A 6.3 mile ascent over an additional ridge to an often-overlooked peak in the front range of the San Gabriels. This route passes by several other prominent peaks in the area, and finally makes a ridge-line ascent of Markham that includes some moderate class 2 scrambling to the peak.
Mount Markham is an interesting peak, but one that is rarely bagged by hikers. Most treks in the area focus on the more popular Mount Wilson area or the historically significant Mount Lowe and White City — but between the two is this moderate, fun climb that can be done by itself or combined with other peaks in the area for more of a full-day adventure.
While it is possible to drive to Eaton Saddle and make this a fairly short, no-nonsense hike, this route adds a bit of distance and elevation by starting near the base of Mount Wilson Road, just past the Red Box Station. There is a short, paved road a few hundred yards after the ranger station, which ends at a locked gate and parking area. Look for the turnoff just across from a fire safety sign.
Spatially minded hikers like myself would do best to try to peak out from one of the occasional clearings toward the Mount Markham / Mount Lowe saddle to the south:
… and the occasional lizard below you, making a lot more noise than they should.
This trail ends at a 4-way intersection with a fire road. Directly across the road from the trail you just came off of is the Mount Lowe trail, marked with a rusted metal board.
After the long flat stretch of trail, you’ll reach a saddle at about 5361 feet. Here, the main Mount Lowe trail continues south toward the mountain in front of you. Instead, you’ll hang a sharp left and hop onto the ridge, traveling northeast toward the summit of Mount Markham. There are some faint use-trails leading to the ridge, but realistically you can just climb to the top of the ridge as soon as it looks easy to you.
After the first 30 feet or so, the trail on the ridge becomes clear and apparent — even though it’s not on any topo maps of the area. It’s a tough, rough, shadeless climb through some low brush and Spanish bayonets. While it’s not difficult by general trail standards, it is noticeably more challenging than the trails you’ve been on so far — so let this be fair warning.
Just after the small section of climbing, the trail goes back to hiking and opens up with incredible views of Eaton Canyon and the city below.
The summit plateau ends abruptly at the northeast peak, just beyond the summit elevation of 5742. Enjoy the views and the breeze, then return back the way you came, climbing back up and over the ridge between San Gabriel and Disappointment.
Although many of the trail signs have been knocked down or have gone missing, with a map or good notes, it's very easy to know where you're going on this route. The ridge trail to the summit of Mount Markham is not on maps, and is steep and partially overgrown, but it would be very difficult to get lost on it
You can follow the Mount Lowe Road or the Trail down to the walk-in Mount Lowe Campground, on the site of the former Ye Alpine Inn.
From the 210 in La Canada Flintridge, take the Angeles Crest Highway 14 miles east to Red Box Junction. Turn right onto Mount Wilson Road and continue .4 miles to a very short paved / dirt turnoff on the right hand side, just past a fire safety sign. Park at the end of this road, making sure to not block the gate.
With recent wildfire damage and ongoing waves of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, National Forest, National Park, and other public land closures, restrictions, or social distancing guidelines may be in-effect.
If infection rates are on the rise, please do your best to remain local for your hikes. If you do travel, please be mindful of small gateway communities and avoid as much interaction as you can. Also remember to be extra prepared with supplies so you don't have to stop somewhere outside your local community for gas, food, or anything else.
Please be sure to contact the local land management agency BEFORE you head out, as these conditions are likely to change without enough notice for us to fully stay on top of them. Thanks, and stay safe!
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