December 25, 2013
On the northeastern side of the San Gabriel Mountains are two parallel ridges, Blue Ridge and Pine Mountain Ridge, which both run in a east-west direction. The two ridges are separated by Prairie Fork, a deep valley which runs for about 5.5 miles between the base of Mt. Baden Powell to the west and the saddle between Pine Mountain and Wright Mountain to the east. There were a few peaks-of-interest located on both ridges, and it looked very possible to string them together into a single hike.
My plan was to start the hike from the town of Wrightwood, taking the Acorn Trail up to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail and Blue Ridge Truck Trail. From the junction, I would follow the truck trail northwest along the ridge to Blue Ridge Peak. The most strenuous part of this hike would come between Blue Ridge Peak and Pine Mountain Ridge, where I would descend a subsidiary ridge south of Blue Ridge Peak into Prairie Fork, cross the fork, then ascend Pine Mountain Ridge via one of its northern subsidiary ridges. Once on Pine Mountain Ridge, I would head west for a short distance to the western highpoint of Pine Mountain Ridge, which was locally regarded as a peak, and contained a register. From there, I would head southeast to Wild View Peak, a seemingly insignificant bump located on a subsidiary ridge branching south off the main Pine Mountain ridge. From Wild View Peak, I would continue to ascend Pine Mountain Ridge, heading towards Pine Mountain and the North Backbone Trail, which runs along the ridges connecting Blue Ridge to Mt. San Antonio (aka. Mt. Baldy). Once on the North Backbone Trail, the peaks of Dawson and Pine were pretty self explanatory, with both of their summits located less than a tenth of a mile off the trail. After bagging Dawson and Pine, I would follow the North Backbone Trail onto Blue Ridge, then climb Wright Mountain, the highpoint of Blue Ridge. From Wright Mountain, I would follow the Pacific Crest Trail a short distance west to the junction with the Acorn Trail, thus closing the loop.
|Peak||Elevation||Topographic Prominence||Summit Coordinates (lat/lon)|
|Blue Ridge Peak||8,480 ft||360 ft||34.351502, -117.674843|
|Pine Mountain Ridge||7,440 ft||160 ft||34.327322, -117.696207|
|Wild View Peak||7,258 ft||78 ft||34.312568, -117.675204|
|Dawson Peak||9,575 ft||435 ft||34.303365, -117.636096|
|Pine Mountain||9,648 ft||858 ft||34.31374, -117.644382|
|Wright Mountain||8,505 ft||325 ft||34.333862, -117.633365|
Getting to the trailhead: Follow these directions and park before a "Private Drive" sign on Acorn Rd. The parking here is very limited (enough for two vehicles).
Trailhead coordinates: 34.354023, -117.641919
I set out from the trailhead at 8:21 am, walking up Acorn Drive. After 0.7 miles, the Acorn Trail branched off to the left, marked by a sign.
The Acorn Trail gently switchbacked up to Blue Ridge, arriving at a junction with the Blue Ridge Truck Trail and Pacific Crest Trail in 2.1 miles.
view from Acorn Trail
Acorn Trail/Blue Ridge/PCT junction
Pine Mountain viewed from junction
From the junction, I turned right and followed the truck trail for northwest towards Blue Ridge Peak, which was about 2.8 miles away. There were awesome views to the west all along the way. It was a warm winter day, with temperatures in the low 50s. A steady wind blew from the west, feeling cool and refreshing.
view of my route to Pine Mountain Ridge via Blue Ridge Peak's South Ridge
Since the truck trail does not go directly up to Blue Ridge Peak, I turned right onto another fire road marked by a Fire Restrictions sign and walked a short distance over to the summit. The summit itself was not really exciting. It was crowded with communication towers and lacked any great views. The highpoint was marked by a tree stump sitting on the summit plateau. The highlight of this peak was definitely the views attained in getting there.
turnoff from truck trail (top photo) and the "class 2" summit stump (bottom photo)
Mt. Baden Powell
From the summit of Blue Ridge Peak, I descended south, crossed the truck trail, and descended Blue Ridge Peak's South Ridge to Prairie Fork. The top half of the ridge, although steep, contained soft ground that was padded with pine needles. The terrain was generally wide open with occasional buckthorn growing here and there. As I dropped down closer towards Prairie Fork, the ridge narrowed, and the pine trees gave way to shrubs, requiring some light to moderate bushwhacking. The last bit of ridge contained a few short spots of class 3 climbing mixed with bushwhacking.
descending South Ridge
view of Pine Mountain
To the southwest of Blue Ridge Peak's South Ridge rose one of several ridges (which I will refer to as "Split Ridge") that headed south up towards the main Pine Mountain Ridge. Split Ridge was easily recognizable as it branched out into two separate sub-ridges below its halfway point. From the base of Blue Ridge Peak's South Ridge, I crossed Prairie Fork with some light bushwhacking, then started up Split Ridge via its eastern branch.
crossing Prairie Fork
Mt. Baden Powell seen from Prairie Fork
The first third of Split Ridge was steep class 2, so steep that I found myself crawling up a few sections of it. If the terrain were composed of rock instead of dirt, I would've called it class 3. The remaining two-thirds of Split Ridge sloped more gently and contained moderate bushwhacking through shoulder high shrubs.
the eastern end of Prairie Fork viewed from Split Ridge
looking back towards Blue Ridge Peak's South Ridge
The bushwhacking begins.
Baden Powell shows itself
As Split Ridge intersected Pine Mountain Ridge, the brush vanished and was replaced with generally open terrain dotted with pine trees. I turned right and followed Pine Mountain Ridge a short distance northwest to its western highpoint, where the register was placed.
views from Pine Mountain Ridge
views from summit
From where I was standing, Wild View Peak was clearly visible to the southeast. Even though it didn't look very peak-like, I had read that it did contain a wild view. I stayed on the crest of Pine Mountain Ridge, following it southeast until I found myself almost directly north of Wild View Peak. From there, I looked around for a dirt road I had seen on the satellite image, which contoured south along the slope of a subsidiary ridge. It wasn't difficult to spot. The road had obviously not been used in a while, as evidenced by the chaparral that covered much of it. Some parts of the road were completely gone, requiring some contouring on loose scree.
route to Wild View Peak and beyond as seen from Pine Mountain Ridge
Wild View Peak from the north
The road did not go to the peak itself, so for the last 0.2 mile, it was a short cross country walk to the peak. There was a faint use trail in some places along with cairns, but they were not really necessary. From the summit, there was a grand view of the north face of Mt. Baldy. From no other angle in the San Gabriels did Baldy look so massive.
From Wild View Peak, I ascended a prominent ridge to the northeast which met up with Pine Mountain Ridge at 8,330 ft. I continued following Pine Mountain Ridge east towards Pine Mountain. The upper portions of Pine Mountain Ridge were covered with fields of buckthorn. Fortunately, this buckthorn was not the dense, shoulder-high type. It clustered only in certain areas, and grew no more than 2 feet high. As I ascended higher, the wind increased, and soon I was walking against a 45 mph headwind. Many of the trees grew bent towards a common direction, a testament to the strong winds that often blow through there. As I passed a few hundred feet below Pine Mountain's summit, I contoured around the southwest side of Pine Mountain and met up with the North Backbone Trail heading towards Dawson Peak.
various points along the traverse up Pine Mountain Ridge
traverse around the southwest side of Pine Mountain
Mt. Baldy's North Face
After meeting up with the North Backbone Trail, I followed it southeast until it passed just below the summit of Dawson Peak. The last bit of distance to the summit was cross country. There might have been a use trail, but it was not visible due to snow coverage.
route to Dawson
Dawson's summit was flat and plateau-ish with its highpoint marked by a cairn.
views from summit
At this point, there was just a little over two hours of sunlight left, and I did'nt linger on the summit for very long. I hurried back towards the North Backbone Trail, taking it north and up to the summit of Pine Mountain.
windblown tree between Dawson and Pine
Pine Mountain's summit was marked by a rock shelter. It was evident that this summit was a popular camping destination.
View towards Dawson Peak, Mt. Harwood, and Mt. Baldy
After a brief rest on Pine Mountain, I continued down the North Backbone Trail until it intersected Blue Ridge and the Blue Ridge Truck Trail. As the sun dropped lower towards the horizon, it cast several dramatic hues onto the surrounding terrain.
I crossed the Blue Ridge Truck Trail and headed cross country northeast, following the ridge towards Wright Mountain, my last peak of the day. Wright Mountain was the highpoint of the Blue Ridge, and was undoubtedly the easiest peak of the day. The summit of Wright Mountain was a large plateau, and it was difficult to distinguish the exact highpoint. After a bit of poking around, I located a cairn with the register.
From the summit of Wright, I descended southwest for a short distance to intersect the PCT, then followed the PCT west for 0.6 miles to its junction with the Acorn Trail. As I descended the Acorn Trail, the last rays of sunlight disappeared below the horizon.
9,000 ft gain/loss
Blue Ridge Peak
Pine Mountain Ridge
Wild View Peak
Angeles National Forest