100Hikes: #4 – Mt Lowe Summit via Mt Wilson Road

Sunday’s hike marks the first hike of my quest where a friend joined me. In fact, I don’t think I would have completed it without his subtle motivation. Nathan was one of the first of my outdoor-enthusiast friends to ask if he could join me on my journey to complete 100 hikes before the end of 2010. We’ve been camping together in the past, most recently in Joshua Tree a few weeks ago, but we haven’t gone on many trek-centric* journeys. I let Nathan plan this one out and I just went along for the ride. In fact, I didn’t look at a map of the route until we got to the trailhead. We both thought it would be an “easy 2-3 mile hike”. Just the day before I had hoped to take an easy hike and failed miserably, ending up going on an enjoyable-yet-sweaty 5-6 mile hike.

Funny how history repeats itself, isn’t it?

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The trailhead is wll marked and just off of Mount Wilson Road. The “path” at first is the Mount Lowe Road, a 4.6-mile long gravel road that connects Mount Wilson Road with Panorama Point. The first surprise of the hike was the Mueller Tunnel, built in 1942 by the US Forestry Service. The tunnel carves a hole 25 feet tall by about 200 feet into the side of Mount Disappointment and must have took a great deal of time to build. It’s impressive that now almost seventy years later, it still stands here as good as new.

Both Nathan and I are pretty good at reading maps. Plus, we’re both armed with a Garmin GPS. So it’s embarrassing to admit that we missed the trail heading up to the summit of Mount Lowe. No, “missed” isn’t a good way to explain our mistake. We misread the sign. The metal sign with soldered letters showed two arrows – one leading to the summit, one to the campgrounds. We unfortunately didn’t see one of the arrows, so instead of an “easy 1-2 mile hike,” we set into motion a 5-6 mile hike which included a trek up the Mt. Lowe East Trail, a 1.5-mile section that climbs 1,100 feet.

But we endured and bagged the summit of Mt. Lowe (5,603 feet)! At the top, I was more thankful for the surprisingly comfortable ancient metal bench than the view of the surrounding area. We hoped to sign the summit book, but it looks like it has been stolen. Two other hikers made it to the top while we were there, one having done it frequently, but he too couldn’t locate the log book. Bummer!

We took the shortest route back to the car, laughing about how much extra work we caused ourselves by misreading the old trail sign. With it all being said and done, I’m happy I did the extra mileage. Sweaty and sore as I might have been that Sunday afternoon, it felt great to have spent a few hours in the wilderness above Los Angeles with a good friend.

*Yes, I did make up the word trek-centric, which I define as a trip focused on hiking.

What I learned on the hike:

  1. Sadly, my hiking boots might be a tad too short. I hope that they work because I don’t think I can return boots that have been used for 12 miles of hiking.
  2. I really need to start using my CamelBack.

Hike #4 Trip Stats:

  • Date of hike: May 10th, 2009
  • Location: Mount Lowe via Mount Wilson Road – Angeles National Forest, California
  • Length: ±6.31 miles* (more likely 6.5 miles)
  • Duration: 4 hours, 38 minutes, 52 seconds
  • Average speed: ±1.4 mph* (more likely 1.2 mph)
  • Altitude at start: 5,090 feet
  • Altitude min.max: 4,574/5,603 feet

*These stats were gathered with my GPS, but due to the terrain, the data might not be accurate.

This map was made with the data my GPS captured on the hike. For a more detailed trip report map, check this out.


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A view looking west. The smoke is from a big 8,000+ acre wildfire in Santa Barbara.
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Not sure what flowers these are, but I like them. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
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Another view to the west, this time from Mt. Lowe Road.
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Nathan starts up the 1.2-mile Mt. Lowe East Trail
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Up the Mt. Lowe East Trail
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Nathan admires the view
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Bagged the summit! Mount Lowe (5,603 feet)
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Two coast horned lizards (Phrynosoma coronatum) which are listed by the state and federal governments as a “Special Concern” species. I feel very lucky to have seen three of them in a week! (The first one was seen on hike #2)
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The reason these lizards are so spiky is to break up the outline of their body so they cannot easily be spotted by predators. If that fails, coast horned lizards can shoot streams of blood from their eyes when threatened!
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The view west from the Mt. Lowe trail. On the left is Mt. Lowe Road, the “detour” we took on the way to the peak.
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Facing south near the trailhead.

I’ll post a video of this hike at a later date.

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