Let’s skip past the 30 car line at the Starbucks drive through and get right to the quiet little mountain town of Wrightwood, California. With a whopping population of 4,500 people, Wrightwood boasts a quaint downtown with a few coffee shops and breweries for some morning fuel before making your way to the dozens of hiking, biking, and off-roading trails sprinkled throughout the mountains. With Coronavirus blocking some of the roads and trails, we couldn’t make our way to Mt. Baden-Powell or Inspiration Point, two of the highest points in the San Gabriel Mountains offering the most popular views of cedar, pine and desert landscapes below. Instead, we opted for a hiking trail that starts at Jackson Lake and cuts through tall pines and giving amazing views of snow capped mountain tops. Across the street from Jackson Lake starts an off-roading trail that follows the side of the mountain…try avoiding looking out to the right - the drop off the side of the road is pretty steep, to say the least. You’ll find some amazing views of the valley down below, and the tranquil sound of the river drowning out any other noise makes for a great place to stop and breath the fresh mountain air. Shout out to the Toyota Tacoma (no free ads) for taking this path like a champ…make sure to you have a vehicle built for a tough ride and make sure to watch out for mountain bikers and UTVs! Hiking in the Angeles National Forest works up an appetite, so after a quick bite to eat at the Wrightwood Brewing Company, we made our way back down to the high desert for the second half of our day (P.S. They don’t sell six packs).
Coming down just a few thousand feet, you feel like you are in an entirely different world…it’s almost like you made the 120 drive into Joshua Tree National Park with the hundred foot desert rocks and 360 views of desert shrub. The best part - you still get views of the snow capped San Gabriel Mountains behind you, which makes for the perfect golden hour setting if you are photography nerds like we are. Hoping to just grab a few desert pictures and then make our way back home to Orange County before too late, we made the mistake of getting a bit lost… probably the best mistake we made all year because the shots of the freshly blooming high desert contrasted agains the sun setting over the mountain peeks across Route 15 turned out to be some of the best views and pictures we have ever taken. Again, through pure adventure, we darted off Route 15 onto a random dirt path off and just started driving. After about 10 minutes of climbing over rocks and bouncing around in our Toyota Tacoma (again, no free ads, but shoutout to the Tacoma for getting us through the day), we decided to take just one more turn to hopefully find a good vista point for some photos. At our last turn, we found our shot, a gently sloping hillside of tall rolling desert grass framed by desert cliffs to the right and the sun setting behind the mountains to the left. A slippery and sandy hike to the ridge crest on the other side of the path made for the perfect drone footage and sunset shots to cap of our day of being Stranded in the Angeles National Forest.
We will definitely be making our way back to the Angeles National Forest soon. Our lesson for the day, it’s great to have a game plan when heading out, but sometimes getting stranded is the only way to get the perfect shot.