Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
California fuchsia. Photo by Ann Berkley.
Monkey flower. Photo by Ann Berkley.
Mule's ears. Photo by Margaret Williams, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.
Bear Creek Trail
Forest: Angeles National Forest
District: San Gabriel River Ranger District
Description: Bear Creek Trail is located in San Gabriel Canyon. The trailhead is above the West Fork of the San Gabriel River across from the Valley of the Moon Plantation. In total, the trail is 11 miles. It can be a one way thru trail (requiring a car shuttle) or taken in sections and hiked as a return trip. Camping, fishing, hiking and backpacking are all popular recreational activities here.
Viewing Information: You can walk as little or as long as you like on your venture into the scenic Bear Canyon. The trail starts at the parking area and immediately traverses across slopes of coastal sage scrub and mixed chaparral. The trail leads into the San Gabriel Wilderness and then down Bear Canyon to the West fork of the San Gabriel River. More adventurous hikers can stay in Bear Creek Trail camp. The trail wanders through coastal sage scrub, mixed chaparral, big cone Douglas fir and alder riparian vegetation communities. The section of trail from Smith Saddle to the West Fork of the San Gabriel River is difficult and only recommended for the most experienced hiker. This part of the trail has ongoing reconstruction and can be difficult to follow.
The beginning section of the trail has the most rewards. In wet years, wildflowers will bloom along the trail edges and shrub species through the area will flower abundantly. In dry years, the wildflower bloom will be unpredictable but the shrubs will flower. The middle of April to the middle of June is the best time of year to view flowers. At the trailhead, you'll immediately find what you're looking for, as the sagebrush covered slopes offer beautiful displays of paintbrush, mule's ears, lupines, penstemons, and more. A short walk across Highway 39 and into the Valley of the Moon plantation will reveal additional wildflower areas. California fuchsias, monkey flowers and chias are just a few of the treasures you may encounter along the way.
Safety First: Always be prepared for rapid changes in the weather. In the summer months, days are typically hot and sunny so carry plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. There is no cover on the first few miles of the trail.
Highway 39 is a curvy, mountainous road with periodic traffic. Drive slowly, and use extra caution on blind curves.
Directions: From the 210 Freeway, take Azusa Ave and travel north towards the mountains. Azusa Ave turns into Highway 39 and into the Angeles National Forest. The trailhead parking is across from the Valley of the Moon Plantation.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel River Ranger District.
Closest Town: Azusa, California (approximately 11 miles south).