I recently visited Southern California in between COVID waves and wanted to get up into the San Gabriels before it got too hot. Regrettably, I never spent much time in the San Gabriels while I lived in Southern California other than climbing Mt San Antonio a few times. With just a half a day to spare, I decided upon a hike of San Gabriel Peak along with Mt Deception and Mt Disappointment. This interesting trio of summits sports fantastic views for minimal effort.
San Gabriel Peak Trailhead and Essential Information
San Gabriel Peak stands at 6,161' which is fairly low considering the mountain range. However, it looms over the suburbs of Pasadena and is taller than its more famous neighbor, Mt Wilson. San Gabriel Peak is one of the Star Emblem summits of the Hundred Peaks Section maintained by So Cal's Sierra Club. Even if you're not a peakbagger, it's a beautifully prominent summit with sweaping views of the entire range and much of the LA basin.
Nearby summits also on the Hundred Peaks Section are Mt Disappointment (5,960') and Mount Deception (5,796') which don't have the prominence or views of San Gabriel Peak but are worth tagging if you're in the area
Here's a map of my hike/route-
Parking Lot to San Gabriel Peak
The parking area for the San Gabriel Peak hike is near Red Box Gap, just a little ways up Mt Wilson road. Look for a turnoff on the left side of the road about 0.5 miles up Mt Wilson Road from the gap. Its a bit hidden but there's a gated access road and a parking area just before the gate. Park here and look for a well-established trail steeply headed into the woods. This is the Bill Reily Trail which ascends 1,000' in about a mile but cuts the distance of simply walking the road to the top. The trail abruptly terminates just below the helipad. Mark the spot carefully as its easily missed if you return via Bill Reily Trail.
Its another flat quarter mile to the helipad sandwiched between San Gabriel Peak and Mt Disappointment. A well beaten path departs from the helipad and switchbacks it's way another 0.4 miles and roughly 400' of gain to the summit. The top is clear and has extraordinary views of the Los Angeles Basin and much of the San Gabriel range. A very full register has names from the hundreds of people who climb this summit each season.
Mt Disappointment and Mt Deception
If the two sub-summits are not of interest, simply return the way you came. However, both Mt Disappointment and Mt Deception are easily tagged on a 1/2 day outing. Return down the San Gabriel Peak trail to the helipad and look for the paved road headed up to the radio towers. Follow this road for another quarter mile with 200' of gain to the summit of Mt Disappointment (5,960'). The peak has similarly expansive views to its higher neighbor but the summit is unfortunately littered with towers. I found no benchmark nor summit register
Back down to the helipad, I followed the access road about 3/4ths of a mile to a non descript bend in the road that was directly east of the summit. There's a herd path that leaves the road and gains the summit without too much bushwhacking. But if you weren't looking for the herd path, it would be easily missed.
The herd path ascends to the summit in about a third of a mile. Mt Deception has far more of a wilderness feel than the other two summits and has better views of the western San Gabriels. I searched for a benchmark and register but found none.
After tagging the summit, I returned down the herd path and basically followed the road down most of the way. I jumped back on to the Bill Reily Trail for the final section, figuring that walking pavement was a little too pedestrian for me. Total hiking time was less than 2 hours and 15 minutes, covering 6.2 miles with 1,700' of gain. I admit I cut some of the switchbacks on the access road to save time.
Deception, disappointment and San Gabriel Peak; almost sounds like a fantasy novel or video game, no? Hope I can make it back to the San Gabriels soon, maybe after fire season!