mouths are commonly fished. Jackson Lake is also well known for the many scenic campgrounds and picnic areas that dot the area.
At 6,164 feet tall, Strawberry Peak is widely visible from the greater Los Angeles area. The towering summit was named for its shape; some say the peak looks like an upside down strawberry. Experienced hikers know Strawberry Peak for the challenging and hugely popular 7.2-mile Strawberry Peak Trail, which leads to the top and offers stunning views of downtown LA. The area.
Mountain High is a popular ski resort near Wrightwood that consists of three different areas: West Resort, East Resort, and North Resort. The West Resort, at a height of 7,000 to 8,000 feet, is most popular among visitors largely due to its high elevation and the heavy snowfall that results from it. The East Resort contains mostly long ski runs, and the North Resort has runs perfect for beginner and moderate skiers. Mountain High is also home to the Sky High Disc Golf Course, which takes visitors along a two-and-a-half-mile nature trail through scenic forest terrain.