huge elevation change
awesome views of neighboring peaks
→ Summit solitude is a rarity near Los Angeles—thanks to its 4 million residents, you’ll see a dozen other hikers atop most San Gabriel peaks—but you have a good chance of claiming 8,007-foot Iron Mountain to yourself. Its summit stands shoulder-to-shoulder with giants such as 10,064-foot Mt. Baldy and 9,399-foot Baden-Powell, so its views trump nearly every other panorama in the range.
But hikers are few, thanks to 7,200 feet of elevation gain over 7.5 miles (14,259-foot Longs Peak in Colorado climbs just 5,000 vertical feet in the same distance). “Iron’s route is steep the whole way, but the final 2 miles seem near-vertical,” says L.A. local Jeremy Boggs, an avid hiker who calls Iron Mountain his “badge of honor.” You’ll pass no water sources along the way, so most hikers tote at least 5 liters. But tagging the summit is “uniquely satisfying,” Boggs says. “Even though it’s right next to millions of people, it still feels remote.”
DO IT Buy an Adventure Pass ($5/day, $30/year) at area gear shops or Forest Service offices; at the trailhead, self-register for a free wilderness permit. Hike in spring (March to May) or fall (October to early December) when afternoon temps typically stay below 90°F. Wear long pants and sleeves to guard against needle-sharp yucca, and bring a headlamp (many hikers finish after sunset). Trekking poles are a must, especially for the descent. Starting from the Sheep Mountain Wilderness trailhead no later than 5 a.m., follow the Heaton Flat Trail for 3.5 miles to Allison Saddle (4,582 feet). Cache some water here for your return, then hike north, following an unmaintained user trail along Iron Mountain’s roller-coaster ridgeline. The final mile gains a quad-quivering 2,000 vertical feet before reaching the flat summit. Recharge here, savor the San Gabriels’ best scenery, and retrace your steps to the trailhead. Info fs.usda.gov/angeles
Hardest hike you’ve ever enjoyed?
I’ve never felt like a hike was hard—only rewarding. David West, Mesquite, NV AT thru-hike. 90% Heaven, 10% Hell on earth. - Ryan W. Flynn, SLC, UT