The Angeles National Forest is located in southern California northeast of Los Angeles. It is comprised of 655,702 acres. There are 59 developed campgrounds of which 15 meet the selection criteria.
Within a few hours of freeway driving, there is a little oasis of tranquil green often overlooked by locals and visitors to the area, the Angeles National Forest. A true urban forest, the Angeles could be thought of as a playground for communities of the Los Angeles basin. Cooler temperatures and a variety of recreational opportunities attract visitors and provides an alternative to better known tourist attractions, such as Disneyland and Magic Mountain. In these mountains overlooking the LA Basin, one can find miles upon miles of trails, fishing in tiny lakes tucked in among pine and a huge lake beside I-5, endless wildlife viewing and more.
Near the town of Pasadena, State Route 2, the scenic Angeles Crest Highway, winds its way up and through the Gabriel Mountain range, past Gabriel and Sheep Mountain wildernesses to the community of Wrightwood. The drive starts in the hub-bub of a business metropolis and ends in the tranquil environment of a semi-Alpine community. In between are a number of campgrounds, such as Chilao Recreation Area, Buckhorn, and Table Mountain, and many breath-taking views below. Some pull-outs along Route 2 provide views to the east. The view is of endless desert, flat, brown, and empty. To the west is a view of civilization; side-by-side buildings and freeways stretching between the mountains and Pacific Ocean. In the morning hours this view is covered by a fluffy blanket in the early fog. In the evening, the fog is tinted with the rose of a setting sun.
Numerous trails cris-cross the Angeles National Forest and provide an excellent means to exploring the forest up close and personal. A principle trail through the Angeles is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT is a total of 2,650 miles reaching from Mexico to Canada. A main artery in the Angeles National Forest's network of trails, the PCT is fed by a number of less well-known but equally challenging trails for "dayhiker" use. The 11-mile High Desert Trail connects fern and wildflower bedecked Buckhorn campground with the PCT while the Crystal Lake campground link to PCT includes a network of day-long hiking trails. Near the Gabriel Wilderness and Chilao Recreation Area campground is a trailhead for the 58-mile Silver Moccasin Trail.
The Angeles National Forest is more than just hiking trails. There is history here, too. The Visitor's Center at Chilao Recreation Area campground has not only informative displays about the area's nature but also proudly relates the story of Gabriel Mountains' famous bandito and his band. Ask the Visitor's Center's host about how the campground got its name and learn how the bandito is remembered.
Another point of interest is the area now known as Crystal Lake campground. Known in the 1860s for an abundance of game including grizzly bears, mountain lions, and deer, the campground continues to be a popular spot for visiting bears. By 1928 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recognized the area's opportunities and after leasing it from the Forest Service, began developing its recreational opportunities including the current campground. Although very popular, the pressures of World War II's saw use of the Crystal Lake campground and lake area begin to decline. Today, the campground still provides recreational opportunities but no where near its earlier levels. It is possible for a midweek camper to be one of only a few at the campground.
Manker Flats campground has a much more recent and glamorous history. The original site of the Mount Baldy Ski Hill, the slope behind and seen from the campground, was dubbed "Movie Slope" for the frequent visits by actors popular in the 30s and 40s. Next to the campground is "The Snack Bar" which was the mountain's first lodge. Today, the skiing is further up the mountain on more challenging slopes but the old rope-tow machine remains as does the original ski lodge in the form of the Snack Bar. Here, campers can buy the "best smoothies on the Mountain"(or so says the Snack Bar's manager) in the summer and snow players warm-up on chocolate and good conversation.
While Mt Baldy is still an area for snow play, the newer Ski Sunrise, at the far end of State Route 2, is posing a challenge. From Table Mountain campground the wide and curving ski trails of Ski Sunrise can be seen. However, this ski mountain doesn't just sit there quietly through the summer. Campers at Table Mountain campground enjoy not only spacious, widely separated sites and great vistas but easy access to Ski Sunrise Resort's summer activities, such as a small grille, 27 hole "disk" golf course, and live entertainment on most weekends.
For those looking to enjoy wetter recreation activities, the Angeles National Forest has a few options. Cottonwood campground, near Lake Hughes, is a small campground along an unnamed creek. The creek offers several places to cool off by wading under the towering cottonwoods. A very different experience is available at Los Alamos campground, just 2 miles from the deep blue of Pyramid Lake which can be seen from I-5. This 1300-acre lake offers striped, large and smallmouth bass, as well as Rainbow trout, crappie and bluegill, for the anglers and a large sandy beach for swimmers. A visit to the Vista Del Lago, a short drive south of the campground on I-5, is both informative and entertaining. Vista Del Lago illustrates that Pyramid Lake is more then a place for fun; it's a hardworking component in California's intricate water resource management system.
When surrounded by the quiet found in the Angeles National Forest's mountains and under a sky filled with sparkling stars, it is easy to forget all about the world-famous LA rat-race and clogged freeways. Here in the Angeles National Forest visitors escape from the heat and crowds and relax among towering pines and oaks. It isn't that far to go but it can be a world away. Come and see for yourself.
701 North Santa Anita Ave
Arcadia, California 91006
RANGER DISTRICT OFFICES
Los Angeles River
12371 N. Little Tujunga Canyon Rd.
San Fernando, California 91342
San Gabriel River
110 N. Wabash
Glendora, California 91741
Santa Clara/Mojave Rivers
33708 Crown Valley Road
Acton, California 93510