Strawberry Meadow is an enticing area tucked away on the north side of Strawberry Peak below a massive granite cliff face. Walk into Strawberry Meadow and you might easily feel like you are somewhere in Yosemite National Park, instead of hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles.
Find Strawberry Meadow next to a junction between Strawberry Peak Trail and Colby Canyon Trail, 4.35 miles up Strawberry Peak Trail and 5.5 miles up Colby Canyon Trail from trailheads along Angeles Crest Highway. Strawberry Meadow, also called Strawberry Potrero, can be reached on out and back hikes of 9 to 11 miles round trip with 800 to 1,600 feet of elevation change. With a short vehicle shuttle, hikers can visit Strawberry Meadow on a 9.85-mile through hike. Trails to the summits of Strawberry Peak and Josephine Peak can be added to make the hikes even longer.
The Strawberry Peak Trail route is both shorter and easier. Leaving Red Box Station, Strawberry Peak Trail ascends 600 feet and then turns downhill and crosses Lawlor Saddle to descend 800 feet to Strawberry Meadow. Starting from a lower elevation, Colby Canyon Trail gains 1,400 feet to Josephine Saddle and gradually picks up another 200 feet before giving up 625 feet to find Strawberry Meadow.
This write-up includes directions for both Colby Canyon Trail and Strawberry Peak Trail individually along with instructions for a through hike combining both trails.
Colby Canyon Trail to Strawberry Meadow
Colby Canyon Trail begins from an unsigned parking area along Angeles Crest Highway. The trail has reopened after Station Fire damage that occurred in 2009, but the start of the trail is not marked. Set out from a turnout on north side of Angeles Crest Highway, 10 miles up from La Cañada Flintridge (0.8 miles past Clear Creek Information Center) and just under 4 miles before Red Box Station.
Start from west side of the dirt parking area on a single track that heads down into canyon on left side a creek bed. Pass a thin 30-foot waterfall on the left that will be a dry chute unless it has rained recently. Proceed up the canyon, crossing the creek bed a few times. Water will be present after rainstorms. After less than a quarter mile, the trail turns up the right (east) side of the canyon, leaving the canyon floor. Upstream you can see an interesting area where the canyon is narrowed by walls of exposed bedrock.
Over the next tenth of a mile, the trail weaves its way up to a ledge above a confluence in the canyon. This spot is like an unofficial overlook, with nice views up Colby Canyon. You may be able to hear a cascade to your right that is just out of sight, where a small stream drops into the canyon. You’ll cross over the stream above this cascade on the trail ahead. To continue with the hike, bear right up a switchback.
Colby Canyon Trail ascends into a side canyon with a peaceful wooded gully. Continue up the trail and cross the bed of a creek just before it tumbles to your left down into the canyon. You have now hiked half a mile, with another 1.75 miles to go to Josephine Saddle.
Take the trail up along the side of a smaller side canyon. The trail makes its way out on to the spine of a ridge that separates the two forks of Colby Canyon. The larger, deeper part of Colby Canyon is to your left. Straight ahead, Strawberry Peak rises high. Does it look like a strawberry to you? (Picture it with the stem-side down.) Chaparral-covered ridges can be seen in all directions and you’ll approach views east up Daisy Canyon.
Come to the mountainside at the other end of this ridge where the trail turns left and cuts across a steep slope above Colby Canyon. The terrain drops away to the left to the bottom of the canyon, affording a large perspective. Hike down into a grove of fire-destroyed trees that stand as leafless reminders of the Station Fire. The trail comes back to the canyon floor, 0.9 miles from the start. Cross the creek bed here to take the trail up out of the opposite side of the canyon, heading north.
The trail ascends a chaparral-covered slope on the other side, leaving the canyon behind. The views south and east expand as you go up a ridge between a split in Colby Canyon. Proceed toward closer views of the steep southern face of Strawberry Peak. The trail drops off the west side of the ridge and crosses the back of a side canyon, 1.6 miles from the start. Resume up the other side, going through switchbacks up toward a saddle west of Strawberry Peak. As you climb, enjoy big views down Colby Canyon and across ridges toward San Gabriel Peak to the southeast.
After 2.25 miles, the trail reaches Josephine Saddle and a junction. A concrete holding tank stands just to the west. Next to that, on its right, is a trail that ventures west toward Josephine Peak, taking a level course around a rise on the ridge to another saddle below that mountain. If you’re not trying to bag Josephine Peak, which would add 3.2 miles to your hike, it could still be worth taking a short detour by walking a third of a mile west on this easy trail across the saddle to a great perspective southwest out of the mountains toward downtown Los Angeles.
Colby Canyon Trail continues on the other side of the saddle, bearing to the right to wrap around Strawberry Peak toward Strawberry Meadow (Strawberry Potrero). A few steps up this trail, a path breaks off to the right to climb the ridge up the west side of Strawberry Peak. This is a mountaineers route to the summit, with a couple sheer cliffs along the way.
Moving away from the saddle, Colby Canyon Trail levels out and stays quite gentle as it goes across a steep mountainside. The narrow trail curves around the top of a canyon carved by Lucas Creek, which descends to the north. Going around this big counter-clockwise curve, you’ll find views of Josephine Peak, rising to the west.
A third of a mile from Josephine Saddle, make your way around the far side of the bend and get views looking back toward the saddle. Go around a shorter carved-out curve in the terrain to a bend that puts the trail on a northbound path. This sets hikers up for grand views northwest over Big Tujunga Canyon. This broad canyon dominates the views going forward. The gentle trail gets a bit more rolling as it passes through uneven terrain in an area made up of boulders and pines.
Curve to the right past the top of a northbound ridge, 1.3 miles from Josephine Saddle. Big Tujunga Canyon is spread out below to the north and west. The trail aims east now, dipping into a forest of larger trees that offer a bit of shade. Drop across seasonal creek beds and wrap around neighboring ridges.
Half a mile from the previous ridge running north, the trail crosses another crest by a ridge that drops away to the northeast. You can step off the trail here to enjoy a short break with big views.
Moving on, you will discover a massive cliff of granite on the north side of Strawberry Peak. Colby Canyon Trail aims southeast toward the cliff, dropping through a heavily shaded grove. Cross through these trees and pass into thinner brush to approach the rock face, which must be about 400 feet tall. A switchback to the left takes you down to a flat area that is filled with grasses and tall pines. This looks like a nice place to have a picnic or make a backcountry campsite. Pass a large boulder with “trail” written on it with red paint. You are now 0.8 miles from a junction with Strawberry Peak Trail by Strawberry Meadow.
As you continue across the field, look up at the grand cliffs on the north side of Strawberry Peak. Standing in this setting you can easily imagine that you are somewhere in Yosemite National Park, and not so close to Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains. Go uphill from this flat and drop through a rocky gap to a lower flat area. Pass a few numbered posts as you walk out across an open field. This is Strawberry Meadow. Look back toward the cliffs, before coming to a junction with Strawberry Peak Trail that is marked by a trail register and a wooden sign with painted strawberries.
Turning right, you could hike 4.35 miles up Strawberry Peak Trail, crossing over Lawlor Saddle on the east side of Strawberry Peak to a trailhead by Red Box Picnic Area, 3.8 miles farther up Angeles Crest Highway from the Colby Canyon Trailhead. Hike 5.5 miles back on Colby Canyon Trail to return to the trailhead.
Strawberry Peak Trail to Strawberry Meadow
Coming from Los Angeles, the trailhead for Strawberry Peak Trail is easy to reach, 13.8 miles up Angeles Crest Highway from La Cañada Flintridge at an intersection with Mount Wilson Red Box Road (the road to Mount Wilson). Walk to the east end of Red Box Picnic Area and look down Valley Forge Canyon and other canyons framing the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Cross Angeles Crest Highway (waiting for a break in the traffic) and find a trail that begins on the other side of the road, on the east side of Red Box Gap next to mile marker 38.42. Only a wood post marks the start of Strawberry Peak Trail (perhaps a more formal sign will be added in the future). Begin hiking up the dirt single-track that ventures up the ridge above Angeles Crest Highway, passing through brush and pockets of trees. Power lines run along this initial part of the trail, but rest assured that the trail breaks free and becomes more remote. Look down over the roadway and east across rippling canyons.
After 0.9 miles, go through a sharp left switchback. The slopes of Mount Lawlor rise above you. Proceed up the trail into a wooded gully below a saddle, 1.15 miles from the start. Crossing the saddle, you will leave the eastern views over Valley Forge Canyon but can still look over your shoulder toward the observatory domes on Mount Wilson to the southeast.
The trail now heads west across the side of Mount Lawlor and ascends gradually across bumps and draws in the terrain. Going around the back of a large crease in the mountainside, two miles into the hike, with views looking south over Angeles Crest Highway toward Mount Disappointment and San Gabriel Peak, which rise to the west of Mount Wilson.
Continue up the trail and wrap around a bend when you’ll trade views of Mount Wilson for views of Strawberry Peak. The trail remains gradual as it passes through more bends, even as the terrain above and below the trail becomes quite steep. Strawberry Peak Trail gains 600 feet of elevation and actually turns downhill as you approach Lawlor Saddle, a notch between Mount Lawlor and Strawberry Peak, 2.5 miles from the start.
To the left, a path ascends to the summit of Strawberry Peak. On the other side of Lawlor Saddle, Strawberry Peak Trail heads north and goes gradually downhill across slopes on the east side of Strawberry Peak to a junction with Colby Canyon Trail next to Strawberry Meadow.
Start with views of Mount Lawlor to the east, rising above the top of Wickiup Canyon, which drops to the north toward Big Tujunga Canyon. Wrap around the side of the canyon and lose sight of Lawlor Saddle after 3/4 of a mile. Don’t be concerned about this lost vantage as you’ll get a lot more to look at, facing out toward Big Tujunga Canyon, which forms a deep east-west gap in the terrain to the north.
The trail continues around the northeast side of Strawberry Peak, coming down to a horseshoe bend to the left, 1 2/3 miles from Lawlor Saddle. Below the turn, the trail drops from a ridge and this spot has the feel of a scenic overlook with grand views down the ridge into Big Tujunga Canyon.
The trail now descends toward Strawberry Meadow, which you’ll see below the ridge to the east, looking a bit like a landscape transplanted from somewhere in the Sierra Nevada Mountains – a field below a massive cliff of granite on the north side of Strawberry Mountain.
Strawberry Peak Trail comes to a junction with Colby Canyon Trail after 4.35 miles. The junction is marked by a trail register and a nice wood sign with painted strawberries. On your right, a trail continues down to Colby Ranch. Bear left to walk into Strawberry Meadow, which lies just beyond a gap in the terrain.
Going up Colby Canyon Trail, you can walk a tenth of a mile across Strawberry Meadow, gazing up at the north face of Strawberry Peak. Leaving the meadow, Colby Canyon Trail heads up to the other flat area with the large boulder “trail” painted on it. Turn around at the boulder, 0.8 miles up from the Strawberry Meadow Junction, for a 10.3-mile out and back trek (unless your are doing the through hike described next).
Colby Canyon Trail & Strawberry Peak Trail
The trailheads for Colby Canyon Trail and Strawberry Peak Trail are less than four miles apart, allowing them to be combined as a through hike with a 3.8-mile shuttle. If you have two vehicles, this is a great way to visit Strawberry Meadow.
The through hike directions from Red Box Saddle are:
- Hike up Strawberry Peak Trail to Lawlor Saddle (2.5 miles)
- Cross the saddle and descend to a junction with Colby Canyon Trail (4.35 miles)
- Turn left and walk through Strawberry Meadow (4.45 miles)
- Continue up the trail to Josephine Saddle (7.6 miles)
- Cross the saddle and hike down Colby Canyon Trail to Angeles Crest Highway (9.85 miles)
The through hike directions from Colby Canyon are:
- Hike up Colby Canyon Trail to Josephine Saddle (2.25 miles)
- Cross the saddle and hike around Strawberry Peak down to Strawberry Meadow (5.4 miles)
- Turn left up Strawberry Peak Trail (5.5 miles)
- Cross Lawlor Saddle (7.35 miles)
- Hike down Strawberry Peak Trail to Angeles Crest Highway (9.85 miles)
A note for mountain bikers: The first part of Colby Canyon Trail from Angeles Crest Highway up to Josephine Saddle is not really suitable for bikes, but the rest of the trails are. Mountain bikers will prefer to start from Clear Creek Information Center (at the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and Angeles Forest Highway) and bike up unpaved Josephine Peak Road to a trail that goes across Josephine Saddle to Colby Canyon Trail. Ride from there to Strawberry Peak Trail and over Lawlor Saddle down to Red Box Station, where a 4.6-mile ride on Angeles Crest Highway (most of which is downhill) will take you back to the start.
Poodle-dog Brush Warning: Avoid the poodle-dog bush (Turricula parryi) that became abundant after the 2009 Station Fire, but is now easy to stay away from. Poodle-dog brush can irritate skin and cause itching, rashes, and blisters. Do not touch poodle dog-brush (or its purple trumpet-shaped flowers). After your hike, wash exposed areas with cold running water and wash any clothes that may have touched these plants. Symptoms may take 12 to 36 hours to appear and can be similar to poison oak. The poodle-dog brush should be avoidable, but wearing long pants is recommended.
To get to the Colby Canyon Trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge, take Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) northwest for 10 miles to a dirt turnout on the left (north) side of the road, 0.8 miles past Clear Creek Information Center. Colby Canyon Trail begins from the left (west) side of the turnout.
Trailhead address: Angeles Crest Highway, Angeles National Forest, Altadena, CA, 91001
Trailhead coordinates: 34.2696, -118.1407 (34° 16′ 10.55″N 118° 08′ 26.51″W)
To get to the Strawberry Peak Trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge, take Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) northwest for 13.8 miles (4.1 miles past the turnoff for Switzer Picnic Area) to an intersection with Mount Wilson Road Box Road. Turn right and pull into the parking area at Red Box Picnic Area, which is next to the intersection. From the picnic area, walk east and cross the road to the start of the trail next to mile marker 38.42.
Trailhead address: Angeles Crest Highway & Mount Wilson Red Box Road, Angeles National Forest, Altadena, CA 91001
Trailhead coordinates: 34.2581, -118.1049 (34° 15′ 29.15″N 118° 06′ 17.64″W)
|Colby Canyon Trail to Josephine Peak |
This 8.7-mile hike ascends an infrequently visited canyon off Angeles Crest Highway up to a saddle below Strawberry Peak and then takes a wide dirt road up to a summit in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains with 360-degree over Big Tujunga Canyon and cities to the south.
|Strawberry Peak |
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|San Gabriel Peak from Mount Lowe Road |
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|San Gabriel Peak from Mount Disappointment Fire Road |
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