California is getting out of the drought quickly this winter. We have more rain on the way for the coming weekend so we wanted to get out for another good hike before we get cooped up in the RV. The mountains are covered with snow down to the 6000 foot mark so it limits what we can hike without snow shoes. We did some reading in our “Best Hikes With Dogs: Southern California” book and decided on a hike in the Angeles National Forest. This is an area that we had not been to before. We had an early start so we figured we had enough time to do this hike even with a 250 mile round trip drive.
The start of the hike is literally where the Mojave Desert meets the San Gabriel Mountains.
The hike starts in the parking lot on the right side of the road just before you enter the West Fork Campground. There are pit toilets in the campground that are still open, but there are no facilities at the trailhead. Shortly after starting the hike you need to boulder hop across the West Fork River. It was pretty easy despite the rain that has been in this area, remember it’s always deeper in the afternoon after the day’s snow melt has added to the run-off.
The hike consists of hiking up switchbacks for over 500 feet, then descending on switchbacks 500 feet and then climbing back up over 600 feet to get your destination. This means you will be climbing up 500 feet on the return trip too. Our GPS said we did 6 miles round trip with 2000 feet of total elevation. The switchbacks make the climb up the first 500 feet relatively easy. Once you reach the top of the first climb you start your descent into Holcomb Canyon. There are a few areas on the descent that are pretty narrow with poor footing, it looks like the recent rain has eroded the trail quite a bit. Boards and metal runners have been placed in some areas to decrease the wash aways. This trail would not be good for those who have a fear of heights.
On your descent into the canyon ake a close look at the white rock area ahead of you, if you look close you can see the metal retaining walls of the trail you will be climbing.
Holcomb Canyon had 3 easy water crossings, I am sure during dry periods this stream dries up.
This area is a great place to take a break in the shade of the trees. Once you are past the canyon you are in for a very steep climb up. This area is very edgy and there are some areas where the retaining has let loose. Take your time the footing is not always great.
The day we hiked it, parts of the trail were muddy and this is the slipperiest mud I have ever been on, it was like black ice. Once you reach the top of the second climb you come to a trail junction, there is signage here for the Devil’s Chair.
You still have about 1/4 mile to hike before the start of the Devil’s Chair. The Devil’s Chair itself is surrounded by metal rungs and retaining walls. Unfortunately the hike out to the end was covered in slick mud and there was no way we were willing to hike out to the end with as slippery as it was. There are precipitous drops in all directions from the path leading out to the Devil’s Chair. The views from the beginning are still excellent as are the views from the trail junction near the sign.
The rock formations and colors on this trail are amazing. This area is the junction of 3 fault lines and the area is literally being “ripped apart”. It is definitely worth doing, although I don’t think I could get John to do this again. He did not enjoy the edginess and areas of poor footing. This is definitely not a hike for the summer. We wore shorts and a light long sleeved shirt and for most of the hike we were pretty warm despite temperatures in the 50’s. There were a few shady areas that would be a welcome break from the sun on warmer days, for us, these areas remained frozen all day.