Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Angeles Crest Highway.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and looking for an easy, nearby drive with lots of great scenery, take a ride on the Angeles Crest Highway.  It’s a winding road along the peaks of the Angeles National Forest with some steep drops off the side of the road, but it’s an otherwise easy road to drive – at least when there is no snow.

The road will take you to an altitude of approximately 8000 feet.  You will see Mount Wilson and its observatory.  You will also see the some of the region’s ski areas.  On the south side of the peaks you will see almost the entire Los Angeles Basin including Palos Verdes and Catalina in the distance.  On the north side of the peaks you will see the high desert disappearing into the horizon.  The redwoods are abundant in the area as is varied wildlife, should you be lucky enough to see any.

I typically start the journey at the base of the highway located at La Cañada Flintridge.  I always first stock-up with beverages, food, ice, and gas – because you wont be seeing a whole lot of civilization for the next couple of hours as you traverse the first thirty or forty miles.  Now that one of the highway’s bridges has been repaired, you can cruise all the way through to Wrightwood in the high desert.  The Joshua Trees and the Mormon rocks will let you know when you are there.  One can then traverse the rest of the peaks that surround the basin by going on through to the Big Bear area via the Rim of the World Highway  – but I would suggest maybe making that a two day trip if you wanted to continue on to Big Bear.  Anyway, from Wrightwood it’s essentially an easy freeway ride downhill from the high desert back to the San Bernardino area.   

Whatever you do, I would suggest bringing along a lunch so you can stop and eat at one of the many enjoyable picnic areas along the way.  The rules do state, however, that if one parks anywhere in the national forest, the vehicle is supposed to have a Forest Adventure decal/placard.  Forest Adventure Passes can be bought at most gas stations near the forest before you make your ascent up to the crest.  This rule/requirement may yet change – but for now it’s $30 for an annual pass and $5 for a day pass. 

If you have a vehicle with adequate ground clearance or you are a driver who is not easily discouraged, I would also suggest taking a detour down one of the dirt/gravel roads of the national forest that usually lead to remote camping areas.  Mind you, some of those roads can get kind of ‘hairy’ and pretty scary.  But if you do take one of those lesser forest roads, you will likely encounter more vast and beautiful scenery of which most of the typical Californians don’t even know exists.

Either way, enjoy the ride.  Take it easy.  And stay on your side of the road for the benefit of everyone including the other motorists, motorcycles, and bicyclists.

AVT  (Aug., 2013) 

Angeles Crest Highway

Recreation Passes & Permits