Distance (round-trip)

7.2 mi

Time

3.5 hrs

Elevation Gain

1550 ft

Season

Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter

Weather

A tranquil route into a wooded canyon on the Silver Moccasin Trail. A good conditioning hike with beautiful campgrounds, streamside views for almost the entire run, and plenty of boulder-hopping and stream crossing along the way. This would be a great candidate for a first-time moderate hike – it’s easy enough for experienced beginners, but difficult enough to make you feel like you worked for it. It’s secluded enough to feel like your own corner of the forest, and fairly difficult to get lost along the way.

NOTE: This area was badly burned in the 2009 Station Fire. Trail conditions may differ from the description below – be sure to read the comments to see recent trail reports!

Shortcut Canyon, like the Santa Anita Canyon, was a major thoroughfare through the San Gabriels before the Angeles Crest Highway was built — back in the “Golden Age of Hiking,” when trail camps and resorts dotted the entire mountain range. Today, Shortcut Canyon is preserved as part of the Silver Moccasin Trail, which runs over 53 miles from Chantry Flats to Vincent Gap in Wrightwood. This route takes you from a very accessible trailhead from the Angeles Crest Highway, deep into Shortcut Canyon and into West Fork Camp. It’s pretty tough to miss the parking area from the road. (As of February, 2015, some hikers have reported the trailhead sign is still missing or in bad shape. For accurate location of the trailhead, use our Google Maps directions).

The Silver Moccasin Trail into Shortcut Canyon starts off with a few quick, steep switchbacks as it makes its way to a tore-up fire road just below the paved Highway. There are signs to the trail, but they can be tough to see, so when you get to the road, take a right and hike toward the west, over the deep ruts.

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The road is not very picturesque, but you won’t be on it for too long. After a very short distance, the trail leaves the south side of the road and descends toward the canyon floor. This opening section of trail is similar to other trails in the front range — namely, dusty, lined with chaparral and yucca, and mostly shadeless. You probably won’t notice the lack of shade on the way down, but if it’s a hot day, you’ll definitely notice it on the way back up.

As you make your way toward the canyon floor and water, the bushes and trees around you start to grow in a bit fuller, providing more and more shade as you head down. There are few downed trees on the trail, a few of which are on some moderately steep slopes. They are passable, just take care.

After about 1.6 miles and descending 1070 feet, you’ll reach the bottom of the canyon, you’ll meet up just south of the confluence of the East and West Forks of Shortcut Canyon Creek, where the water pours through a low cascade into a pool and continues down the canyon. It’s a lush and idyllic setting, the water running its way through a rocky riverbed surrounded on both sides by sycamores and cottonwoods.

Get yourself acquainted with the creek — as you’ll be spending the remaining two miles of the trail crossing it 34 times each way.

Depending on the level of water in the creek, those crossings range from simple “big steps” over narrow sections, to boulder hopping and — in a few cases — fording your way through the water. Either way, be sure you wear grippy, waterproof boots on this trail — or shoes that dry fast. If we’ve had rain, you’re going to get wet.

Although this canyon is part of a major long-distance trail, it looked like it hadn’t been traveled in some time when I was on it. Some of the sections were overgrown, and the footprints I did see in the mud looked like they’d been left a few days before. If you’re lucky enough to get this canyon to yourself, savor it. Take a few chances hopping boulders, splash yourself with some of the cold creek water, and enjoy the short sections where the trail just meanders along the banks.

Right before you make it to West Fork Camp, Shortcut Canyon Creek makes a sharp turn to the east, and the trail crosses twice at a wide, fairly shallow section of the stream.

During my hike, this was the only place where I had to actually ford the water to make it across. The creek was about ankle high, but a quick step and waterproof boots kept my feet mostly dry. Even at this low level, there weren’t any prominent boulders to hop onto, so be prepared to run quickly and get a bit dampened.

Around another two bends in the canyon, the creek meets up with the rushing West Fork of the San Gabriel River. The boulders here are bigger, and the river is deeper and faster. Directly in front of you on the trail is the West Fork Campground, surrounded by a wall of rocks. If you continue a few yards west on the north shore of the West Fork, there’s a slightly easier crossing than the implied crossing directly to the trail. But hey, it’s a stream crossing. Do it where you’re comfortable.

West Fork Campground is a beautiful site to drop your gear and set up a tent. It’s got an outhouse, fire pits, a few stoves, picnic tables, and plenty of shade. It’s also surrounded on three sides by rushing water (with one area that looks like a particularly good swimming hole), which I’m kind of a sucker for.

Here, the Silver Moccasin Trail meets up with the Gabrielino Trail, and it’s possible to head to Chantry Flats (8.8 miles), Switzer Falls (9.5 miles), or take a peek at the surrounding mountains from the top of nearby Mount Wilson (4 miles and 2800 feet of elevation gain). If West Fork is crowded, or if your legs still want to do some exploring, you can head just over another mile to DeVore Campground, the site of an old fishing camp and resort that’s now another USFS trail camp.

While relaxing at West Fork, be sure to note the small rock and cement foundation just west of the tent sites.

This is the remaining foundation from the first US Forest Service ranger station in California (built 1900), which has since been moved down the Angeles Crest Highway to the Chilao Visitor’s Center. Not much to look at now, but it’s a point of historical interest.

Once you’re done, continue back north in Shortcut Canyon, enjoying all the same stream crossings you’ve conquered before — by now, you’ll probably have a bit more confidence in making the jumps.

There is one section on the return route where a false trail just past the stream ford, where it appears the trail continues on the east bank of the stream and rises into the forest above it. Instead, the trail crosses the river.

If you take the false trail, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly, as it soon reaches some very difficult, step wooded terrain that you won’t remember from the way in. Enjoy the shade and stream while you can — you’ll be feeling that final ascent back to the trailhead.

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





Camping

Dog-Friendly

Historical Interest

Multi-Use Trail

Shade

Solitude

Water Features

Trail Map

36 Comments

Carson

Carson Aug 15, 2018 09:08In reply to: Jim

In my experience in the West Fork area, if you encounter a vine that looks just like poison oak but has big thorns instead of an oily sheen, you've got blackberry. There's a ton of it between WFCG and Devore Trail Camp. Fruits and ripens in late summer, Aug-Sep. depending on how dry it is. Freaking delicious, but those thorns will shred you.

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evan.a.wood Jun 9, 2017 22:06In reply to: Flor Chavez

Hiked this today (6/9/2017). The trail was in decent condition but with the creek bed dry in several spots it can be easy to lose if you aren't paying attention. The flora got pretty dense in many places and I'm still picking seeds out of my socks. Saw what we thought was a striped racer and had a fairly close encounter with a medium sized rattlesnake once we were down in the canyon. We talked with some campers who hiked in on Red Box, but nobody else on the way in or out.

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Michael May 29, 2017 19:05In reply to: Flor Chavez

Did you hike in and stay? Is it a busy area or secluded. I am trying to find a nice secluded area.

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TN May 22, 2017 19:05In reply to: Flor Chavez

Curious how your first backpacking trip went?

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Bryan M May 17, 2017 11:05In reply to: RP

Wow! Cool stories

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Casey Schreiner May 12, 2017 08:05In reply to: Todd

the hike out is what gets you on this one. DEFINITELY don't forget to pack the bug spray!

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Todd May 12, 2017 07:05In reply to: Flor Chavez

Moderate, really. Downhill most of the way in with some over/under of downed trees in the canyon. The hike out is fairly brutal as it's all up hill to the parking area, but well worth it. Don't forget a water filter, take some bug spray (!!!), pack light, and you'll be fine!

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Flor Chavez May 8, 2017 14:05In reply to: TN

Thanks for your review, we are planning an overnight on the 16th of this month and its good to know the current conditions of the area. I am a little nervous it will be our first time backpacking. What would you say is the difficulty level of the hike?

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TN Apr 26, 2017 12:04

Hiked this on an overnight 4/22/2017. Lots of downed trees and obstacles through the canyon, I'm guessing due to the rainfall we got this year. Made it slow-going in some parts. Creek was refreshing, the camp is nice. Didn't see anybody on the way in or the way out, but there were a few other campers that came in via Red Box. Didn't see any bears or snakes, but did see a deer or two and a few skunks.

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RP May 31, 2016 08:05

We hiked this on Labor Day 2016. There was evidence of recent trail work and no bushwhacking involved. I thought the trail was in excellent condition. No we feet, as the creeks were very low - there were bits of moving water though. We saw 2 other couples packing out to the road - overnighters coming out from camp.

On the way back from West Fork, I came face-to-face with a very large (350lb) black bear coming toward me on the trail. He took one look and sprinted away up the canyon face, dislodging small rocks. 10 minutes later we saw a medium sized rattler. I am *guessing* that due to disuse/neglect of this trail, as mentioned in earlier reports on this page, that wildlife isn't completely accustomed to people being on this trail again.

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Jim May 12, 2016 14:05

Did some of this yesterday. There is no big letter sign readily apparent from the road letting you know this is the spot. Once you park and cross to the south side of Highway 2, there is a directional sign listing the distances to various destinations, including West Fork camp - 3.8 miles, indicating this is the trailhead.

The chaparral / canyon wall section of the trail looked recently maintained, like someone went down it with a weedwacker, as evidenced by a fair amount of dead trimmings. . Still, once I got down to the creek it was pretty thick with vegetation. Lots of poison oak reaching out to grab an exposed calf if you are wearing shorts. Though I think a fair amount of it was what I tentatively call "fake poison oak" because, though it has three leaves and is red tinged, it has hairy looking thorny things on it, which I think (hope) means it's not true poison oak. But poison oak is a shape shifter of a plant and will take on the appearance of its neighbors sometimes, so not sure.

I didn't mind the bugs. The bees buzzing were quite soothing actually. Lots of blossoms. Was a very lush, tranquil setting, though the creek is now more of a trickle and I imagine will be dry by June. Would be an ideal setting for a trail camera while there is water. Can imagine bears and lions strolling the creek as the sun goes down.

Didn't do the whole trail to West Fork camp. Got a late start, and, after descending the chaparral, turned around after a few hundred yards along the creek. My high sensitivity to poison oak might have been a factor in that.

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Brooks Feb 11, 2016 14:02

I did this trail yesterday (2/10/16). Happy to report that there is quite a bit of water in the creek. It was never deep enough to require fording as there were always boulders to hop, but there were a few areas with small pools the water was running the entire way. While it was not as overgrown as some trails I've been on recently, I probably would've worn long pants if I were to do it again. Bugs were awful, but there was lots of water and it was unseasonably warm (mid-80's), so I don't know what I expected! Once you make it to the camp ground, the water is rushing and there is tons of it. The climb out is pretty brutal after the hike into and out of the canyon, caught me a bit off-guard.

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The Longest Straw (@TheLongestStraw) Sep 7, 2015 20:09

I did this hike labor day (09/07/2015). The hike was beautiful! Except...no water. I am guessing the drought took care of that. Unfortunately, I had to turn back about 2.5 miles in. I was wearing shorts and hiking sandals (expecting water), and I was afraid of all the poison oak everywhere. Hopefully, after the crazy "Bruce Lee" El Nino, this trail will be back to water logged. I will try again in the spring!

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marcel Jul 11, 2015 21:07In reply to: Greg

Hi everyone, I attempted this hike on Wednesday July 8th 2015. I chose the evening to start because I knew it would be cooler than the day time temps in the forest. I had a hard time finding the trail head but I did find it (signs are non existent due to fire and no budget within the forest service). Anyway, I started the hike and sure enough the temp was comfortable, however as darkness set in I was nearing the bottom of the valley where the trail becomes very overgrown. I bushwhacked for a good solid 10 minutes with no sign of a better trail and with darkness completely setting in upon me, I quickly back tracked to the established trail and found a suitable spot to make camp for the night. I'm not sure if I prematurely abandoned this hike but I was sure glad I did as it became really dark and cold quickly.

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Greg May 29, 2015 13:05

Me and my girlfriend did this on 5/28-29 and stayed overnight.

Please be warned that the trial is HEAVILY overgrown at parts especially once you get down in the valley. Bring a machete. Seriously. I had to hack my way through poison oak and god knows what else with a branch. If you go, you'll see me and my girlfriend's attempt at trailblazing.

The trail, despite being overgrown, was fairly easy to follow. Mostly because anywhere but the trail was impenetrable. There were a few tricky parts but hopefully when we went through we made it more obvious. But not sure how long that will last.

The bugs... MY GOD THE BUGS. When you get down in the valley, the bugs will swarm you. And they are bad, very bad. Use a DEET bug repellent. It didn't keep flies from buzzing around our head but we seem to have escaped being bitten by mosquitoes for the most part.

The campground itself is very nice. There are firepits and places to set up tents. There's also the nearby river which as of this date has water. We were able to refill our water for our hike back. And the bugs don't leave you alone down there. We brought a mosquito coil which seemed to help.

I could see how this hike would be cool in the winter/fall. but in the spring and summer, it's a definite pass. Trust us.

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Soyoung May 3, 2015 21:05

Did this today. They literally just yesterday put up a sign to the trailhead yesterday, it is much smaller than the old sign, though there is a big off-roading sign marking the parking lots as "SHORTCUT". The descent to the fire road is half-bushwhacked now. I'm sure they'll be finishing the second half soon enough. There is pink tape in the mean time marking the trail from the fire road. Yes, there were lots of bugs as other commenters described.

Lots of poison oak, some unavoidable. Wear long pants and rinse off when you have a chance. Bugs are pretty bad as others described. But all in all I didn't find it "annoying", the creek at the end (drought year) was really nice to dip feet and hair into.

ps, we met at tamar's over christmas. hi casey! i hope you are well.

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Brett Nov 30, 2014 19:11

Hiked the Silver Moccasin Trail 11-30-14. I found it to be a worth while hike even with the rain today. The sign is missing on the Angeles Crest Highway, but trail head is easy to find by mileage and the large pull out. Off of the dirt fire road the trail marker is missing too. But if you keep your eye out you will see the steep trail heading down on your left, which is now marked by some vertically stacked logs. I found it to be a beautiful trail. Only passed one person on the hike, and there was very little water in the stream do to the extreme drought, even with the rain. There were no bugs at all, but it was 55 degrees and rainy. Keep an eye out for the poodle dog bush, it was scattered around, harder to notice with out the flowers.

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Casey Schreiner Jun 2, 2014 10:06In reply to: Mike P.

Thanks for the update! Sounds like that trail is going to need a bit of TLC (and good rains) before it gets back to decent shape.

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Mike P. Jun 2, 2014 09:06

Just did this hike yesterday 6/1/13 and not much has changed. Sign on the 2 fwy still gone. Beginning of trail very over grown. Lots of poodle dog bush along the entire trail - enough for my hiking buddy to break out on his exposed arms. 2/3 of trail is unshaded so for summer months go early or late - middle of day not recommended. Water levels - night and day comparison to these photos. Barely any water till you get to west fork camp. Lots of bugs once you get down into canyon. We did see a ton of quail and lizards but not another hiker on trail. Some nice pools around west fork camp to dip your feet. I would not recommend this trail till more water arrives or else bring a machete to help clear the path...thanks as always for the site Casey.

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Shannon Sep 1, 2012 15:09

I did this hike last year after we had a rather large snow season. There was a low meandering river which lead to some larger pools, but was running and lush most of the way. I went back yesterday and it is an entirely different trail now. As some have mentioned, they've removed the sign for the Silver Mocassin trail which was badly burned in the fire. The trail was moderately difficult to find even for someone who had been there before.

The trail was completely exposed as you descend for ~2mi into the gorge where it becomes more damp and shady. When you reach the cooler underbrush, from past experience I was expecting the river to be flowing... it was not. It is a completely dry riverbed now with sparse spots of stagnant water which have become a breeding ground for insects. The trail is overgrown making the lookout for snakes more difficult. We saw two gopher snakes and tons of lizards, no rattlers this time.

The only place where the river significantly flows now is at West Fork Campground where the East & West Forks merge. The West Fork where we hiked down was completely dry and unvisted (overgrown), while the East Fork still had a few inches flowing. This may be due to the time of year and the light snow & rain fall we've had since winter.

The hike back up was excruciating. Where it might not matter that the switchbacks are exposed on the way down, on the way back up its a true beating. Two miles of blaring sun and decent elevation gain will make you think twice about trying to visit this remote river again. My advice is to visit this area after a heavy rain and bring lots of water. I, like many others who have posted before, ran out of water on the exposed ascent and ended up having to carry my dog because the silica in the sand made it too hot for her peds.

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Ady Jun 3, 2012 09:06

We did this hike yesterday (06/02/12). I'd say this is one of the most annoying hikes I've been on in SoCal. The bugs as other people have mentioned are a big pain. They even followed us into the car. The constant buzzing and biting makes it almost impossible to enjoy the hike. Also, looks like no one has been on the trail for a while, so the vegetation and dry grass on the trail is full of things that poke you. Each one of us had to sit down every ten minutes to clean the shoes and socks. It would have been a lot more pleasurable with long pants and/or gaiters. We hiked down for 2.7 miles but finally gave up and turned around. There was nothing interesting enough to keep going. I'm not sure if I'll ever want to go back here again, there's much better trails in the angeles forest.

Here's our log for the hike back up, looks like we almsot made it to the camp. http://runkeeper.com/user/adysan/activity/92618540

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Modern Hiker May 24, 2012 15:05In reply to: PeteS

Thank you everyone for the updates on the trailhead sign conditions! I sincerely appreciate the updated info - and I'm sure everyone else does too!

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PeteS May 22, 2012 15:05

Did this hike this past weekend. As other commenters have noted, there is no longer the nice big sign by the roadside - it's completely unmarked. Bring your GPS! A minute or so after the turnoff for Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, you'll come upon a pair of parking areas on the left and right. It's right at the boundary of the fee use area, so there are a number of signs remarking on that.

Finding the trailhead isn't too difficult (it's the only trail leading down from the south side of the road, with the ubiquitous yellow fire-damage warning sign), nor is the trail particularly difficult to follow (though it's entirely unsigned, aside from the occasional rock cairn). I saw not a single person in the canyon that day, so solitude is still the norm! That is, if you don't count the bugs... several big clouds of gnats, lots of flies/bees. It made it so I didn't stop at all while in the canyon! The trail crossings were all very easy - nothing even remotely challenging, and definitely no need to ford anything or get your feet wet (unless you'd like to, of course). The trail leading from Rt 2 to the canyon is rough - it's *completely* exposed (not even any chaparral), the ground is ashy/gravelly. In general, the trail in & out of the canyon is soft and uneven at points, and is overgrown with grasses, poodle-dog bush, and many other plants. It's not enough that you'd get lost, but it's enough that you spend plenty of time pushing through plants (another good use of hiking poles!). It's kind of fun, actually :)

The lack of people also meant lots of sightings of quail, tons of lizards, and even a large garter snake.

On a hot day, though, that ascent out was pretty bad. I had some dehydration to deal with which was my own fault, but in general I would not recommend this hike on a warm or hot day.

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Modern Hiker Apr 10, 2012 20:04In reply to: kg0000

Thanks for the update!

The bugs in that area CAN be pretty nasty. I was followed by a similar swarm on the trails just south of there at another time of the year. I swear, though - without the bugs, Shortcut Canyon is really nice!

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kg0000 Apr 10, 2012 00:04

Did this hike last sunday(4/8/12), have to say, wasn't a pleasant hike that I hoped for.
The trail head wasn't difficult to find at all, plenty of photo of it on google earth, just remember few land marks such as the huge fan shaped stone notice board.
***To the person who marked the descending switchbacks with rock formations, THANK YOU!***
The descending trail is long and steep, without any shade, the harsh mountain sun quickly worns you out. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of cool shade and refreshing creek at the buttom. When I finally made to the canyon floor, I was greeted by cool air carried down by shaded creeks. The area is great, definitely remote. It was just me, my dog, and a few thousand bugs flying around me. No matter how fast I walked, or how hard I swing my hands, there were always a swarm of bugs circling my head. I turned back about half way, cuz the bugs were just damn aggressive, they constantly tried to crawl into my ear, or bump into my eyes. The ascend on my way back was very tough, really pushed me to the limit.
So I wasn't fully prepared for the trip, to anyone else planning to hit this trail, here are few things to consider. Bug protection, spray your clothing and wear a bug net if you want any peace. Lots of water, baking under the sun while on the switchbacks drains you fast, I had about 2L when I setout, went completely dry on about 2/3 of the ascend back. A pair of trekking poles, my thigh would probably explode if I didn't bring my poles with me.

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mhisti Feb 25, 2012 20:02

Hiked this today, I am not sure why anyone is having trouble finding the trailhead, it is exactly as described and the signs are not burnt down, the one in the photo above is still there. The hike was not that hard either, 2 hrs 40 mins round trip and that despite banging my left knee up pretty badly at the bottom, losing the sole of my left boot and my glasses!! I never counted creek crossings before but I did this time, counted 30 not 34, but I am figuring the creek was probably quite a bit lower today as we have had a pretty dry winter. Nice hike.

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Shortcut Saddle to West Fork Trail Camp | Nobody Hikes in L.A. Dec 5, 2011 14:12

[...] information: here; Everytrail report [...]

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Seth Oct 2, 2011 16:10

Literally just walked in the door from this hike. It kicked my ass!! First off the trail head is very hard to find. This whole area is in burn recovery, this apparently includes the signs to the trailhead as well. To get there (@Shannon) continue on the 2 past Mt. Wilson/Red Box Road where the trailheads are clearly marked and they have a nice little ranger station. Continue past Bear Canyon and Switzer Falls. You will come upon an opening with turnouts on both sides of the road and one lone picnic table on the left. There might be some metal sheeting on the left next the the picnic table for repairs. Both signs, including the first picture on this page for Rincon/Shortcut are completely burned still and charred. My friends and I stood in the spot for 20 minutes consulting our gps and maps trying to figure out why we thought we were still lost....turns out the signs are just burnt to a crisp so there is no real info. From the way you came, the trailhead will be on the right side with a yellow sign - this heads south into the wilderness and you can see the canyon you will enter. Head down the couple of steep switchbacks and make a right on to the fire road like in the above write up. The only other noticeable differences here are the fact that the entire area was burnt to a crisp so there is no shade until you get deep into the canyon, and pretty much the entire trail is sandy, loose ground now after the fire. The other problem was that there was a large amount of bugs and bees. The water isnt really flowing right now and there is a ton of stagnant water. It was a pretty unpleasant trip....especially the hike out....seriously one of the hardest feats ive done after a 2 week hiking hiatus....i wanted to die. I wont be coming back here for a few years until things grow back and maybe when its not sunny. It was seriously brutal...seriously.

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Shannon Aug 12, 2011 08:08

I tried finding this two weeks ago with little success, was going to try again this Sunday. Any news if this area is not accessible after the fires?

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Howard Jul 9, 2010 13:07

Thanks so much! Love the site, keep up the great work!

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Modern Hiker Jul 8, 2010 12:07

Yes. The north side of Mount Wilson is off-limits.

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Howard Jul 8, 2010 12:07

A little hard to tell from the maps -- do you know if this area is closed from the Station Fire?

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titansoldier2007 Apr 14, 2010 20:04

this looks like fun. I like the creek crossing. makes u feel better in heat

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Blake Mar 2, 2009 13:03

My buddy and I did this hike yesterday (3/01/09). It was a great hike. There were quite a few bugs once we got down into the trees and by the river but not much of an annoyance. I expected a bit more water running down the canyon but West Fork Camp was a great little place. Alot of water and a good place for some swimming if I had packed a change of clothes. I'd love to go back sometime. Modern Hiker is a great site! Thanks for all the detailed info!

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FIGHT ON Jun 1, 2008 17:06

I am planning to day hike the Silver Moccasin Trail. All 53 miles of it. Start at Chantry Flats at 12:00 am and finish at Vincent Gap within 24 hours of that same day. And just to make it hard I will carry all the water and food that I will need. No drugs no gu shots no caffeine. Just me and the trail. FIGHT ON

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Alex May 19, 2008 11:05

Did this hike this weekend (5/18). It was nice to splash through the creek, but the uphill at the end was pretty brutal in the heat. This is a good hike, but I would guess it's better earlier in Spring.

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