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.

Trail Map:

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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.

DTLA

DTLA

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.

The Los Angeles Mountains

The Los Angeles Mountains are any mountain range that is located within the Los Angeles County lines. The San Gabriel, Santa Monica, Santa Susana and Verdugo ranges.


The San Gabriel Mountains

Trail Canyon Trail - San Gabriel Mountains

Trail Canyon Trail - San Gabriel Mountains

The San Gabriel Mountain range is the most beautiful and largest mountain range in the Los Angeles county. The inner canyons of the San Gabriel are filled with life and lush vegetation while the high peaks of this mountain range submit to an arid and dry desert landscape of hardy brush and loose dirt. The San Gabes are home to the largest peak in the LA county, Mt. San Antonio and is the location to hiking areas such as the Angeles National Forest.

Highest Peak: Mt. Baldy at 10,064 ft.

Largest stream: San Gabriel River


The Santa Monica Mountains

Mishe Mokwa Trail - Santa Monica Mountains

Mishe Mokwa Trail - Santa Monica Mountains

Santa Monica Mountains, the second largest mountain range in LA, starting from Griffith Park extending left on a map all the way to Point Mugu State Park. Views from hikes here generally overlook the Pacific Ocean. Because of its convenient location, hikes in the foothills of this range can be easily accessed from the San Fernando Valley or from the Pacific Coast Highway. The most popular hike in these mountains is Malibu Creek, The highest peak in this range is Sandstone Peak.

Highest Peak: Sandstone Peak at 3,111 ft.

Largest stream: Malibu Creek


The Santa Susana Mountains 

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It's tough to say if the Santa Susana Mountains are included within Los Angeles city limits, but it's located right on the west edge of the county. Views in this range are scattered with boulders across the landscape and covered with thick brush that change color with the seasons. A lot of this range has been devoloped upon, for example the 118 freeway and other residential properties. The most notable hikes in these hills are Rocky Peak and Santa Susanna Pass, where the Manson Family lived.

Highest Peak: Oat Mountain at 3,747 ft.


The Verdugo Mountains

Stough Canyon Trail - Verdugo Mountains

Stough Canyon Trail - Verdugo Mountains

The north end of the Verdugo Mountains are located along the city La Canada and the southern portion of the range occupies next to Glendale and Burbank. The smallest range in the county extending only 8 miles across the entire range! The mountain takes on the terrain of a high desert climate with loose dirt and hardy brush which covers most of the landscape. Popular hikes include La Tuna Canyon and Beaudry Loop.

Highest Peak: Verdugo Peak at 3,126 ft.

The Horseshoe Mine

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Even though the Horseshoe Mine is in close proximity to the Bridge to Nowhere, nearly all passing hikers do not know of it's existence. 

The Horseshoe Mine was nearly lost to history, until rediscovered by Hugh Blanchard. After the workers stopped working the mine, not much was reported on the mine for 50 years. Making it a classic case of forgotten gold mines of the San Gabriels'.

It wasn't until 2006 until a man named Hugh Blanchard did extensive research towards the discovery of the old mine, which has allowed many hikers including myself to discover the place for our own. You can read his entry here.

This is place that many hikers miss because of the fact that the mine is located far away from the Bridge To Nowhere trail. Around the 4 mile mark the trail leaves the valley floor and hikes along the steep canyon walls to meet with the bridge, passing the mine. It should be known that exploring mines is dangerous, therefore this location will not be provided.

When my friends and I went to go search for this place, we had backtracked from the bridge to nowhere (hiking the normal trail backwards) and took a right to hike down a rugged overgrown trail with a sign.

The unnamed trail to the right

The unnamed trail to the right

The trail we took gets down to the East Fork River. It's very bushy but easy to navigate.

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After reaching the east fork river we looked and looked, and hiked downstream for about 15 minutes. About to give up hope hope we found the mine on the side of canyon walls right before light faded. 

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We began slightly crouched and head down when entering until the mine opened up to about 6ish feet until we could stand. It was dark and dusty and wet to say the least.

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Outside the entrance water was flowing out allowing a most vibrant moss to grow inside. 

Mine cart rails line the bottom of the mine

Mine cart rails line the bottom of the mine

Many fallen boulders and rocks and collapsed places with many passages. Dangerous.

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The Crew, Left to right, Jose, Julio, Daniel, Brandon, Sean

The Crew, Left to right, Jose, Julio, Daniel, Brandon, Sean

Most of these old gold mining claims in the San Gabriel Mountains follow the same story. Which begins with hard work and immediate promise to strike it rich. Then after years of work, the resources put in do not match the adequate resources to continue the working, thus leaving the mine abandoned. This mine was worked from 1910 to around the 50's. 

The only relic we could find were the old ore cart rails. They line the entire first passage of the mine. After about an hour of exploring we left and hiked back to our car during the night.

The Adventure Pass

The Adventure pass is a parking pass required for parking for many hikes located in the San Gabriel Mountains and surrounding mountains. It's easily attainable and can be found at 7-11 convenient stores and Big 5 Sporting good stores. To check available locations near you that may have the pass look here

There are two types of adventure passes, daily use and a yearly pass. The daily pass is $5 and the year pass is 30$, Additionally a second car yearly pass can be purchased for $5 which means you can have the pass for two cars for the year for $35. 

To be safe, the adventure pass should be used for all roadside parking hikes in the Angeles National Forest. Plan your visits accordingly and enjoy the outdoors.

Hiking Red Box Picnic Area to West Fork Trail Camp

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Deep in the San Gabriels, off the Angeles Crest Highway, hiking Red Box to West Fork camp is a worthy journey. The hike begins from Red Box Picnic Site and takes a section of the Gabrielino Trail which descends down from the parking site following the curves of the canyon. Along the 1.5 mile mark a few vacant cabins can be found on the right side of the trail. The decay and deterioration likely indicate abandonment. Past the vacant cabins, the scenery of the trail will change from exposed high desert thickets to a canopy of pines through the tight canyons until ultimately settling in the shaded and comfortable West Fork Camp. 

Hike Stats:

Total Miles: 10.6,  Out-and-back

Time: 6-7 hours

Difficulty: Easy Descent, Strenuous Ascent back out

Elevation Gain/Loss: 1800 ft.

Exposure?: Mostly shaded and some exposed sections of trail

Fees Required?: Adventure Pass for parking

Parking and Trail-head location:

Parking is at the address: Red Box Picnic Area

Red Box Picnic Area

Red Box Picnic Area

After parking, make sure to display your Adventure Pass and locate the trailhead. If you don't know what an adventure pass is or how to get one click here.

Trail-head location:

Locate the bathrooms (left in above photo) the trail-head for the Gabrielino trail is here after walking down some stone steps. 

Or use the dirt road next to the steps and start the hike here.

Trip guide:

You can either begin the hike on the Gabrielino trail or the dirt road down. This trip, we chose to go for the dirt road, which eventually meets up with the gabrielino trail later on.

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Taking the dirt road down

Taking the dirt road down

The exposure on the dirt road is high, meaning there's little shade in the middle of the day. The advantages of taking the dirt road is that it is not as steep of a decent and it's better for a large group.

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Hike the road for about 1.0 miles and run into Camp Hi Hill School.

Approaching Camp Hi Hill

Approaching Camp Hi Hill

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Camp Hi Hill School was an outdoor education summer school managed by Long Beach Unified School District. It was operational from 1948 to 2008. But in 2008 because of the drought and fire safety concerns, the unified school district decided to shut down the school permanently (read more here). The school is in good shape as of Oct. 2017, but is covered with foliage and missing pieces off some of the buildings.

Camp Hi Hill

Camp Hi Hill

Past the school you can meet up with the Gabrielino trail. Either backtrack and take the same dirt road down or cut through the tall grass and head downhill past the lower buildings to meet up with the trail. 

You should see this Valley Forge Campground sign from the trail. It indicates 1.5 miles to Valley Forge. And from this point about 4 miles to West Fork Trail Camp.

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Continuing on the Gabrielino Trail..

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Past Camp Hi Hill a few more old buildings appear

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They have obviously been abandoned for quite some time, and most probably the vacation homes for the owners.

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The only thing we could gather is that one of the buildings was built in 1940, from a plaque on the steps.

Continuing on past the cabins the Gabrielino trail weaves and dives with the canyon walls. And at the 2 mile mark, the turnoff for Valley Forge campground appears.

Go to the right when the sign says "trail" to continue to West Fork.

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Go to the right

Go to the right

The brush of the trail scratched our clothes as we made our way up into the high desert section of the trail. 

Keep following the trail, it's easy not to deviate.

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One last sign indicates only 1.5 miles to the campground. 

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At the campground light was fading, but it's a comfortable place to stay the night. This is one of those gems of a back-country camp which is not even listed on google maps.

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Enjoy the surrounding area, maybe camp a night and head back to Red Box Picnic area when ready.