In Griffith Park, Mount Lee has the Hollywood Sign. In the San Gabriel Mountains, Azusa Peak has the A. The big white uppercase A just below the summit is hard to miss from the city below. You can hike to the A and up to the top of Azusa Peak on a 2 2/3-mile out and back hike with 1,275 feet of elevation change. After the steep climb, you have the option to hike to a second peak, Glendora Peak, expanding the trek to 4 2/3 miles round trip with 1,800 feet of elevation change.
To get to Azusa Peak, you’ll hike up Garcia Trail to an junction with Glendora Ridge Motorway just west of the summit. Start up Garcia Trail alongside a fire station at the base of Azusa Peak. With 1,100 feet of elevation gain to tackle in 1.18 miles, Garcia Trail is steep from the start and the grade rarely lets up.
As Garcia Trail passes a holding tank on the left, a quarter mile from the start, get a good view up the mountain toward the A. The trail edges to the east, offering expanding views over Glendora and across the San Gabriel Valley toward the Santa Ana Mountains to the south. A few shade-providing oaks grace the sides of the trail, but you will be mostly exposed to the sun during your conquest of Azusa Peak.
At the 3/4-mile mark, Garcia Trail launches into a string of steady switchbacks that feel a little less steep than the trail below. At the top of these switches, Garcia Trail curves into a draw in the mountainside west of the summit where you will come even with the A. The large white letter lies on the ridge just to the west. Beyond the A is a view west toward downtown Los Angeles.
After 1.18 miles of climbing, Garcia Trail comes to an end at a junction with Glendora Ridge Motorway, a vehicle-free dirt road running along the ridge connecting Azusa Peak and Glendora Peak.
If you step to your left (west) on Glendora Ridge Motorway, you will spot the top of a very steep path going down to the A. Unless you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you’ll probably decide that you got a close enough view of the A from Garcia Trail. From the top of Garcia Trail, you also gain a new view west down the ridge into San Gabriel Canyon and northwest toward higher peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains.
To reach Azusa Peak, turn right at the top of Garcia Trail and head east up Glendora Ridge Motorway. After a few hundred feet, the road will split. Glendora Ridge Motorway continues to the left through a grove of oaks on the north side of the Azusa Peak, while another trail breaks off to the right toward the summit. Turn right and make the short hike to the top of Azusa Peak, 0.15 miles from the top of Garcia Trail.
At 2,081 feet, Azusa Peak offers quite a view. You can looks south over the full spread of the San Gabriel Valley. The skyline of downtown Los Angeles rises to the west, and if you look past the skyscrapers, you should be able to spot the form of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and a shimmering streak of the Pacific Ocean (along with the silhouette of Catalina Island on a clear day). The summit of Azusa Peak has a painted cross and a bench where you can relax and gaze. This is a popular hike, and when you get to the top, it’s obvious why!
After taking in the summit view, you may return the way you came, or continue along Glendora Ridge Motorway to Glendora Peak. While you are bound to be tired by the 1.33-mile, 1,275-foot climb, if you choose to continue to Glendora Peak, the hiking will get easier. Another reason to extend this hike is that you will be leaving most of the other hikers behind and find far greater solitude on the trail to Glendora Peak.
Follow the path down the east side of Azusa Peak, where it rejoins Glendora Ridge Motorway. Hike through oaks and across a saddle that bridges the two peaks. The road turns uphill and begins a steady climb along the north side of the ridgeline, which offers hikers new views into San Gabriel Canyon and across the canyon toward grander mountains to the north.
A third of a mile past the saddle, a single-track breaks off to the right that climbs to the top of Glendora Peak. You may take this path, or continue up the road, which is more gradual. After reaching the summit via the road, you can hike down the path and enjoy great views looking out from the mountain toward Azusa Peak.
Continuing up Glendora Ridge Motorway, you will wrap around to the east side of Glendora Peak to find a grand view of Mount Baldy and the surrounding peaks to the northeast. About 0.85 miles from the saddle, Glendora Ridge Motorway will cross a firebreak on the east side of Glendora Peak. You should turn right here to reach the summit.
Find the firebreak at a point where Glendora Ridge Motorway starts to bend away from Glendora Peak toward a new string of summits and saddles (eventually reaching Glendora Mountain Road). Leave Glendora Ridge Motorway and double back toward the summit up the firebreak. Only a few feet of elevation change and less than a tenth of a mile of hiking separate Glendora Ridge Motorway from the top of Glendora Peak, which has a pair of survey markers.
The 2,596-foot peak offers even bigger views than Azusa Peak. If you couldn’t make out the ocean and the Palos Verdes Peninsula from Azusa Peak, you have an even better chance from this higher vantage.
The path down the west side of Glendora Peak will quickly return you to Glendora Ridge Motorway, descending 375 feet in 0.35 miles. As you hike down the single-track, you’ll get great views into San Gabriel Canyon and down the ridge toward Azusa Peak.
Turn left at the bottom of the path (toward Azusa Peak) and return to the top of Garcia Trail via Glendora Ridge Motorway. The extension to Glendora Peak adds two miles to the hike to Azusa Peak, bringing the distance to 4 2/3 miles with 1,800 feet of elevation gain.
It is a lot easier (and a lot faster) to hike down Garcia Trail than it is to hike up! Dogs and mountain bikes are welcome (although the often-crowded Garcia Trail will be be tough on bikers). No fee or permit is required to hike to Azusa Peak and Glendora Peak, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in Azusa, take exit 40 north on Azusa Avenue (Route 39). Drive 1.8 miles north to a split in the road. San Gabriel Canyon (Route 39) heads to the left, but you should continue straight for another block on Azusa Ave and turn right on Sierra Madre Avenue. Drive 1.1 miles east to the trailhead, just past the second traffic circle. Roadside parking is availalbe. The trailhead for Garcia Trail is just west of an LA County Fire Station.
Trailhead address: Sierra Madre Avenue & Garcia Trail, Azusa, CA 91741
Trailhead coordinates: 34.146861, -117.890387 (34° 08′ 48.69″N 117° 53′ 25.39″W)
|Fish Canyon Falls |
This 4.8-mile round trip hike leaves from an active rock quarry and progresses up a beautiful canyon to a mesmerizing multi-tiered waterfall.
|Bridge to Nowhere |
This adventurous 10-mile round trip hike reaches an abandoned and out-of-place bridge with a unique history.
|Heaton Flats Trail |
This hike of 3.6 to 6 miles (or more) starts from the same trailhead as the hike to the Bridge to Nowhere and climbs toward Iron Mountain and panoramic views.
|Smith Mountain |
This 7-mile hike ascends 1,800 feet to a 5,111 foot summit with panoramic views over the San Gabriel Mountains.
|Mount Baldy Loop |
This 11.3-mile hike incorporates the Devil's Backbone and the Baldy Bowl - Ski Hut Trail into one see-all loop.
|More trails in the Los Angeles |
Explore other destinations in the Santa Monica Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, and elsewhere.