12/18/11 & 2/4/17 The Upper Bear Creek Trail to Smith Mountain and Bear Creek in the San Gabriel Wilderness. 13 miles of awesome single track. Steep, but mostly runnable, for almost 4000' of total gain.
1 A late morning start on a beatiful day following a recent rain. 3 miles to the ridge below Smith Moutain. I had been looking for some new trail that would be below the snow line. I pulled out the map, picked something that looked good, and decided to give it a try.
2 The trail to the ridge is maintained by the San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilders, a volunteer group that does an awesome job on the trails. It's clear a lot of effort goes into maintaining this part of the trail. I need to start putting in some volunteer trail maintenance time!
3 My first good look at Smith Mountain.
4 Made it to the ridge. The view is amazing, the pictures don't do it justice. The air was perfectly crisp and clear, and the snow was fresh on the nearby mountain tops.
5 Another view from the ridge with Mt. Baldy in the distance.
6 A look down the valley towards Bear Creek. You can see the antennae on top of Mt. Wilson in the distance.
7 A panorama from the ridge.
8 Another panorama. I'm glad I decided to try this trail!
9 Starting up to the top of Smith Mountain from the ridge. I don't think this is official trail, just a worn path. it starts by basically scurrying up a steep wash.
10 I hit some small patches of snow starting at around 4500'.
11 This is the "trail". Basically an extremely steep scramble up the rocks. The last half mile is a 1000' HALF mile, so equivalent to a 2000' mile! Coming down took longer than going up. That is the tell-tale sign of a really steep, technical trail.
12 The official summit marker. 5111'.
13 There's an unobstructed 360' view from the summit, with little sign of civilization in any direction.
14 More great views from the summit.
15 A zoomed-in shot of Mt. Baldy with Dawson Peak and Pine Mtn. to the left.
16 A cool looking layer of clouds rolling-in.
17 Bear Creek is somewhere down at the bottom of that valley, which will be my destination for the day (if I have time).
18 The offical 360' summit video.
19 Heading down the backside from the ridge into the San Gabriel Wilderness. I had read that the trail is not maintained from here on out.
20 Almost entirely washed out in places, no more than a foot wide, with a steep drop off. Just my kind of trail!
21 Awesome single track. Very similar to Mt. Wilson in places.
22 Getting lower into the valley. Gorgeous colors. Getting close to my turnaround time. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to make it all the way down to Bear Creek. I have to make it back in time for my Dad's birthday dinner!
23 An awesome section of trail on super spongy dirt through a chapparal (giant manzanita?) forest.
24 Made it to Bear Creek, just about 10min past my cutoff time. I'm glad I made it, because it is a definite postcard spot.
25 Another view downstream.
26 The water is crystal clear and looks fairly deep.
27 A look upstream.
28 That amazing cascading creek sound that you just want to bottle-up and take home with you.
29 After a quick food break at the creek, it's time to head back up the valley. The weather report said there was a chance of rain in the afternoon, and the clouds are starting to roll-in.
30 Uh, where's the trail? All that's left of the trail here is about 6 inches hugging along the cliff. For some reason it didn't bother me coming down, but maybe because I'm going slower on the way up and have more time to think about it, it's bothering me a little now. It occurs to me that it's a pretty steep dropoff and I'm basically walking tight-rope style, one foot in front of the other, on loose dirt. One of the few times I've ever had a touch of vertigo on dry trail.
31 More great single-track, this time with a little less exposure.
32 Made it back to ridge in really good time. Smith Mtn is shrouded in clouds now, and there is zero view of the snow capped peaks. I didn't see a single human in Bear Valley, and only a couple on the front side, one of which was just coming up to the ridge now. They probably didn't realize the view they were missing.
33 One last look back at Smith Mtn as I head down. The camera just barely captures the rays of sunlight piercing through the clouds. What a view to end the day on!
34 Some pictures from another trip to Bear Creek during a (finally!) wet winter. The trail was even more washed out this time, and the creek was really flowing.