Caltech is located just south of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, where you can find some beautiful day hikes. Within an hour or two east, find yourself at the base San Bernardino, San Gorgonio, or San Jacinto peaks, the highest mountains in Southern California, or head west toward the Santa Monica mountains for lower elevation and ocean views. Feeling adventurous? Pack the car and head to the Sierras for some breathtaking views and make it a weekend. Here are few of our favorite hikes to get you started.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains are only a few hours away from Pasadena! Here is the approach to Glen Pass from the north on Rae Lakes loop.
A Caltech Alpine Club group on top of Strawberry Peak after coming up the mountaineers route. We all made it! There is also a more straightforward, still challenging, all-trail route up Strawberry Peak.
The mountains are calling... Mount Whitney in sunrise alpenglow after a 1am start.
Cucamonga Peak makes for a great long day hike, or you can get a permit to backpack it and camp at the saddle or at the peak.
Mount San Jacinto, as with many of the high-elevation peaks in southern CA, can often get a spring dusting of snow while the valleys are heating up.
Eaton Canyon trail winds along a stream, leading you to a waterfall.
The falls over Brown Mountain dam run all year round, creating a nice oasis in the San Gabriel front range.
If you are heading to the Sierras, check the snow conditions before you go! This is Muir pass in mid-August of 2017, following a 200% snow season.
The local mountains are full of wildflowers in the spring. Prickly phlox is one of the brightest, but as the name suggests, not the best to touch!
Credit: Sujung Lim
A well deserved rest post-hike at the top of Turtlehead Peak in Red Rock Canyon, NV, November 23-25, 2018
Local (San Gabriel Mountains, Angeles National Forest)
Go early in the morning during summer as the San Gabes offer little to no shade. You can avoid crowded trailheads on the weekends by checking out lesser known truck trails off Hwy 2.)
Brown Mountain Dam and waterfall (8.4 mi, 656 ft of gain. Can shorten this by ~1 mi by parking at the JPL east entrance. Popular on hot days, since there is more shade than most hikes and plentiful creek crossings. Many wildflowers in the spring!)
Mount Lukens (11.4 mi, 2211 ft gain. Almost all wide fire roads, good for social distancing)
Switzer Falls (3.6 mi, 695 ft gain. Great for hot days as there is shade and a creek. Can be busy, so try an early morning or a week day!)
Josephine Peak (8.3 mi, 1843 ft. Wide fire roads the whole way. Great views of Los Angeles and the San Gabes)
Strawberry Peak (7.2 mi, 1800 ft gain. There is also an ambitious, class 3 mountaineers route and 10.8mi loop for Strawberry Peak. It's an awesome adventure! If you want to try it, we recommend that you go with someone who has done this route before)
Mount Wilson (13.6 mi, 4739 ft gain. Visit the classic Mt. Wilson Observatory on foot! There are many trails up to Mt Wilson, this is just our favorite)
Parking at developed trailheads in the National Forest requires an Adventure Pass. Check if your starting location needs a pass, here.
Most of these hikes (except those that specifically go to a waterfall!) will not have places to refill water along the way. Come prepared, and always treat or filter your water if you do refill from streams!
Higher elevations out east make for great summer hiking, but watch for snow and ice as temperatures drop. The Santa Monica range stays more temperate year round.
Los Liones (Santa Monica Mountains, 4.4 mi and 1190 ft gain)
Heart Rock Trail (Crestline, San Bernardino Mountains. 1.7 mi, 285 ft of gain. Shaded, short, and sweet!)
Cougar Crest Trail (Big Bear, San Bernardino Mountains, 5.3 mi and 898 ft of gain. Nice views of Big Bear Lake!)
Mt. San Jacinto (San Jacinto Mountains, requires free day use permit, pick up at Ranger station in Idyllwild or Long Valley near the top of the tram. Many route options.Shortest option is 10.5 mi and involves a fun, historic tram ride from Palm Desert. Long or overnight 18.5 mi option from Idyllwild. Medium-long (but steeper!) 14 mi option from Marion Mountain campground.)
The Sierras offer the most epic views and highest altitudes around. There's a plethora of hiking available in the National Forests and Parks. Trails in the Sierras are usually clear of snow from the mid-elevations around early-mid June, depending on the year. High passes may still have some snow through late summer. Checkout whatpermits are available if you plan to overnight. Basic backpacking gear can be rented for pretty low cost from theCaltech Y.
Beginner backpacking trips or day hikes: check out Cottonwood Lakes from Horseshoe Meadows or Gem Lakes from Mosquito Flats trailhead. Bear-resistant food storage containers are required for camping in these areas (can be rented or borrowed).
North to South Lake loop (55 mi point-to-point, requires a car shuttle. From the North Lake trailhead, hike along Piute creek, join the John Muir Trail over Muir Pass, andover Bishop Pass to end at South Lake.
Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park showcases some classic spectacular Sierra views. The whole loop is 41 miles, and often done in 3-4 days.
White Mountain (15.2 mi, 3448 ft. At over 14,000 ft elevation, White Mountain is certainly a big one! May require slightly high clearance to reach the trailhead)
Big Pine Lakes Trail (~ an 8mi round trip to the first lake, and more if you choose! Amazing views of Mt Alice, Mt Agassiz, and the Pallisade Crest. Options for backpacking and day hiking. Who doesn't like a mountain called Cloudripper?)
Kearsarge Lakes from Onion Valley (11 mi, 3474 ft of gain. The steep start will be rewarded with great views.)
Mount Langley: The less busy little sister to Mt. Whitney. At 14,042 ft, what's not to like? (23 mi, 4688 ft gain)
Mount Whitney: the 14,505 ft behemoth, the classic, highest peak in the lower 48 states. (22.5 mi round trip, 6656 ft of gain. Permits required for day use and overnight trips, awarded yearly via lottery in February-March)
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Check out hiking project to see more trail options and build your own route!