Fact Sheet: San Gabriel Mountains

Fact Sheet: San Gabriel Mountains

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CalWild has found the following lands to be wilderness eligible, as that term is defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964:

 

Condor Peak Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: 4 miles north of Glendale in the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County
  • Size: 8,417 acres
  • Management agency: Angeles National Forest
  • Ecological values: This chaparral-cloaked land of steep ridges and V-shaped canyons is one of the wildest remaining areas in the Angeles National Forest. Until World War II, the area was a stronghold for the endangered California condor. Sandstone rock formations in the area offer excellent nesting habitat for eagles, falcons and, perhaps someday, condors once more. The proposed wilderness provides suitable habitat for several other rare species, including southwestern willow flycatcher, arroyo toad, California red-legged frog, Santa Ana sucker, Mount Gleason’s paintbrush, California spotted owl, and the two-striped garter snake among others. The bigcone Douglas-fir, a species unique to southern California and gravely threatened by climate change, grows on north-facing slopes in the area. The tree is adapted to frequent natural fires, but the sheer number of human-caused fires is beginning to take a serious toll on the tree in the San Gabriel Mountains. The Condor Peak Proposed Wilderness continues to shelter several groves of this lovely and important species.
  • Other values: The proposed wilderness is bordered by the rugged Condor Peak Trail. From atop Condor Peak, visitors are greeted with outstanding views in all directions. The famed Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) that runs for over 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada touches the northeastern corner of the proposed wilderness and runs parallel to its northern boundary, providing great views to the south of Fox Peak and Condor Peak and their magnificent canyons. Lightning Point (immediately adjacent to the proposed wilderness and just south of the PCT) serves as a water source and camp site for PCT users.The proposed wilderness also offers an important scenic backdrop for the campgrounds and homes along Big Tujunga Canyon.
Chris Welpman Condor

Photo: Chris Welpman.

San Gabriel Proposed Wilderness Additions

  • Location: Adjacent to the existing San Gabriel Wilderness which is approximately 6 miles north of Monrovia in the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County
  • Size: 2,027 acres
  • Management agency: Angeles National Forest
  • Ecological values: Encompasses a portion of the West Fork San Gabriel River and its watershed, which is an important source of clean drinking water. The area’s north-facing slopes support one of the largest forests of bigcone Douglas-fir and live oaks in the region. An “Area of High Ecological Significance,” according to the US Forest Service, the addition provides critical habitat for Nelson’s bighorn sheep, San Gabriel mountain salamander, Santa Ana speckled dace, and California spotted owl.
  • Other values: Provides a scenic backdrop for people using the popular San Gabriel River National Scenic Bikeway.

Sheep Mountain Proposed Wilderness Additions

  • Location: Adjacent to the existing Sheep Mountain Wilderness which is approximately 6 miles north of Claremont in the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County
  • Size: 13,851 acres
  • Management agency: Angeles National Forest
  • Ecological values: This extremely rugged landscape hosts the imperiled Nelson’s bighorn sheep, California spotted owl, San Gabriel slender salamander, red-legged frog, western spadefoot toad, Santa Ana sucker, mountain yellow-legged frog, and Arroyo Chub, among a long list of other rare species. Isolated groves of the lovely bigcone Douglas-fir grow on north-facing slopes, gnarled limber pine grow on the Angeles Crest and native black walnut provides important food for wildlife. The area shelters critical oak woodlands and streamside forests that are being lost to development and excessive human-caused fires elsewhere.
  • Other values: Offers some of the most spectacular views in all southern California. The PCT weaves in and out of the area along the Angeles Crest, the crown of the San Gabriel Mountains. Mount Baden-Powell at 9,407 feet is the second highest peak in the San Gabriels. The mountain is only partially inside the existing Sheep Mountain Wilderness. The peak is named for the founder of the world scouting movement and climbing the peak from the PCT remains a popular past time for Boy and Girl Scouts. The segment of the PCT between Islip Saddle in the west and Vincent Gap in the east is extremely popular due to its outstanding scenery and easy access from the Angeles Crest Highway.

Sheep Mountain

Yerba Buena Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: 4 miles north of Glendale in the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County
  • Size: 6,774 acres
  • Management agency: Angeles National Forest
  • Ecological values: The proposed wilderness hosts 27 rare plants, including the beautiful Mount Gleason paintbrush. This rugged, chaparral-draped landscape also supports a multitude of imperiled wildlife species such as arroyo toad, San Gabriel slender salamander, red-legged frog, peregrine falcon, California spotted owl and San Bernardino ringneck snake. Rock formations in the area offer nesting habitat for hawks and eagles and, it is hoped, California condors will return to the area as they continue to recover.
  • Other values: The rugged Trail Canyon Trail traverses the area and offers access to the remote Tom Lucas Trail Camp. Trail Canyon Falls is a 30-foot ribbon of water that attracts many visitors.

 

 

Other protections

Not all San Gabriel Mountain wild places are included in the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act. The following are other key wild lands and waters in the region that CalWild is working to protect.

Castaic Proposed Wilderness

  • Location: In the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County roughly 7 miles north of Santa Clarita.
  • Size: 69,670 acres
  • Management agency: Angeles National Forest
  • Ecological values: Much of the area was recommended for wilderness protection by the U.S. Forest Service because it is the largest block of undisturbed but unprotected habitat remaining on the Angeles National Forest. Ranging from less than 2,000 to nearly 6,000 feet in elevation, Castaic’s diverse scenery and vegetation include the oak covered slopes of Liebre Mountain, ridges dense with chaparral, rugged canyons with seasonal waterfalls, and the spectacular rose-colored granite of Redrock Mountain. Botanically rich, the area supports numerous rare plants, one of the largest black oak groves in southern California, and one of the few stands of native grey pine on the Angeles National Forest. Endangered and sensitive wildlife thrive in this area, including the majestic California condor, arroyo toad, California red-legged frog, least Bell’s vireo, willow flycatcher, spotted owl, and unarmored three-spined stickleback (a native fish). It is also home to more common wildlife species such as cougar, bobcat, coyote, black bear, and mule deer. The Castaic area is an important biological crossroads and wildlife linkage, connecting the San Gabriel Mountains, Mojave Desert, Central Coast Range, and the Tehachapi Mountains.
  • Other values: The Castaic area possesses some of the highest density and variety of heritage and cultural resources on the Angeles National Forest, including lands sacred to local Native Americans. The area provides ample opportunities for hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, and photography. The 2,650-mile Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail parallels the northern boundary of the proposed wilderness. The area is a popular backcountry destination for residents of the Santa Clarita, Palmdale, and Lancaster communities, but its proximity to Interstate 5 attracts visitors from throughout the state.

Cucamonga Proposed Wilderness Additions

  • Location: Adjacent to the existing Cucamonga Wilderness in the Angeles National Forest and San Bernardino National Forest in San Bernardino County roughly 3 miles north of Rancho Cucamonga.
  • Size: 11,511 acres
  • Management agency: Angeles National Forest and San Bernardino National Forest
  • Ecological values: The proposed additions are composed primarily of the Middle Fork Lytle Creek canyon and its rugged adjacent slopes. The area is cloaked in chaparral at the lowest elevations but still support some of the finest groves of sugar pines in all southern California. The proposed additions offer habitat for a plethora of endangered wildlife species, including San Gabriel slender salamander, mountain yellow-legged frog, western spadefoot toad, Cooper’s hawk, northern harrier, yellow-headed blackbird, yellow warbler, southern California rufous-crowned sparrow, California spotted owl, Costa’s hummingbird, rufous hummingbird and desert bighorn sheep among a long list of others. The area also supports 30 rare plant species and several endangered plant communities, such as California black walnut forest.
  • Other values: The Middle Fork Lytle Creek Trail provides access to this relatively little visited portion of the wilderness, described in the book Trails of the Angeles as “one of the few islands of subalpine wilderness left in Southern California.”

Wild and Scenic Rivers

East Fork San Gabriel River.

East Fork San Gabriel River (12.7 miles) – The East Fork San Gabriel River flows south from its sources deep in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness and then west to its confluence with the West Fork. The river serves urban communities in the San Gabriel Valley with clean drinking water and it provides outstanding opportunities for family day use and wilderness recreation. The East Fork was identified by the Forest Service as an area of high ecological significance providing key refugia for imperiled native fish, including the threatened Santa Ana sucker and the sensitive Santa Ana speckled dace and arroyo chub. In addition, the upper East Fork (upstream of Heaton Flat) supports a wild fishery of coastal rainbow trout and was designated a state Heritage and Wild Trout Water in 2010. The upper East Fork provides critical habitat for the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog and several other sensitive wildlife species. The upper East Fork flows through a diversity of landscapes that create outstanding scenery. The entire river is rich in gold mining history.

North Fork San Gabriel River (4.3 miles) – Small streams rise from the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains at Windy Gap and flow south, ultimately combining together to create the North Fork San Gabriel River. Like the East Fork, the North Fork was identified by the Forest Service as an area of high ecological significance providing key refugia for imperiled native fish, including the threatened Santa Ana sucker and the sensitive Santa Ana speckled dace and arroyo chub. The river canyon is framed by peaks and ridges in the nearby Sheep Mountain and San Gabriel Wilderness areas. State Scenic Highway 39 parallels much of the North Fork, providing easy access to the river for family-oriented day use recreation. Visitors from throughout the Los Angeles region are attracted to the North Fork’s year-round flowing water – a limited resource in southern California. The North Fork was also a major travel route for Native Americans between the San Gabriel Valley and the Mojave Desert.

Butteryfly on the West Fork on the San Gabriel River. Photo by Steve Evans

Butterfly on the West Fork on the San Gabriel River. Photo by Steve Evans

Upper West Fork San Gabriel River (8.3 miles) – The upper West Fork San Gabriel River begins down slope from Red Box Picnic Area on State Highway 2 and flows east to Cogswell Reservoir. Views of Mt. Wilson and Mt. Vetter provide alpine scenery that is rare in southern California. Steep canyons, conifer forests, riparian woodlands, and seasonal water falls add to the scenic diversity. Two National Recreation Trails and an officially designated OHV route provide access to parts of the upper West Fork and three backcountry camp sites. Much of the upper West Fork flows through an area of high ecological significance that includes the region’s largest and most continuous stands of big cone Douglas fir. Historic resort sites (now largely abandoned) along the river and in the watershed are evidence of the San Gabriel Mountain’s “Great Hiking Era” of the early 1900’s. Portions of the West Fork were an important travel and trade route for Native Americans from the San Gabriel Valley to the Mojave Desert.

Little Rock Creek & tributaries (20.2 miles total) – Rising from the sub-alpine slopes of Mount Williamson and Mt. Waterman, Little Rock Creek (16.9 miles) tumbles down the northern escarpment of the San Gabriel Mountains into the Mojave Desert. An area of high ecological significance, Little Rock Creek provides an important refuge for endangered amphibians, including mountain yellow-legged frog and arroyo toad. The Pacific Crest Trail provides access to the upper part of the creek and its tributaries, including scenic Cooper Canyon Falls, a popular hiking destination on Cooper Canyon Creek (2.3 miles). The Buckhorn Campground and the Cooper Canyon backcountry camp offer excellent base camps to explore Buckhorn Canyon Creek (1 mile). During high water years, Little Rock Creek offers unusual class IV-V whitewater kayaking for experts. The very upper portion of the creek flows past the foot of Williamson Rock, which offers world class rock climbing opportunities and is a premier sport claiming destination for southern California.

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