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Gould Mesa Trail Camp

A beginner’s backpacking trip from Gould Mesa Campground

Adventure entry by Linda Castro | Assistant Policy Director

Hike Name: Hike to Davie Brown Dam (aka Brown Mountain Dam) on the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail from Gould Mesa Campground

Name of area/general location: Angeles National Forest, La Cañada Flintridge, CA

Land Acknowledgement: The land discussed in this article is within the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Tongva (Gabrieleno) and Fernandeño Tataviam Peoples. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit native-land.ca.

Trail rating: This segment of the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail is rated easy to moderate (moderate primarily due to the stream crossings after heavy rains).

Trail mileage: Approximately 6.2 miles round-trip (parking area to/from Davie Brown Dam)

Permissible trail uses (dogs, horses, mountain bikes, others): Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Dogs are allowed (on leash).

Description of the area, sights, wildlife, and any key markers on the trail:  After the short and steep hike on a dirt road (2N69) adjacent to the parking area, you will arrive at the intersection with Gould Mesa Camp Trail and the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail. This 28.8-mile trail runs between the Ventura Street and Windsor Avenue Trailhead near the Hahamongna Watershed Park in La Cañada Flintridge and Chantry Flats near Arcadia, CA. At the time this article is being written, the Gabrielino Trail is open between Arroyo Seco and Redbox but closed between Redbox and Chantry Flat due to the Bobcat Fire closure.

The Gabrieleno Trail was chosen as the nation’s first National Recreation Trail (NRT) in 1970. The trail provides an opportunity to hike through beautiful canyons and along the Arroyo Seco, a scenic watershed, especially after winter and spring rains. While you will encounter a number of man-made structures, the overall beauty of the trail will allow you to momentarily forget how close you are to the nearby LA Metroplex.

The Gabrielino National Recreation Trail, located adjacent to Gould Mesa Trail Camp, is very popular and receives heavy usage, especially on weekends. The trail includes a good number of stream crossings. These streams can be quite difficult to cross after significant rains, so please do so with caution. In fact, you might also want to consider using trekking poles and wearing water shoes with good tread when you cross.

This hike can be done as a day hike – a 6.2 mile in-and-out hike to Davie Brown Dam – or adjusted into a shorter hike that’s ideal for new backpackers. If you have decided that you would like to start doing some backpacking trips, the short one-mile hike from the parking area to Gould Mesa Trail Camp is an excellent opportunity for your first attempt.

The hike covered in this article ends at Davie Brown Dam, which is on a very short spur on the west side of the Gabrielino Trail. From Gould Mesa Trail Camp, hike north on the Gabrielino Trail for about 2.6 miles until arriving at the dam. After enjoying the view and cooling off, return to Gould Mesa the same way you came.

The portion of the Gabrielino Trail between Gould Mesa Trail Camp and Davie Brown Dam is located within an area of the Angeles National Forest that Representative Judy Chu and Senator Alex Padilla recently called on the Biden administration to include in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. CalWild and partner organizations are currently working on an effort to expand the National Monument. Learn more about proposed expansion here.

Gould Mesa is a hike-in (only) camp that consists of 5 hike-in campsites with picnic tables and campfire rings, one vault toilet, one shared bear box, and bear-proof trash receptacles. Equestrian amenities include 52 linear feet of hitching rail. Reserving of campsites is not allowed, so all campsites are first-come-first-served.

While both the trail and the campground are open year-round, the best times of year to visit them are Spring, Fall, and Winter. The low elevation in the area around the camp (about 1,500 feet) makes this area subject to high temperatures in the summer and early fall months.

To note: Bears are frequently encountered at this camp, so please be sure to stow all additional items away from your tent and in a bear-proof storage container. The camp does not have piped water available, but is located adjacent to a seasonal stream. However, it is advisable that you bring enough water with you to drink, cook, clean, and extinguish campfires, as the water flow may be low or non-existent due to a lack of rainfall. If the stream has sufficient water to use, please remember that it is imperative to appropriately treat/boil stream water before using it.

A California Campfire Permit is required in order to have a campfire. If you do not already have one, they are available on-line at no cost:  https://www.readyforwildfire.org/permits/campfire-permit/. Please be aware of any fire restrictions in your area and the procedures to properly prep, build, and extinguish your campfire.

Directions to the trailhead: From Interstate 210 in La Cañada Flintridge, exit at Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy. 2) and head north about 2 miles. Park on the right before you enter the Angeles National Forest, in an open dirt area adjacent to a locked gate about one mile past the power substation. Hike one mile on the road (2N69) to Gould Mesa Trail Camp. According to the Angeles National Forest’s website, an Adventure Pass is not required to park at this location. However, if you already have one, it may not be a bad idea to display one in your vehicle.

More information: Angeles National Forest, 701 North Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91006. (626) 574-1613. The office is open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but closed for lunch from 1:00-1:30 p.m.

AllTrails Hike Link

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Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. CalWild assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.