Hiking Rubio Canyon - Lone Tree Trail to West Fuji Summit

The first mountain trolley to ever be built in the United States was built in Rubio Canyon of Altadena in the San Gabriel Mountains. A canyon filled with history and many trails, let's look into the different trails of Rubio Canyon.

There are five main trails in Rubio Canyon.

  • Upper and Lower Canyon Trails
  • Mt. Lowe Railroad Incline Trail
  • Lone Tree Incline Trail
  • Lower Sam Merrill Incline Trail

The upper and lower canyon trails connect later on. And the three steeper incline trails all lead to peaks in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains.

In this blog we will be recommending a hike that will be using the canyon trails and the Lone Tree Trail.

 

Trails' Condition:

The trails of Rubio Canyon are of average quality. The condition of the Mt. Lowe Railroad trail is poor with many sections of steep loose dirt. The Lone Tree Trail was recently maintained as of our Jan 2017 visit, so the quality is fairly good.

History:

The first big thing that brought people to hike this canyon was the hiking boom during the Great Hiking Era. Around the same time in the late 1800's the Mt. Lowe railway was built in Rubio Canyon. It was an attractive tram ride which brought people all the way up to Echo Mountain. It was an electric powered overhead tram built from wood and cement stapled to the mountainside. The Mt. Lowe railway was in operation from 1893 until its official abandonment in 1938.

One of the first photos of the historic railway - Bancroft Library, Year 1893

One of the first photos of the historic railway - Bancroft Library, Year 1893

Let's bring it now to 2017, and now only the cement foundations of the old tram ride exists. All the wood has disintegrated over time and the metal rails have either been looted by thieves or buried by dirt. Today, not many hikers use the old Mt. Lowe Railway up to Echo Mountain because the trail is steep with loose dirt.

Trails of Rubio Canyon Map:

rubiocanyontrailandpeakmap.jpg

Recommended Hike Rubio Canyon to West Fuji Summit:

For the link to view the map online: https://caltopo.com/m/RAJ6

For the link to view the map online: https://caltopo.com/m/RAJ6

Recommended Hike Stats:

Time: 4-5 hours

Hike Configuration: Out-and-back

Trail condition: Fair, Newly maintained

Distance:  5.6 miles total

Elevation Gain: 2,214 ft.

Parking Fees: None, No Adventure Pass Required

Parking Street and Trailhead:

Once parked, it is very easy to find the trailhead. The trailhead is located on the same street as where to park next to a house with a white wall. 

Parking Address: 1333 Pleasantridge Dr, Altadena or Rubio Canyon Trailhead

Parking view, looking towards Rubio Canyon and the trailhead.

Parking view, looking towards Rubio Canyon and the trailhead.

Hike Guide Part 1: Exploring the Canyon

Part 1: Canyon Trails

Part 1: Canyon Trails

In January 2017 and again in April 2017 I hiked Rubio Canyon. In January, hiking to West Fuji via the Lone Tree trail. In April, only hiking the canyon trails, but finding a better place to start the hike to West Fuji.

The following photos are from these two separate visits.

After parking, my friend Jimmy and I turned around and saw an alley leading to the trail behind a residential home.

Proper Trailhead as indicated by hiking sign

Proper Trailhead as indicated by hiking sign

After hiking through the alley, the views opened up. We were hiking without a plan in this April 2017 trip and after 20 minutes of hiking we were where the lower an upper canyon trail meet.

The following photos are from the upper canyon trail before meeting up with the lower trail. 

5 minutes in

5 minutes in

20 min in - Cement ruins of old railroad tram, location of photo on map and lower canyon trail in view

20 min in - Cement ruins of old railroad tram, location of photo on map and lower canyon trail in view

Where we began to find the cement ruins of the old Mt. Lowe Railway we were able to locate the lower canyon trail and the Mt. Lowe Railway trail which continued steep up the left side of the mountain.

Continued and connected the higher and lower canyon trails.

The Upper canyon trail joining with the Lower canyon trail

The Upper canyon trail joining with the Lower canyon trail

We explored more up the canyon in April and located a seasonal double waterfall named Moss Grotto Falls.

Only in Spring

Only in Spring

But if you were to follow the recommended hike, continue downstream of the canyon and find the Lone Tree trail.

We ended up exploring the canyon floor for mines as well, this canyon is historic for mining as well.

The thick trees of the Lower canyon trail, Jan 2017

The thick trees of the Lower canyon trail, Jan 2017

Locating a mine in the bottom of the canyon - April 2017

Locating a mine in the bottom of the canyon - April 2017

Walk along the bottom of the canyon until you spot a water facility (it will be obvious) and turn left. Here you will meet up with the Lone Tree trail.

Existing the lower canyon trail and meeting up with the Lone Tree trail

Existing the lower canyon trail and meeting up with the Lone Tree trail

It is easy to find the Lone Tree trail, look towards the left and you'll see a trail leading up the mountain. If you hike into the street you've gone too far. 

The abandoned ruins of a wood cabin we found while existing Rubio Canyon in April 2017

The abandoned ruins of a wood cabin we found while existing Rubio Canyon in April 2017

The rest of the photos will be from the Jan 2017 trip leading up to West Fuji.

Part 2: Lone Tree trail to West Fuji

Part 2: Lone Tree Trail to West Fuji

Part 2: Lone Tree Trail to West Fuji

Locate the Lone Tree trail by walking a path behind a water piping facility before existing the canyon. Use the map above for direction.

Beginning of trail

Beginning of trail

Hiking Lone Tree trail

Hiking Lone Tree trail

As long as you stick to the Lone Tree Trail and make no turns towards any side paths, this trail will lead all the way to West Fuji Summit.

The ascent on this trail begins immediately, the dirt itself is some places loose because it has not been compacted by a lot of hikers.

From the start the views are outstanding, a sweeping view of the Pasadena Valley and DTLA below.

IMG_5033.JPG

We were told this trail was recently maintained, someone has went through and cut a wider path for the trail. This was confirmed when we saw many cut branches and orange ribbons along the trail.

Hiking Lone Tree Trail - cut branches and orange ribbon indicated it was maintained by a crew recently.

Hiking Lone Tree Trail - cut branches and orange ribbon indicated it was maintained by a crew recently.

The ascent continued, making our way up and stopping once in a while. Shade on this hike is very rare, if at all. All shade is in the beginning and towards the end of the hike.

At the half way point you'll pass under an electrical tower as we did. We took a small break here and then moved on.

Hiking past electrical tower

Hiking past electrical tower

Not much changed from the electrical tower to West Fuji Summit, although the view got better of course. Just a quarter mile or so away from the summit, the scenery around the trail changed drastically.

Right before the summit the trail winded through a mini forest, grass still growing here in late season.

Forest

Forest

Turnoff for the summit

Turnoff for the summit

West Fugi Summit

West Fugi Summit

And finally making it to the summit. There was a summit marker and summit box where we left our names. Then after a good effort, we headed back to the car.