Masterpiece Trails: Back from the Burn

Get the story behind Mt. Islip Loop, Angeles National Forest, California—and how to see it yourself.

Back in the early ’90s, trail aficionados savored the carefully planned switchbacks and calf-pleasing grades of two new trails up 8,250-foot Mt. Islip, designed and constructed by the all-volunteer San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders. But in 2002 the 21,000-acre Curve Fire charred and closed these trails. Undaunted, the Trailbuilders spent nine years working to stabilize the paths and clear downed trees before the Crystal Lake area reopened to the public in 2011. See the regenerating burn area and some of Southern California’s best mountain views from the 8-mile loop along the Windy Gap, Islip Ridge, and Big Cienaga trails, starting at Crystal Lake Campground. Contact (626) 335-1251;