Friday, June 22, 2012

Mt. Zion Loop - 6/18/12

In case you've been wondering if I've given up on hiking and found a new hobby, I absolutely haven't--I will keep hiking until the mountains figure out how to file a restraining order--we've been taking our Whitney climbing group on training hikes and haven't hiked anything new. In the last few weeks we've done Baldy, Harwood and West Baldy via Register Ridge, 3 T's (minus Thunder), and Jones, Hastings and Wilson via Bastard Ridge. This week we finally got a chance to ditch the noobs and try something different.

If I were one of those helpful bloggers who arranged their hikes by difficulty, I would put this one in the Moderate section, but only because I'm worried someone who's never hiked before will see this and be like "well that vulgar peakbagger said it was easy so I'm gonna give it a try." It actually is pretty easy, but since it starts at Chantry Flat and Sierra Madre Search and Rescue does most of their searching and rescuing in that area, I think it deserves a warning.

Start the hike at Chantry Flat and follow the bustling Sturtevant Falls trail for about a mile. After you cross the bridge, follow the sign to Spruce Grove Campground to start the loop. Or you could start the loop from the opposite end with the Winter Creek Trail and it would feel a bit more like a peak bagging experience.

About another mile and you'll get to the Gabrielino Trail sign 2 1/4 miles from Spruce Grove. Take the Lower (Top of the Falls) Trail for the more pleasant hike (unless you brought your horse with you). 

The trail takes you up above Sturtevant Fall and provides some great views of the pools above the waterfall. This seems like it might be the spot where hikers have to be rescued; it's quite a drop. On a weekday, this might be the last place you see anyone on the trail; the rest is secluded and bordering on creepy.

Pretty soon you'll enter into a forest of alder trees surrounding the stream. This gets my vote for the prettiest canyon area in the San Gabriels. As an added bonus, the Humboldt Lilies are in bloom all over the canyon at this time of year. The trail will bring you to Spuce Grove Campground, a nice place to set up your tent, or have a picnic, or get your food stolen by a bear.

Continue on the trail until you get to Sturtevant Camp, where there will finally be a sign for Mt. Zion, and probably some boy scouts.

Chaparral Summit Push
At some point this trail gains 2200' but I didn't notice it. There is a little bit of an incline after the sign that says 1 1/4 miles to Mt. Zion Summit. The summit push is right after the sign telling you all about Wilbur Sturtevant's trail building activities and this is where it abruptly switches from shaded canyon to sunny chaparral. A quarter of a mile and you're on the summit. Yep, that flat area with a view of Harvard and Wilson and not much else is the summit. Sorry.

When you drop back down to the history of Wilbur sign, head down the opposite direction from where you came. This part of the trail feels a lot like the Mt. Wilson Trail. Just over a mile later you'll start to leave the chaparral and get back into the canyon. When you reach Hoegee Campground (not as creepy as Spruce Grove), just under 2 miles to go and you'll be back at the parking lot with the rest of Los Angeles.