Here is a pretty good article about a hike we like to do: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/200 ... ion-loop/#
There is a gate at the top of Santa Anita that is locked from 8pm to 6am. You will need an Adventure pass to park. If you go on Saturday or Sunday, there is a good chance the parking lot will be full by 6:30am. (that's one reason we come in on Friday!) You can park on the road, but make sure you are parked legally, and there are some spots on the mountain side where I have seen rockfall damage cars, so beware!
If we do the Mt Zion loop, we stay at Spruce Grove. There are pit toilets which may or may not be open due to the EPA, benches, and fire rings. There is a creek that pretty much dries up later in the year; you may be able to scoop up some water to filter. Hoegee's is the same way. We like going out the way the articles lists as we really dislike going up the paved road that you go down at the start. And depending on how we feel, we sometimes take a brake at Hoegee's on the way out. Often, I will take a trash bag and fill it up at Hoegee's and pack it out. Or you can retrace your path to get back to the parking lot.
Hoegee's may be even more popular with Scout Troops than Little Jimmy, especially Saturday night. It's only a couple of miles; Upper Winter Creek trail is a little longer than Lower Winter Creek trail. Pit toilets, tables, fire rings, and a creek.
I like to take the Gabrielino Trail past Spruce Grove, over Newcomb Pass, and then drop down to Devore campground. It has old tables, but no fire rings or toilets. It is on the West Fork of the San Gabriel river, so there's a little more water. And almost always no people! I think it's about 7 miles one way.
You can get to Mt. Wilson from all three camps. From Hoegee's, take the Winter Creek trail to the Manzanita trail, to the Mt. Wilson toll road to Mt. Wilson. There is a seasonal café and seasonal water available. From Spruce Grove, continue on the Sturtevant trail to Mt. Wilson. From Devore, hike back up to Newcomb Pass, and then take the Rim trail to Mt. Wilson. To get back to Chantry Flats from Mt. Wilson, I would take the toll road to the Manzanita trail to Upper Winter Creek and out.
This is a very active bear area; so prepare accordingly. I always take my bearcan, just because it is easier. You can hang, but you will see the evidence of unsuccessful hangs in the trees at Hoegee's and Spruce Grove. And I always warn others about the bears. Told one group and seemed like they were on board until the morning, when they were asking around for a trash bag. Another time we got in to camp and were eating dinner and a bear was trying to get some trail mix we had 15 feet away. And I had a pack I loaned out get gnawed on by a bear.
Campfires are usually allowed until late summer. It will be posted on the message boards at each campground if the are allowed or not.
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All of the major SoCal peaks have opportunities to camp on the way up, and although starting now many appear to be too hot, I have been pleased to find that many have significant treecover and that conditions do indeed become cooler once you are higher. During a weekend I would avoid any acknowledged campsites, and get more creative to find a spot away from the trail, as the urban hiking crowd is a mixed bag.
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For Summiting Peaks, I think San Gorgonio High camp is the way to go. You have to get a permit and its crowded, but the summit is pretty amazing. For backpacking and camping in solitude in So cal, I personally like San Bernardino Peak. Most people forego San bernadino peak and camp at Dry lake and High camp in order to summit Mt San Gorgonio. Ive camped at limber Pines (San Bernadino peak) two times and each time there was only one other group.. The other campgrounds mentioned like Round valley at Jacinto, Little Jimmy and Chantry flats in the San Gabriels as well as the two campsites already mentioned for San Gorgonio are usually packed and I mean packed on the weekends. While the veiws from San bernadino peak doesnt hold a candle to San Gorgonio or jacinto, the camping area at Limber pines has incredible veiws with spectacular sunsets. All the lights from orange County light up directly below you as the sun sets. There is a year round stream there. Its not much, but it works.
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