Tuesday, January 10, 2012

HORSE FLATS/MT. HILLYER TRAIL (San Gabriel Mountains, Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles County, CA)

Back in the day when we lived in LA County, the San Gabriel Mountains were a readily accessible area and, therefore, one of our mainstay recreational haunts. Scenic driving, day hiking, picnicking, camping - you name it, we've been there and done it. The 3 campground we've been to and actually camped at are Buckhorn, Chilao, and Horse Flats. My recollections of the campgrounds are that Buckhorn was beautiful and tranquil, but teeming with skeeters in the summertime (probably from the creek that runs through it); Chilao was well-appointed with a really cool visitor center; and Horse Flats, was really scenic, but a bit less developed than Chilao (although there were restrooms, fire rings, and hitching rails/corrals & water trough for horses - hence the 'Horse Flats' moniker, I presume?). 

At 5,700 feet in elevation, the Horse Flats campground is usually closed for the winter season (typically November to March), but on November 21st of 1997, back in the day when we were not aware of such winter closures, Gil, Elaine, Chuck and I packed up our pooches, Pookie and Dante, with the bright idea of an overnight camping trip to Horse Flats. By the time we got up there, we were tired but still totally stoked for a campout, and then got really bummed when we realized the campground was closed. But, heck, there was no snow on the ground and the rangers didn't appear to be patrolling, so we did the most logical thing, which was to pitch our tents and make a night of it. It's not like we were party animals, gangbangers, or nefarious deer poachers. Just sayin'.

The next morning we did a short trek on the Mt. Hillyer Trail before heading back home to La Puente. The vistas along the trail were really grand, punctuated by large boulders and majestic pine trees.

In the summer of 2009, the infamous Station Fire, which burned over 160,000 acres (the largest fire in the history of LA County), scorched parts of the Horse Flats/Mt. Hillyer Trail area, but from what I had read, a number of the trees actually survived and a lot of the vegetation has since regrown. Mother nature always prevails. 

11/21/97 Making the most of some frosty camping at Horse Flats.

11/21/97 EE & Chuck.

11/21/97 Me & Chuck.

11/21/97 Me & Gil.

11/22/97 The morning after...EE with Dante & Pookie.

11/22/97 Packing up camp.

11/22/97 Mt. Hillyer trailhead.

11/22/97 EE, Dante & Chuck. Mt. Hillyer Trail.

11/22/97 Gil, EE, Dante & Chuck. Mt. Hillyer Trail.

11/22/97 EE & me. Mt. Hillyer Trail.

11/22/97 With Dante & Gil. Mt. Hillyer Trail.

11/22/97 EE, Chuck and Dante on the right. Horse Flats to Mt. Hillyer Trail.

11/22/97 Gil, me & EE. Horse Flats to Mt. Hillyer Trail.

11/22/97 Horse Flats.

11/22/97 EE at Horse Flats.


Location: San Gabriel Mountains, Angeles National Forest.

Elevation: 5,700 ft.

County/State: Los Angeles County, CA

Management: U.S. Forest Service

Closest City/Town: La Canada Flintridge

Directions: From the 210 Fwy. in La Canada, exit Angeles Crest Hwy. (Hwy. 2) and drive about 30 miles to the intersection with the Santa Clara Divide Road (3N17) and Three Points (approx. 5 miles east of Chilao). then go south and drive 1/2 mile; look out for the sign and drive 3 miles to the campground.


Trails: Horse Flats to Mt. Hillyer is 3 miles round trip. It's a reasonably easy trail with about a 900' elevation gain. Depending on your fitness level, will probably take about 2 hours to hike. Mountain bikes, dogs ok. 

Amenities/Fees: 25 camp sites (first come, first served - no reservations). Sites are $12.00 per night. Horse facilities include 2 corrals, hitching rails, water trough. No potable water; vault toilets

Hours: Winter closures usually run from November through March. Check Forest Service website for updates. 

Pets: Allowed, including equestrian use.

Contact Info: For current conditions (818)899-1900
Angeles National Forest: 701 N. Santa Anita Ave., Arcadia, CA 91006; Tel (626)574-1613.

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