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The Ultimate Guide to Angeles National Forest
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The Ultimate Guide to Angeles National Forest

The ultimate guide to Angeles National Forest: history, hiking, biking, camping, and many more activities to enjoy.

Roubina Al Abashian

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5 min read

June 13, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products and businesses mentioned in this article.

Living in Los Angeles County comes with many perks, and living in close proximity to Angeles National Forest is one of the top ones. Angeles National Forest creates a magnificent backdrop to Southern California’s largest metropolitan area, the Greater Los Angeles area, and provides a relaxing break from the loud city life. At approximately 700,000 acres, the forest is considered one of the best — if not the best — national forests in all of the Golden State. With 53 trailheads, 66 campgrounds, 36 picnic areas, three ski areas, almost 250 bodies of water, and massive mountain peaks, it is fair to say that anglers have an envious playground in their backyards.

If you’re a first-time visitor, the national forest might be a bit confusing to figure out, but with every visit, you’ll uncover more of its secrets. Whether you’re a first-time visitor, or you feel like it's your home away from home at this point, it’s cool to know about the history of this natural beauty, along with some of the most fun things you can do in it.

Angeles National Forest is the first designated national forest in California.

A Brief History of Angeles National Forest

In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison created the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve in response to the public’s concern about watershed values. A few years later, in 1905, the reserves were handed over to the Department of Agriculture and renamed National Forest two years later. In 1908 its name was changed one last time and became Angeles National Forest, as we all know it now. Around the year 1926, the forest’s eastern area was divided, creating what we know today as San Bernardino National Forest.

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More About Angeles National Forest

Angeles National Forest is located in the San Gabriel Mountains and Sierra Pelona Mountains. The forest is largely situated within Los Angeles County, but bits of it extend eastward towards San Bernardino County, while other bits extend westward into Ventura County. If you check the Angeles National Forest map, you’ll notice that the land is diverse, both in terrain and appearance, with elevations ranging from 1,200 to 10,064 feet.  The majority of the forest is covered in chaparral, but as you approach the higher peak it changes to pine and fir-covered slopes. Angeles National Forest has five encompassed wilderness areas, including Magic Mountain Wilderness and San Gabriel Wilderness. Mount San Antonio, also known as Mt. Baldy, is the forest’s highest peak, which stands high at 10,064 feet. 

How to Spend a Splendid Day in Angeles National Forest

Your furry little friends can join you on the hiking trails of Angeles National Forest.

Hiking

With 53 trailheads and over 200 trails, Angeles National Forest is a playground for anyone who loves hiking. From easy to trek, family-friendly trails to extremely challenging ones for experienced hikers, the forest offers something fun for all of its visitors. The best part about hiking in Angeles National Forest is that your four-legged friend can accompany you on most trails — on a leash, of course.

If you’re looking for an easy and fun Angeles National Forest hike to enjoy with the family, try the 1.4-mile long San Antonio Falls Trail. The out and back hike shouldn’t take you more than 40-minutes to trek, and it will lead you straight to a beautiful waterfall and striking views of the region. But if you like a good challenge, go for the Mount San Antonio and Mount Baldy Notch Trail. The 11-mile, loop trail will take you well over six hours to finish, and will reward you with views that will blow your mind.

Kind reminder: All these trails require a national forest adventure pass, so go prepared.

Grab your bikes and burn a few hundred calories at the challenging Angeles National Forest trails.

Biking

Anglers, did you know that some of the best mountain biking trails in the state sit in your backyard? Angeles Forest offers a few awesome trails that prove to be challenging enough and yet extremely relaxing. With 73 miles of national recreation trails and 176 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, cyclists of different levels and interests can easily find the perfect trail for them here.

Breathtaking and unobstructed views of Southern California and the Mojave Desert await you near the end of Mount Baldy Via Devil’s Backbone Trail. The 14-mile trail is also popular among hikers, backpackers, and campers, so you’ll probably encounter many others enjoying the route. If you’re looking for an easier trail to ride, you should check the 8.3-mile Brown Mountain Dam Waterfall trail. Biking the highly-shaded trail makes for a great family outing.

There’s no better way to engrave the love of nature in your little ones than by taking them camping.

Camping

With over 66 campgrounds, Angeles National Forest offers some of the most stunning places to camp near Los Angeles. Campsites are first-come, first-served, and can welcome you for up to 14 consecutive days, and 30 days overall each year. While most campsites only accept up to eight campers and two vehicles, a few of them can accommodate groups of up to 300 people. With the bigger campground, you should reserve your spot ahead of time, as they get rented out regularly. It is important to remember that some of the campsites are situated on elevations that receive snow, and might be closed during the cold winter months. 

A perfect Angeles National Forest camping excursion starts with finding the right site for you. The Hoegees Trail Camp in the Los Angeles Gateway Ranger District is set on an elevation of 2,500 feet and has 14 campsites to choose from. To make it to this wonderful campground, start your 2.2-mile, Winter Creek Trail hike at the Chantry Flat Picnic Area, and walk upwards between the beautiful pine and oak trees. Another spectacular campground is that at the Crystal Lake Recreational Area, with over 50 campsites, many of which allow RVs of up to 22 feet. The campground is only a mile’s hike away from Crystal Lake, where many outdoor adventures await you.

Pyramid Lake not only is a Los Angeles hidden gem, but it also is a perfect spot for boating and jet skiing.

Boating

With many of the best lakes in Los Angeles and beyond located in the Angeles National Forest, you’d be right to assume that the forest offers some of the most breathtaking boating destinations in the Golden State. The forest’s Los Angeles Gateway District is home to the famous Pyramid Lake, as well as Elizabeth Lake. Motorized boating lovers can head to Pyramid Lake for an unforgettable experience, while those who prefer non-motorized boats can choose between both lakes. At Pyramid Lake, you can even ditch your boat and go for a jet-skiing or water-skiing cruise.

There’s no better way to enjoy the white slopes of Angeles National Forest than by skiing.

Skiing

Winters in Los Angeles hit differently when you’re visiting Angeles National Park. The snow not only creates marvelous, snow-covered landscapes to admire, but it also allows for an array of exciting and adventurous winter activities. Skiing, snow camping, hiking, and snowmobiling are a few of the activities you can enjoy at the forest’s commercial ski resorts. Mt. Baldy Resort, Mountain High Resort, and Mt. Waterman Ski Lifts are three of SoCal’s top skiing destinations, and they’re all located in our favorite national forest. Pack your favorite skiing apparel and head for an adventure like no other.

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