Moderate

Mount Gleason

Distance 7.3 mi
Time 3.5 hrs
Elevation Gain 1000 ft
Season Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Weather

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A short stint on the Pacific Crest Trail to a mountain with a lot of history. A cool, shaded, north-face trail takes you to the summit’s old Nike Missile radio base. Unfortunately, the largest wildfire in modern Los Angeles County history has left most of this area in disrepair and inaccessible to hikers.

IMPORTANT: Please note that the roads leading to this trailhead are still closed due to damage from the 2009 Station Fire and the trails themselves are in very poor condition. We strongly recommend you choose another trail to hike until repair crews have had their chance to maintain this trail.

Inauspicious
The trail begins just past a small metal gate at the northeast corner of a dirt parking area on the north side of the road and hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail right away. The pine-lined path was shaded and cool, and starts off nice and level.

PCT, This Way
Mount Gleason 003

The PCT is well cared-for and generally clear of debris. There are, however, several nice fallen trees on the sides of the trail.

Trunk Angles
Eventually the trail does start to pick up a bit of elevation but it’s nothing too difficult. It is nice, however, to get out of the tree cover for a little while and see the stark transition the landscape makes – from desert to chaparral to pine. No matter how many times I see that, I’m always awestruck.

Mount Gleason 006
The trail was remote but I still passed a few other hikers on the way in. One was a new family carting off their baby daughter (good to get started early) and another was a group of pole-hiking older folks, who looked like they were having a great time out in the woods.

As the trail continues up the north side of Mount Gleason, it intersects what is either an old dirt road or the former grade of the PCT.

Mount Gleason 008
The book I’d read about this trail said it was possible to take this old road down into the canyon below, where the remnants of several major gold mines still stood. I followed the grade down for a short while, but eventually it got overgrown and I lost the path. I suppose it may be possible to just scramble down into the canyon, but as I didn’t have a great topo map with me, I just kept climbing up toward the summit instead.

There is an old gold mine in the canyon below this trail, but I’ve been informed that the land is privately held and no permission is given for hikers to enter.

As you get closer to the ridge, the trees start thinning out into mini-meadows, which are absolutely beautiful to hike through when the wind is tossing the grasses around.

Mount Gleason 010
The summit was surreal.

The former site of a Nike missile radio base, a large chunk of the natural summit had been leveled for the buildings, which have since been removed. The result is a seemingly out-of-place plateau surrounded by the more traditional-feeling forest.

Mount Gleason 013
Even though that weirded me out a little bit, by stepping south to the ridge I got a beautiful sweeping vista of Mount Lukens, Fox Mountain, and Condor Peak – their lower elevations still blanketed by our marine layer.

Mount Gleason 011
And just a tad north of the flattened land was an old, crumbling cabin or some leftover army building. If you hike here in the spring, you may also be treated to a nice bloom of lupines nearby.

Mount Gleason 014
Mount Gleason 016

After a short walk down a long disused paved road, the trail meets back up with the paved / dirt road I used to get to the trailhead, right by a more intact abandoned radio tower.

The tower is pretty much stripped bare and surrounded by a nasty barbed wire fence, so you won’t be able to do much exploring … but if you walk around the north side of the complex, you can find some nice boulders to sit on while you eat lunch … and take in some nice views of Strawberry Peak and the backs of the front range while you’re at it.

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Mount Gleason 019

Behind the Wires

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When you’re done, follow the abandoned road back to the trailhead.

Mount Gleason 027

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Trail Conditions

Excellent while you're on the Pacific Crest Trail, and very good when you're on old jeep roads climbing to the top of Mount Gleason. NOTE: This area was badly burned in the 2009 Station Fire. Trail conditions may differ from this write up due to erosion, fire damage, or repair work.

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Camping Info

Lightning Point, Mount Gleason, and Deer Spring Campground are all within spitting distance of this route - however, all campsites remain closed due to the Station Fire. It remains unknown if and when any of those campsites will be repaired and reopened.

How to Get There

At Mill Creek Summit Picnic Area on the Angeles Forest Highway, turn north onto Mount Gleason Road. Continue past the first intersection with the PCT (unless you feel like adding 8 miles RT to the hike), and bear left onto a dirt road when the road forks. The dirt road returns to pavement near the bottom of a saddle, which is where you want to pull off into a parking area. The trail begins in the northeast corner of the lot, behind a gate.

Driving Directions

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