Distance (round-trip)

12.1 mi

Time

8 hrs

Elevation Gain

2998 ft

Season

Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter

Weather

A long, strenuous hike to one of the more remote peaks in the western Angeles National Forest. A great cool-weather route with some challenging sections of scrambling, this hike is an exercise in mental drive — and offers pure seclusion and solitude amid the mountains for those willing to make the effort.

NOTE: This trail was heavily damaged in the Station Fire but has been reopened as of May 24, 2012. Trail conditions may have changed significantly from the following write-up.

A little while back, I hiked Trail Canyon to Condor Peak, with the hopes of adding a few extra miles to the trip and bagging Fox Mountain, too. Unfortunately, after hiking 8 miles in hot weather, we didn’t think we had it in us to bag another peak and make it out in anything resembling decent shape. This week, I decided to give it a go from another angle.

From the various guide books and forum postings I’d read about Fox Mountain, the trailhead seemed difficult to find. Upon arriving in the area I can now say that yes, this trailhead IS pretty difficult to find.

After a short peek over the side of a small canyon – no luck – I finally stumbled on what I thought, maybe, was possibly the trailhead — a rough clearing in the brush by the side of the road. A quick look inside and I spotted a very clear, very established trail that’s otherwise completely hidden. From the road, this is what you’re looking for:

Begin!
So you can see how easy it is to miss this thing.

As the directions I read – both in books and online – were pretty unclear, let me do the honors of being accurate. If you’re coming here from the west, park at one of the small dirt lots near the intersection with Vogel Flats Road. Stick to the north side of the road and walk up around a small bend. The 4.50 Marker and trailhead will be on your left. If you’re coming from the east, the the trailhead is to the immediate right of this sign:

Trailhead Marker
What looks like a drainage ditch is actually the trail, and once you get on it you’ll be completely surrounded by brush and fragrant chaparral. Enjoy it. It’s the most shade you’ll get on the entire hike.

Opening Trail
The first 0.4 miles of the trail wound its way mostly parallel to Big Tujunga Canyon Road, although it stuck far enough above the pavement so that I could easily just look in any direction and pretend I wasn’t almost roadside. The trail seemed to be in pretty good shape, especially for being one that’s so difficult to find in the first place.

As the opening section wasn’t really anything to write home about, and the Main Event still so far in the distance, I just put my head down, got a good rhythm going, and pressed on into the forest.

When you get to this junction around the 0.4 mile mark, look for the trail that ascends instead of descends.

Trail Junction
So you can see that this, too, is very easy to miss. When you see this, do NOT continue straight. Although it looks like a trail, it’s actually just a firebreak that makes a very steep ascent but doesn’t actually go anywhere. Heading straight will take you on the old Condor Peak Trail toward the original trailhead … which is back down at Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Instead, take a hard left to continue toward Fox Mountain.

At a fast pace, I hiked up to a numbered mileage marker and looked around. To my left, the long ridge of Condor Peak rose through the haze.

Condor
While to my right, a very distant Fox Mountain jutted out from behind several different ridges. This was going to be a long one.

Fox Mountain 009
And so, after psyching myself up for a few minutes – and realizing that having a broken camera strap was going to prevent me from having an easily-accessible camera for pictures, I decided to try to make this trail a bit more of an exercise in speed. If I kept up my usual speed of 2.5-3 miles an hour, I could make it to the peak and back as the sun set. Sounded like a challenge. Sounded like a good hike.

I trekked on in the full sunlight, happy it wasn’t too hot, winding my way through the typical brush and shrubs of the lower elevations. The trail was clear, and only occasionally rocky – and the trail is constructed very well. Although you’re steadily gaining incline you probably won’t notice it all that much due to the gentle grade.

About 2.5 miles in, I could hear the gentle trickle of water flowing from somewhere below me. And as the canyon rose to meet the trail over the next 0.4 miles I found a small but flowing spring pouring out of the side of the mountain. The water cascaded down through several small pools before trickling across the trail and down to the canyon below.

Spring
And amidst the dry scrubland, this spring turned the area for about a 20 foot radius into temperate rain-forest: ferns, vines, thick green canopy – the whole deal. It was a great place to stop and have a quick bite before heading back toward the peak.

Ferns
A bit farther up, I paused to take in the view of the long and winding trail latched on to the side of the mountain. I’d come a long way so far, but still had quite a ways left to go.

Long Trail
While the skies above me were clear blue, the haze was really starting to move into the valleys by now. Mount Lukens – a visual straight shot across the canyon – was almost unnoticeable. But with Fox Mountain still a few miles away, I kept pressing onward.

Lukens
The trail (finally) crosses the south face of Fox Mountain at the 5 mile mark, and it teeters perilously on the edge of a sharp dropoff on the peak’s western slope at around the 5.3 mile mark. It’s still very manageable, even with the two rockslides that completely cover the path. Just take your time.

After that, it was a short (but still long-feeling) round the bend to the final stretch. You’ll reach the final use-trail at the 5.5 mile mark. The first thing you’ll notice is how steep the final use-trail is — about 500 vertical feet in almost as short a distance.

Steep.

If you brought trekking poles, you’re really going to appreciate having them on this stretch of trail. It’s possible to hike up without them, but it’s much easier to make it with a little bit of assistance.

I dug into the soft ground and hauled myself up to the summit, where I instantly threw off my backpack and sat on some stones near the marker.

Marker
The haze was thick, but the views were still worth the journey, and I gazed eastward at the obscured San Gabriels as my limbs enjoyed their brief moments of rest.

Condor from Fox
Eastward

I searched through my pack and pulled out a Fuji apple – nature’s finest edible reward. As I nearly-inhaled the apple, I noticed a small dark mark on my left ankle. Peering closer, I confirmed my worries — it was a tick, and it was already lodged in my skin.

Tick!
All things considered, I’ve had an unreasonably good track record with these things. I lived in the Home State of Lyme Disease for 22 years without ever getting a single tick bite. That said, I also didn’t go outside much, which probably had something to do with it. But all that school-sponsored fear-mongering paid off. I knew exactly how to remove the little bloodsucker, and after a few nervous attempts to surround its head with tweezers, it actually came out pretty easily.

I know you’re supposed to hang onto these guys just in case, but I’ll admit I panicked and dropped it directly on my other leg, where it was taken care of with some frantic finger-flicking.

Needless to say, I adopted the New England Sock Style for the descent. Even though it looks ridiculous and it sure isn’t comfortable when it’s hot out.

New England Fashion
The return trip was quick and straightforward, with just a slight bit of limping toward the end. When I got to my car, a last-ditch pant check netted about four more uninvited friends crawling around various nooks and crannies on my pant legs. Persistent little guys.

Oh, and I got back just in time for the sunset.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.





Dog-Friendly

Solitude

Views / Vista

Trail Map

17 Comments

tuf31104 Oct 2, 2018 12:10In reply to: tuf31104

Came back for a 2nd attempt yesterday and after all the vegetation dried up this trail was clear and easy to follow. Honestly, this hike wasn't too difficult until... you get to that final scramble to the top of fox mountain. This one was a doozy! On my descent, I ended up losing sight of the trail and almost slid off the mountain. It took me almost a half hour to find the trail again and after hiking 6 miles back to the car in the 90-degree heat, I was severely dehydrated and vomiting. What I recommend to hikers:

1. Do this hike on a cool day and/or hydrate well before you go!
2. Don't solo hike unless you are a very experienced hiker.
3. Take your time descending down from the peak and use trekking poles if you have them.

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tuf31104 May 1, 2018 19:05

Tried solo hiking this trail last week and had a tough time getting through the first mile. Trail is pretty overgrown and swarming with bees due to a large number of wildflowers in bloom. Decided to cut the hike short and save it for another day.

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Chris Jul 1, 2017 16:07In reply to: Brent Lehman

My brother and I just completed this hike today. The beginning is very hairy, but if you shoot off to the right and up IMMEDIATELY after the trail starts, everything opens up. We were able to go out and back in about 5.5 hours. The final climb to the summit is very, very tough. Enjoyed it immensely. Recommended to anyone seeking challenge and solitude.

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Brent Lehman Jun 12, 2017 13:06

The start of this trail has become so overgrown that it is essentially impassable at this point.

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Casey Schreiner Jul 5, 2016 17:07In reply to: Robert

thanks for the info! We've updated the post.

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Robert Jul 4, 2016 20:07

Actually, the hard left turn at .3 mi is the intersection with the original/true Condor Peak trail. The start at the 4.50 mile marker is a 2-3 mile (each way) shortcut.

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Scott Turner

Scott Turner Apr 28, 2015 20:04In reply to: Ryan Morgan

I just love it when people go out and try something new. So glad you had fun.

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Ryan Morgan Apr 27, 2015 12:04

My wife and I hiked this on Saturday 04/25/2015 and really enjoyed this interesting single track. As other have commented we were all alone the whole way up and down.

Great write up! If you follow the instructions to stop at the 4.5 mile marker there is indeed (as was previously noted) a pull out you can park in directly across from the trailhead. The first bit of the trail is still overgrown but after the very beginning of the trail, it opens up and is easy to follow. We had no problems following the trail all the way up. The last 500 ft at the top is definitely a legbuster. When you reach the saddle there is a split with the Condor Mountain trail which will probably be clear but we were completely enveloped in a cloud at that point and couldn't see the peak.

Also, we didn't find any section as was previously noted where you had to jump to stay on the trail. There are a number of washed out part of the trail that require you to be careful where you put your feet for sure but nothing that felt too dangerous if you proceed carefully. There was also two downed trees that require you to literally get down on your hands and knees to crawl under. Definitely bring trekking poles if you have them.

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Casey Schreiner Sep 29, 2014 14:09In reply to: Darren Stoddart

Thanks for the update on those trail conditions, Darren ... and sorry you were bugged by noise on this trip. Maybe they were doing construction or restoration work that day - when I went I felt like I had the whole forest to myself!

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Darren Stoddart Sep 29, 2014 12:09

Thank you for an incredible resource!

Hiked this one solo on Saturday 9/27/2014

A few notes for the next in line.
- There is now a dirt parking space almost directly across from the trail head at mile marker 4.5. The trailhead looks almost the same except there are some steel posts there now.
- The photo of the trail split at .03 is perfect and it looks identical as of this writing.
- I was passed by an Austrian trail runner at about .5 miles in, more on him later. He was the only other person on the trail that day, there were no other shoe treads evident so I am assuming that it had been a long time since anyone took on this trail.
- I would struggle to call this hike remote. You can see the road and parking area for quite a while and there is apparently a helicopter school based out of the around the highly developed reservoir area; I was subjected to the whump whump whump of copters and it was non-stop, I counted three in the air at one point. No exaggeration here; it really spoiled the solitude.
- There are two trees down due to the fire near the two springs, almost everything after this point is shrubby and scratchy.
- The area referenced around miles 5 to 5.3 has four or five places that require you to (as noted) slow down, find some solid footing with a pole and hope you don't slide down. There is one place in this area that is almost completely washed out and it is a drop of minimally 100 feet. The gent sharing the trail with me for the day (mentioned above) appeared to have decided that the best way across was jumping as it looked like a long jump landing happened on the other side with two heels sliding through the sand. He made the peak :30 before me and was nowhere to be seen at that point... assuming he ran on to Condor Peak but I never spotted him. This is a legitimately dangerous section and a mistake would likely be fatal.

My total time out was 6:20, I think the author is right on with the 8:00 hour estimate as I only stopped for :30 at the top for lunch otherwise pushing through and stopped only for photos.

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