Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 2 hours 50 including a short stop at the top
Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
Difficulty: fitness-wise, easy until the last half mile, then very difficult; terrain-wise, easy until the last half mile, then moderate
Drive: 45 minutes (33 miles) from old town Pasadena, east on the 210 and north on the 39 to Smith Mountain Trailhead
Trails of the Angeles hike no. 73
Modern Hiker has an account here, and hikespeak one here


We started this walk rather closer to sunset than was optimal, but navigationally it’s dead simple: take the trail that starts at the roadside hut, and follow it three miles to Smith Saddle, then tackle the steepest half mile we’ve ever done, rock-scrambling and thorn-dodging 800 feet up to a sneaky false summit and then the real one. About a mile from the start you get your first view of the saddle before the steep section, and the dramatically precipitous summit comes enticingly in and out of view over the three miles.

The 360º sunset views over the San Gabriel Wilderness to the west and the dramatic Twin Peaks Ridge and Waterman Mountain to the northwest were spectacular, though we were disappointed, given the Ridge is apparently ‘one of the last citadels of bighorn sheep in this range’, not to catch any glimpses of sheeplike creatures to keep James’s Welshness happy.


Your starting point



The view south from the very start of the trail



An early sighting of Smith



James models the Swansea stash…



…and treats us to a rare topless moment



Views open up back down the North Fork valley, with Mount Baldy in the distance (the top left spike)



And Smith starts to look more imposing



Looking west from Smith Saddle over Bear Creek into the Wilderness



Contemplating the final stretch…



…and setting off full of false confidence



Looking back towards Mount Islip from halfway up




Victory: nearly too chilly for Coors, but not quite



A helpful badge with the only conceivable interesting information (5,111 feet above sea level) strangely absent, and using the mountain’s former name, Headlee



The westerly sunset…



…and the southerly haze



The obligatory selfie…



…and the obligatory panoramic.




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