Final ascent of Strawberry Peak. Photo by Jeremy Boggs.
Strawberry Peak, a 6,164 foot mountain in the Angeles National Forest is located along the California Highway 2, just 10 miles north of Pasadena. The peak features incredible views of both the western San Gabriel mountain range as well (on a clear day) the entire southern California coast. It was named by some highly creative mountaineers who felt that the peak had "striking" visual similarities to that of an actual strawberry (go figure). It is more commonly known for its class 3 approach via the mountains western ridge; a caliber of terrain that is more often found on extremely difficult day hikes such as the San Antonio Ridge Traverse, or the approach to Triplet Rocks. On January 6th 2018, twenty-seven avid hikers met at the Colby Canyon trail head to make for the peak.
There are a handful of cross country hikes here in the Southern California Wilderness that push the limits of the word "adventure" for several reasons. They are extremely remote locations that most people will never have the pleasure of seeing. A consequence of their isolated location is that rescue is highly unlikely in the case of an emergency.
That being said, it is the responsibility of the few that are capable of reaching these locations to practice safety when traveling to these places.
- Double and triple check your supplies (especially water).
- Check weather conditions the morning of your hike before you lose cell service.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Understand the importance of creating an outdoor itinerary.
- Create a plan in the event of your disappearance.
- Use the Leave No Trace principles.
TRVRS Outdoors is all for encouraging new and exciting adventures, but part of the adventure is doing adequate research ahead of time to assure a safe and fun trip which is why we've decided to document these back country hikes. Stay safe!
South Colby Canyon Trail Head (3,500 ft)
Group descending the lowest point of Colby Canyon trail.The start time was set for 6:00 AM and to my surprise, I woke up on time and ready to party. I stopped at the La Canada Flintridge Ralph's for a lunch and some snacks before heading north on the Angeles Crest Highway (California Highway 2). The South Colby trail head is a large dirt turnout on the left just passed the Switzer Picnic Area parking lot. As I arrived, I discovered four other cars.. I knew it was going to be a good group.
1.75 miles | +1700 FT | -200 FT
Approaching the water tower (center left) at Josephine/Strawberry Saddle.
Overlooking the group from the water tower with Strawberry Peak in the back.
8:00 AM - We approached the big cement water tower located near the saddle and the goal became clear. Strawberry Peak's eastern ridge and the final class 3 climb were now all we had left. The front of the pack took a break at the saddle to allow everyone to catch up as planned, and for good reason. Three additional hikers had arrived late and made it to the saddle in time for another briefing on the trail conditions to follow. From the saddle, we would leave the trail almost immediately and head north east along the ridge (the path to the right of the main trail) for less than a quarter mile before our first rock scramble.
Obstacles along the Ridge!
The route becomes obscure as bulging granite and sand interweave the trail, creating veins along the ridge and it can be very easy to turn a short 15 foot scramble into a class 4 exposed climb. The trick here is to stay to the left as you approach the rocky terrain. The entire group managed this part no problem and we continued north for 600 feet before I saw it; my nemisis. A small poodle dog bush lay dormant along the right of the path. I stayed behind as several hikers passed to warn more of the group.For those unaware, Poodle Dog Bush (Eriodictyon Parryi) is a shrub unique to Southern California that thrives in areas that have recently been disturbed by fires or landslides. The plant can grow to be as tall as six feet and features hairy leaves as well as bright purple flowers in the summer months. For all its beauty and benefits of rehabilitation to the land, touching it can cause major skin irritation and blistering that can last up to several weeks. It is a nuisance! I warned enough people and we cautiously moved past it.
The Mountaineers Route to Strawberry Peak
After climbing 2,500 feet in a total of 2.7 miles, we had made it to the base of the infamous class 3 section; a 500 foot scramble made up of solid granite with almost no exposure. I looked up toward the route and some of the front runners navigated the ascent.
We arrived to the peak at approximately 8:30 AM (an extremely fast time for a group of 27). The mountain welcomed our arrival with beautiful clear skies and endless views of Southern California's coast to the south and Big Tujunga to the north. I quickly reached into my pack and pulled out my summit beer first just in case the early morning completion scared anyone into actually having a beer. After all, we are a group of beer enthusiasts who like to get outdoors and I came to party. Cheers!
Our entire group of 27 with Jeremy Boggs behind the camera.
Total Elevation Gain: 2,700 ft +
Completion Time: 5 hours (group of 27 including 45 minute break at the peak)
- Easy class 1 trail up to Josephine saddle
- Use trail along the ridge with potential exposed class 3-4 rock climbs if not careful of finding the route.
- Poodle dog bush (poisonous plant) along the trail for the majority of the last mile.