Liebre Mountain – Pacific Crest National Scenic TrailLiebre Mountain – Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail https://www.calwild.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/DSCN8726-1024x768.jpg 1024 768 California Wilderness Coalition California Wilderness Coalition https://www.calwild.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/DSCN8726-1024x768.jpg
1,691 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) are located in California. This provides Californians with many opportunities for one-day (or several-day) section hikes. One such opportunity lies in the Angeles National Forest north of the Antelope Valley in an area that are the ancestral lands, past and present, of the Fernandeño Tatavium and Yuhaviatam/Maarenga’yam (Serrano) people.
The San Andreas Fault closely follows Pine Canyon Road. When you begin your hike you will be standing on the boundary of the Earth’s largest tectonic plates – the Pacific and North American plates. Liebre Mountain which is located on the east edge of the Pacific Plate, is moving northwest at an average of about 2 inches per year.
You will have a choice of where to enter the trail. One possibility is where the PCT crosses Pine Canyon Road, which is located 7.2 miles from its intersection with N2 (Ridge Route Road) (GPS coordinates: N34.736070, W118.642550). There is room for about 5 to 6 cars to park on the north (left) side of the road. The trailhead, on the south (right) side of the road, is easy to miss.
If you start your hike at this location, you will hike for close to a mile on relatively flat terrain, paralleling Pine Canyon Road. While visual and noise impacts from the road are not severe, this is not the most enjoyable part of the PCT in this area.
Alternatively, you can park on Pine Canyon Road 6.3 miles from its intersection with N2 (Ridge Route Road) (GPS coordinates: N34.739247, W118.655367). There is only room for two or three cars to park on the road on the north (left) side. You will see an unmarked dirt road that heads south (on the right).
If you have a high clearance vehicle you can drive up the dirt road, which is only about 175 feet long. There you will find a dirt area with room for several more cars to park. If you prefer and there is room, you can park on Pine Canyon Road and walk up the short dirt road.
Just south (and uphill) of this open dirt area, you will see a worn Carsonite sign that marks the PCT.
Go right (west) and begin your switchback ascent up Liebre Mountain where you will encounter a variety of plants including manzanitas, California buckeyes, ceanothuses, and black oaks. As you reach higher elevations you will also see Coulter pines, gray pines, and bigcone Douglas firs.
This area was badly burned by the Powerhouse Fire in 2013. However, fire recovery is going well, especially due to the good rainfall the area has received for a few winter seasons. There are also areas that remain unscathed by fire.
You can decide how far to hike. One possibility is to hike about two miles (from the alternate starting point mentioned above) until you reach a wilderness campsite (Horse Camp) located on the right side of the trail. The camp is somewhat difficult to see from the trail, but you will know you are at the right location on the trail when you see a tall metal pole on the right and this sign on the left side of the trail (GPS coordinates: N34.731435, W118.660454).
There is a small sign for the camp just off of the trail on the right.
The camp has a picnic table that appears to have been put there by a Boy Scout presumably working on his Eagle Scout rank. There is no water at the camp, although there is a spring about 2 miles away from the PCT if you want to make that side trip. The camp is also a nice resting or turnaround spot. Another possibility is to continue hiking for another 1.5 miles where you will arrive at a junction where the PCT veers east toward Sawmill Mountain and connects with Liebre Sawmill Road (7N23). This is also a good turnaround location. If you are interested in making this a long day hike or overnight trip, you can make a left (east) and continue on 7N23/PCT (they overlap off and on in this area) all the way to Sawmill Campground, which is 10 miles from the alternate starting point mentioned above and then return the way you hiked in.
This hike offers spectacular views of the Antelope Valley to the north.
If you hike all the way to the junction with Liebre Sawmill Road you will also be treated to views of a roadless area to the south that CalWild is currently working protect that has been named the Castaic Proposed Wilderness.
Spring is the ideal time for this hike – you’ll likely get to enjoy spring wildflowers and the beautiful blooms of ceanothuses and California buckeyes.
The best months to hike this section of the PCT are October through June. Due to the high summer temperatures in this region and the fact that a good amount of the trail has little to no shade, this hike is not recommended in the summer or on hot days. On warm days, be especially alert for rattlesnakes on or near the trail.
The approximate elevation change if you hike to Horse Camp is 1,180 feet; if you hike to the junction with the PCT it is approximately 1,780 feet.
Directions: From Los Angeles head north on I-5 and exit at Highway 138. After 4.1 miles, turn right onto County Route N2 also known as the Ridge Route Road. Drive 2.1 miles south to the intersection with Pine Canyon Road. Turn left (east) on Pine Canyon Road. Travel on Pine Canyon Road for either 6.3 miles (for the alternate starting point mentioned above) or 7.2 miles depending on the location at which you decide to begin your hike.
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. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.
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