Every once in a while, we like to put our wrenches down and spend some time relaxing, enjoying time with family and friends, and maybe even going somewhere fun. This journal entry is about one of those "somewhere fun" places. This place is called Angeles Crest Highway, an old, tucked away access-road that cuts right through the middle of the amazing San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
The San Gabriel Mountains are a massive series of mountain ranges that span the northeast of Los Angeles, and they contain within them a forest wonderland that offers any recreational activity you could possibly want: hiking, fishing, biking, swimming, skiing, bungee jumping, observatory telescope viewing, and even coffee. But, there is one activity that ties all of those things together, and some might even consider it the best activity of all.
The 2 East, also known as Angeles Crest Highway, provides both driving thrills and access to noted destinations in the mountains. The mountain pass provides roughly 60 miles of windy, sweeping roads with incredible mountain vistas and breathtaking panoramic views of the LA basin. For the motoring enthusiast, this is where you come to exercise your car, pushing the accelerator and climbing the elevation all while passing ancient forests and volcanic remnants of the past.
The long road leads you to other lost destinations that are hidden within the mountains. About 15 miles in, a road branches off from the main highway. The road itself is an exhilarating driving course that will see the road surface narrow dramatically, and the twists in the road becoming much more abrupt. This is Mt. Wilson road, a 7 mile stretch shrouded under mammoth pine trees that will lead you to the storied Mt. Wilson Observatory, a once cutting edge scientific research facility that the likes of Albert Einstein have visited. Fun tip: you can reserve the observatory for viewings on their website. Keep going on the main highway though and you will quickly notice the air temperature changing. You are really climbing now and the landscape changes. Suddenly the density of trees rises, and they are greener and more lush. The mountains in the distance are bigger the deeper we push into the San Gabriels.
At this point you might be feeling hungry, or thirsty. About 30 miles into the mountains, you will find a tucked away cottage that is famous to motoring enthusiasts as the Sunday meet-up spot to park their vehicles and hang out under the trees. Newcomb's Ranch is the name. What formerly used to be an actual working ranch back in the frontier days of the wild west is now a restaurant that serves up breakfast and lunch for the intrepid mountain adventurer.
Beyond Newcomb's Ranch lies territory that few venture to. The elevation keeps going up and the scenery only becomes more beautiful. If you come in the winter, you might find yourself in a winter wonderland, a picturesque scene of snow covered pines and wildlife in the background. The mountain sports two separate ski areas that are open depending on weather conditions, but are just another notch in the belt of this amazing place. Animals that you could not have possibly imagined living an hour outside of Downtown Los Angeles call this place home. Bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and even bighorn mountain sheep (the LA Rams name totally fits). Do not be afraid, they are rarely seen and keep to themselves, but always be careful. Keep pushing and you will find yourself at the base of the tallest mountain in all of California, Mt. San Antonio, but colloquially known as Mt. Baldy.
Towards the end of the road, you will start coming back down to sea level and ask yourself if you just traveled through a time portal, a road that just took you to another time and place, and the answer to that is yes, yes you did. What was once a commonly visited mountain retreat is a now a semi-forgotten destination for only the most daring, but it should not be seen that way. Angeles Crest and the San Gabriel Mountains are still a destination not to be missed by both Los Angeles natives and visitors alike. Skip the celebrity sight-seeing tours and come here instead, you will be glad you did.