Whenever I'm in Southern California I try and bag a few summits on the Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section. Regrettably, I didn't do nearly as much peakbagging when I actually lived here. But whether it be business or pleasure, I'm in So Cal at least a few times per year. Over a long enough time frame, I'm sure I'll make headway on this 280-peak list. Strawberry Peak is a prominent and conspicuous summit of the San Gabriel Mountains. It's quite popular with causal hikers as well as hardcore peakbaggers. Wanting a little more solitude, a friend and I elected for a longer loop hike including nearby Mt Lawlor and Barley Flats. It was an invigorating day.
From what I can tell, this is the most efficient way to bag all three summits in a day hike. Strawberry Peak is 6,164' and the main attraction. Mt Lawlor is 5,957' and a subpeak with a nice brushy use path to the top. Barley Flats is 5,600' with minimal prominence and seems relevant only to peakbaggers. Trails up Strawberry Peak are well beaten and obvious. Mt Lawlor's use trail is obvious if you're looking for it but otherwise unmarked. The route from Mt Lawlor to Barley Flats follows a rough firebreak. The descent from Barley Flats to Red Box involves some trails and some treacherous navigation on a long-abandoned and overgrown road. Altogether the hike is fantastic for the peakbagger but challenging for those less well-versed in pathfinding. Note there is zero cell phone reception here.
Total distance was about 11 miles with about 2,500' of gain/loss.
Here's my map-
There were very heavy rains across Southern California in the days prior to this hike. We were prepared to be turned back by thick mud but found the trails and routes remarkably dry and accessible in spite of the rain. From Red Box, we hiked the standard "Strawberry Peak Trail" across Highway 2. The first 2.4 miles were a pleasant ascent to the saddle between Strawberry Peak and Mt Lawlor. There's an unmarked trail veering to the left (northeast) that we initially missed; we took the trail headed down to Alder Creek/Big Tujunga Canyon for about 300 yards before realizing the mistake.
Back on track, we ascended a very steep 1.2 miles from the saddle to the summit (~900' of gain). The summit was gorgeous but crowded. We descended back to the saddle for some less trampled summits.
From the saddle, it wasn't hard to find the use path going up Mt Lawlor. This ascent was even steeper than Strawberry Peak and more slippery. I'm glad we had a different route down- it's not technical, just tedious. It took about 45 minutes to hike the 1/2 mile from saddle to summit of Mt Lawlor, gaining about 750'. Mt Lawlor had fantastic views of Mt Baldy and much of the San Gabriels.
Barley Flats hadn't initially been on our agenda but we had made excellent time up the first two summits. We accurately guessed the route between Mt Lawlor and Barley Flats would be bushwhack-y and muddy but decided to go for it.
It was about 2 miles of mostly open country bushwhacking between Mt Lawlor and Barley Flats. I think we followed the edge of the most recent fire. While it wasn't difficult nor unpleasant, it was slow going. Plenty of sharp yuccas made the trip more arduous. Though the altitude gain was minimal, there were lots of up-and-downs as well. Eventually we joined a dirt service road and finally bagged our final summit.
Interestingly, the catwalk of water tower on Barley Flats was unlocked. We ascended the structure for some more scenic views.
Descending from Barley Flats back to Red Box Pass was entirely onerous. Following the road heading south from the summit, the road eventually deteriorated to a very overgrown herd path full of loose rock and sharp yuccas. The route itself was clear but very thick and full of deadfall. That went on for about 2 miles until we rejoined the original Strawberry Peak trail. From there, it was another mile back to the trailhead.
Altogether Mt Lawlor and Strawberry peak were fantastic hikes. Barley Flats was more work than adventure but worth doing once. We finished in about 5 hours and I had time to bag a few more easy summits before the sun set.