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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hike the road for about 1.0 miles and run into Camp Hi Hill School.
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.
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.
Continuing on the Gabrielino Trail..
Past Camp Hi Hill a few more old buildings appear
They have obviously been abandoned for quite some time, and most probably the vacation homes for the owners.
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.
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.
One last sign indicates only 1.5 miles to the campground.
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.
Enjoy the surrounding area, maybe camp a night and head back to Red Box Picnic area when ready.