Distance (round-trip)

1.5 mi

Time

1 hrs

Elevation Gain

640 ft

Season

Summer
Fall

Weather

A short but steep hike to a prominent ridge in the San Gabriel High Country. You’ll pass through a defunct picnic area, an abandoned ski resort, and top it off with outstanding views of the middle of the front range and San Gabriel Wilderness. While it might not be a Destination Hike, it’s well worth the detour if you’re in the area.

Just a few miles away from Islip Saddle, and a few miles past the trailheads for Winston Peak and Mount Akawie, you’ll see dilapidated signs for the Vista Picnic Area. On the right south side of the road, you’ll come upon a rarely used collection of picnic tables, nestled in the shade of the east-west Kratka Ridge.

This was the last of three short hikes I did with the Sierra Club a few weeks ago, and even at the end of May, there was still a bit of snow in the shadier areas.

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Most of the white stuff disappeared pretty quickly as we climbed up to sunnier areas, but I did see a flash of red on the pine needle-covered floor — a small patch of snow plant flowers.

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In a very short time, we had switchbacked up the picnic area and arrived on the prominent ridge line. To our south, the ground dropped off suddenly into the deep valleys of the San Gabriel Wilderness. We began a steady climb to the west, and the highest point on the ridge. Eventually you will find a narrow single-track use trail that winds to the west, apparently stopping at an overlook where you can just make out some of the old ski lodge equipment below you.

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Where this single-track seems to vanish, turn to the south and make a short but very steep ascent up another faint use trail. The angle and the soft makeup of the ground may make this ascent more difficult than it initially seems on first inspection.

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After this, most of the elevation-gaining work on the trail is done. You’ll reach a graded old ski trail / road and follow it to the west, where you’ll meet up with other old ski runs and continue west beneath an old wooden ski lift. Near the ridge, you’ll get some excellent views of the San Gabriel Wilderness to the south.

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Also in sight was the old Kratka Ridge Skilift, which still had some seats attached to the cables, but had clearly seen much better days. There is a small picnic area just to the east of the lift.

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Just beyond the ski lift is a very short scramble up to the Ridge’s high point, which just happens to also have one of the most impressive views of the middle San Gabriels, with clear views of Waterman Mountain past Twin Peaks and all the way down to the civilization you just escaped from.

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After spending a short rest at the summit, scramble back down the way you came — taking care on that steep and slippery descent.

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

Historical Interest

Multi-Use Trail

Solitude

Views / Vista

17 Comments

Michael

Michael Sep 2, 2015 09:09In reply to: Casey Schreiner

Very cool, the updates look great. Have a good one.

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Casey Schreiner Sep 1, 2015 17:09In reply to: Michael

It's much appreciated :) Part of the crowdfunding campaign we're doing will be to help us go through ALL these hike write-ups -- especially older ones like this -- and bring them all up to the same standard as our newer posts. This one is definitely on the to-fix list (I went in and updated some basic stuff already), but glad you got up there to enjoy it anyway. It's a really beautiful and unique place in the San Gabriels.

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Michael Sep 1, 2015 15:09In reply to: Casey Schreiner

Hey Casey! Yes my friends and I loved the whole hike and didn't mind the adventure of figuring it out at all. As I said, big fan and I exclusively visit MH when planning hikes. Thought I'd pay forward all the great advice by sharing some of my own. Thanks again!

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Casey Schreiner Sep 1, 2015 15:09In reply to: Michael

Thanks for the corrections, Michael.

I was just up here earlier this year and this is also unfortunately one of the trails where Google Maps Directions will show you the proper trailhead but direct you past it once you're actually listening to the turn-by-turn directions.

I'm in the process of going through ALL of our write-ups to recheck everything. As you can imagine, it's quite a task - so thank you for the heads up! I'll correct the post ASAP.

Did you like the old skilifts, though? :)

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Michael Sep 1, 2015 14:09

Big fan and regular user of Modern Hiker but I had a hard time following the directions for this one. The directions list the lift line as EAST of the Vista picnic area when it is actually WEST and then SOUTH WEST.

After hiking around up the hill to the EAST of the picnic area for a while I decided to head WEST and finally figured it out. Here are my notes from the hike:

From the parking spot at Vista picnic area head SOUTH (UP the hill) past the bathrooms and find the bench overlooking a grand view of the mountains.

Head WEST (to your right if you are sitting on the bench taking in the view of the mountains) UP and across the grassy hill along the well worn single file walking path.

The path steepens slightly and curves up to a soft ridge. On your left a very steep trail winds UP the hill, ahead a downhill, and to your right and UP there is a small lookout spot.

Take the very steep trail to your left and follow it UP. At the top continue onto the 8 foot wide shelf that follows the side of the mountain and UP to the SOUTH WEST.

You'll come to another grand view of the mountain range to the SOUTH lined with huge grey boulders. From here, facing out to the southern mountains you can look left and find the lift chairs hanging in the distance.

Head WEST and UP the hill along the trail and you'll find the top of the lift line easily. Above the structure, along the single file walking path you'll find the very best view of the day at the peak. Enjoy.

My party and I found fresh large cat tracks all around the area but thankfully didn't run into any. Keep your eyes up and hike safe!

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Dennis Apr 2, 2015 17:04

I have boarded or skiied all socal ski resorts (bear, summit, mt high, sunrise, valley, waterman, and baldy). I never had a chanceto ski or boatd kratka but would love to have that chance. Maybe I will have to do some hiking during winter to make this happen.

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matt iten Dec 5, 2013 14:12In reply to: Parrish Bossard (hensley)

I'm very glad for your comment, thank you very much! I was working there during the 1989 - 1991 seasons and had unforgettable great times. I was always wondering what has happened to everyone, especially after reading the sad stories of events and seeing the pictures of what the place has become.. It would be great to get contact with your father and please give my address to him:
mattiten@hct.zaq.ne.jp

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Parrish Bossard (hensley) Dec 5, 2013 09:12

My dad is Ray Henslet and our family owned and operated Kratka thru those wonderful years. Matt Iten, please give me your email address and I will pass it on to my dad. The name on that morning report was probably Adrian, my mom! Grew up on that mountain. Was my home away from home. Miss it evey winter

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T Feb 17, 2013 08:02

I skied Kratka back in the late 70's/early 80's- still remember calling for the snow report and hearing, "Good morning, this is Nancy at Kratka Ridge, with your snow report for..." , or something similar. Good times long gone- sad to see the pics of those rundown little chairs.

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wayne Oct 5, 2012 11:10

Thanks for those pics. So sad. But on a more positive note, it brings back some memories of good times!

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Matt Iten Jul 13, 2012 02:07

I checked on Kratka Ridge again. Still hope there is anyone out there that skied Kratka or knows people who were there during the years 1989-1991. I was a ski-instructor from Switzerland during that time when Ray Hensley owned it. Hope to get some message!!
Matt Iten

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Laurie Palace Dec 18, 2011 21:12

Thanks for the write up and photos. Heartbreaking to see what it has become.
My husband Lenny Palace was on Kratka Ridge ski patrol during the late 60's and 70's with Stan Kelly. He taught me to ski there. His brother Bill was on ski team and got to be a pretty good skier (still is). They have told me stories about Joe, Ray, Stan and many others and how cool it was growing up there. I was a late arrival (1975) but fell in love with it myself.
We all hope that someone has the money and time to rebuild Kratka. It is a jewel and it seems to be a sin to let it go to waste.
Bill mentioned that he heard that the Mt. Waterman group was buying Kratka, is there any truth that rumor?

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Robb Homuth Jun 28, 2011 09:06

I was on the Kratka Ridge Ski Team from about 1965-1968. The Hensleys owned it at that time. Sad to see it go...

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matt iten Mar 28, 2011 20:03

hello lynette
I just saw your message on my mail. Thank you very much. During those years there was also a Ski Instructor named Dave Sutherland. Thanks for passing my message to your father. I'm sure he remembers Dave and sure Ray Hensley.
Thanks again, Matt

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lynette england Mar 28, 2011 19:03

My father Gordon England worked there, he was ski patrolman and the ski director. He is still good friends with Stan Kelley who was a patrolman there as well. I grew up on the hill since 6 months old and am now 33 i will pass this website on to my father.

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matt iten Oct 19, 2009 06:10

I'm very glad to see some pictures of Kratka Ridge but at the same time makes me feel sad to see such a lively place (20years ago..) run down. I wish it would come back to life again. During the years 1989 - 1991 I was a ski instructor up there from Switzerland. I wish I could contact anyone who was working or skiing that time at Kratka.

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Ski History at Kratka Ridge | Modern Hiker Aug 6, 2009 11:08

[...] while back, Zeke from the Ski Channel emailed me, asking about some of my pictures from a hike at Kratka Ridge. Unbeknownst to me, this short, pleasant hike in the upper San Gabriels was holding a piece of [...]

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