american west, california, Hiking, outdoors, Travel, Uncategorized, writing

Jones Peak via Bailey Canyon

The heart of stones at the peak. Sadly, the wooden sign was gone.

This morning, a Saturday with weather typical of Southern California’s ‘May gray,’ proved to be the perfect time to attempt a new peak. At 3375 feet in elevation, Jones Peak is not the highest mountain in the San Gabriels, but it is a prominent peak in the front range. And with an elevation gain of 2358 ft from trailhead to peak in just over three miles, it offers up a good workout in addition to lovely views of the valley below and the mountains behind it.

The Bailey Canyon Trail to Jones Peak starts at Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park in the city of Sierra Madre, California. My original plan was to hike the lollipop route starting from the Mt. Wilson Trail and looping to Jones Peak and back, however I had forgotten about the signs advertising the Mt. Wilson Trail run on my last hike up the Mt. Wilson Trail just a couple weeks ago and when I was in Sierra Madre last week for an after-hike Mexican food dinner. So after a short conversation with the volunteer policeman monitoring pedestrian traffic on Mountain Trail Road, rather than give up my Saturday plans entirely, I decided to amend my original plan and head to Bailey Canyon Park to complete my hike. After all, I was in great need of some quality ‘me time’ after a week of late days working and homework help, and there’s no better way to reset than being out in nature.

While that route would add about three-quarters of a mile to my total distance, I was glad that I did it. I had not been to Bailey Canyon before, and I thought that the wilderness park was really pretty. In addition to the connector to Bailey Canyon, the wilderness park has two easy nature trails that are perfect for kids. That will be a trek for another day; maybe tomorrow I’ll take Owen and Sami for some easy hiking and a Starbucks. After a quick pit stop, I hit the trail, following the sign for Jones Peak. The trail took me through the picnic areas of the park and through a gate with a turnstile. I went through and continued up the paved road past the debris basin which was filled with late spring wildflowers.

A very pretty dam

Past the paved portion of the trail was the start of the Canyon View Nature Trail. I quickly came to a fork in the trail with a sign and a bridge. Going to the right will take you on the Live Oak Nature Trail. I hiked straight and onto the Bailey Canyon Trail.

From here the trail begins a quick ascent, going about 1000 feet in under two miles. I was thankful for the day’s cloud cover; I stayed relatively cool even with the exertion. It is wildflower season, and a rich variety of chaparral and riparian plants were in full bloom, making for a more enjoyable climb. At about the 2.25 mile mark, I found the path to the stone remains of an old cabin. I continued up the trail, promising myself that I would take a snack break there on the way back down. Just past this point, the trail flattened out like mercy, and it was a pleasant walk.

Enjoying the trail

That was not to last however. As I approached 2.75 miles according to my Strava, the trail began to ascend quickly, going about another 1000 feet more in under a mile. At mile 3, I was pretty out of breath and asking myself why I wanted to hike this peak so badly. But this is where I got my third wind, and soon enough I was at Jones Peak Saddle.

From the saddle, which connects Jones Peak to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road along with the connector trail to the Mt. Wilson Trail (the trek I had originally planned on this morning), it is a 0.1 mile scramble to the peak. It was a scramble indeed, but it was not too difficult and fairly easily navigable.

The clouds that kept me and fellow hikers on the trail nice and cool were a hindrance to the panoramic views of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley below. On a clear day, hikers can enjoy views for miles. Unfortunately visibility wasn’t great on this morning; the fog was thick and there was even a light drizzle. The other bummer was that the wooden sign prop with a heart featured in many an Instagram post was no where to be found. A few hikers and I tried to search for it, unsuccessfully. Still it was a fantastic hike up, made even better by running into some old friends on the trail and having the opportunity to converse with some really nice folks at the peak. Also, the wildflowers up here were just gorgeous.

After hanging out for a bit and taking more photos, it was time to head back. As a consolation to not being able to find the Instagram sign, I did see the outline of a heart done in stones at the peak. With the wildflowers in bloom surrounding it, it did look romantic indeed.

As challenging as the ascent was, the hike down took more concentration for me. This is where trekking poles would have come in handy, especially for the rockier parts of the trail. I took my time, and allowed for more intrepid hikers to pass me as I made my way back to the saddle. From there, it was a pretty quick descent back to the ruins of the old cabin, where I did stop for a brief rest and a snack.

The 6.6 mile or so trail out-and-back took me about 3 hours to complete, not including my stops. I arrived back at the trailhead just before lunchtime. The trek up to Jones Peak was a pleasant way to reset my brain while getting some pretty intense exercise. I truly enjoyed working out and relaxing in nature with the spring wildflowers on a laid-back Saturday morning.

Some things to consider:

There is parking at Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park, however spots tend to fill up quickly on weekend mornings. There is ample street parking. Just be sure not to park where there are no parking signs and be courteous of the residents in the neighborhood.

This hike is rated as challenging and for good reason. The elevation gain is over 2000 feet in less than three miles. There are points where the trail becomes narrow and rocky. I saw families with younger children stopping at the cabin ruins. While the trail is moderately difficult up until that point, the ruins is a nice stopping point for smaller kids or those working up to a harder hike.

Bailey Canyon is beautifully shaded, especially in the months that are not summer. That said, there are some exposed areas, especially heading up to the peak. Sun protection is essential, as is plenty of water.

I would definitely bring trekking poles on this hike. I was able to manage coming off the peak without them, but it would have been much easier coming down with poles.

Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park is a fun adventure in itself. The park is one of the oldest of its kind in So Cal, and features two nature trails, fire pits, and picnic benches at the base of the foothills in Sierra Madre. There is also a flush toilet with running water- always a plus before starting a challenging hike.

The hike to Jones Peak was a beautiful trek. And with the trails at Jones Saddle, there is an opportunity to choose your adventure. Just pick a happy trail or two, and go!

Chris the Puppy relaxes on one of the viewing benches on the way up to the peak.

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