A decade after the Curve Fire destroyed more than 20,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, the damage to the areas surrounding Crystal Lake basin are still very apparent. Through the dedicated work of the San Gabriel Valley Trailbuilder volunteers, a passable trail has been cleared to the top. Photographers will love the beauty of the charred subjects and new growth along the way, as well as the views at the top of Mt. Baldy, Old Saddleback, the San Gabriel Valley, the Mojave Desert, and of course, Crystal Lake.We’ll start at a slow pace up Windy Gap to acclimate to the elevation (our starting point is at about 5,600 ft.) to a carved log bench at the junction of Windy Gap and the Pacific Crest Trail. From there we’ll detour to visit the lovely Little Jimmy Campground, see if the spring is running and take a break before heading up to the summit. We’ll pose for some shots around the ruins of a stone cabin before heading down via Islip Ridge to Big Cienega, for a gradual descent back to the Mt. Hawkins Fire Road. There we’ll retrace part of our way on the Windy Gap trail to our starting point.
STATSLevel: ModerateGain: ~ 2,600 ft.Distance: ~ 10+ milesTime: ~5+ hoursType: Dirt single track trail, loop. Pending weather, trail may have some snow/ice.Dogs: Permitted on leash, but not advised.Water: Available at trailheadRestrooms: Available at trailhead and at Little Jimmy CampgroundParking: Carpool location: park in the day use parking lot, just past the Crystal Lake Visitor Center, near the restrooms. National Forest Adventure Pass required ($5/day; $30 annual pass – available at REI, Sports Chalet, Big 5 or at the Forest Gateway Ranger Station at 1960 N. San Gabriel Road, which open @ 7 am Saturday).Bring: Three liters of water, lunch/snacks to share/gobble (extra points for yummy Thanksgiving leftovers) and cold weather clothing: layers, windproof jacket, gloves, hat, sunscreen, lugsoles. Poles will be helpful as the route may be slick.
DIRECTIONSFrom the I-210 in Azusa, take the Highway 39 (Azusa Ave.) exit and head north; Azusa turns into San Gabriel Canyon Road.
Here’s a map to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. (The Visitors’ Center is across the street from the Crystal Lake Café, at 9877 Crystal Lake Road in Azusa.
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