Angeles Forest/Angeles Crest Highway in the San Gabriel Mountains

Angeles Forest Highway is a 25 mile connection between Palmdale, Ca and Angeles Crest Highway, within the National Forest boundary. Standing on Angeles Crest Highway and facing east, Palmdale it is a rolling 25 miles north. Straight ahead about 25 miles Angeles Crest accesses ski resorts and N/S bound highway 15 within the Cajon Pass. Left at highway 15 is interstate 40 and Las Vagas. Right, downhill, is Riverside and interstate 10 east or west to the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Angeles Forest Highway is gated, has vehicle size restrictions and crosses over the 4910' Mill Creek Summit south of Palmdale. Mill Creek summit maintenance station is dedicated to keeping the busy Angeles Forest Highway open.

For most of the twelve years that I lived in the Palmdale area, I traveled Angeles Forest/Angeles Crest Highway to work nearly every day. Closures due to snow and debris slides occur every winter. During the fall and winter, where the road is located on the shaded north side of mountains, black ice is very common. During the 11pm return trip home, I have encountered mountain lion, black bear, deer, snakes, owl and movie crews on the road. During the summer months large groups of endurance bicyclists and motorcyclist travel this route. During the winter hundreds of people drive to the summit to play and get stuck in the snow. During meteor events hundreds of people drive to the summit and star gaze. Virtually every year people are injured and/or killed along this highway system in the San Gabriel Mountains.

If you can tolerate frequent heavy traffic delays or, being stopped or nearly stopped on a perfectly good freeway, you can connect from Palmdale using the popular I-14 to I-5 freeway route.

Angeles National Forest/Angeles Crest Highway
  • entLa Canada/Flintridge, Ca
  • 2anfThe cycle starts over.
  • 2anfIn three years most plants are 8-10 feet tall.
  • 2anf10" at the base, this is going to be a very large Yucca.
  • topAC Hwy, 60 miles in length, turns east.
  • 1anfVista and rest area.
  • topaAngeles Crest Hwy is seen at the picture bottom.
  • upclrAngeles Crest and Angeles Forest Hwys intersect 2 miles east.
  • topalmLeft to Tujunga Canyon, Tujunga Dam and Palmdale, Ca.
  • damaThe dam, AF Hwy 1140' above Tujunga Canyon bottom.
  • btdIntersects AF Hwy to provide access to the canyon bottom and much more.
  • dambThe first level of flood control. Dam Elevation 2200'.
  • damSummer conditions.
  • damcElectricity is generated during the winter.
  • lobrgThe road follows the canyon south into the San Fernando Valley.
  • priusNorth sides of the mountains have black ice during the winter.
  • brgI turn the camera to the bridge.
  • beforeFrom a vista before the fire.
  • afterFrom the vista, most of the old timber was burned off.
  • brgcAF Hwy climbs the west side of Mill Creek Canyon.
  • brgbThe bridge vista.
  • brgaAt 2870', AF Hwy begins the climb to Mill Creek Summit, 4920'.
  • brgdLeft and down 200' is this popular swimming hole.
  • tunJust above the bridge, drilled through solid rock.
  • tunaThe upper end has a picnic area.
  • foodJust above the tunnel.
  • foodaLocated on 16 acres of private property.
  • millcaClimbing to Mill Creek Summit.
  • millcVista, picnic and road maintenance facility, 4920'.
  • millcbThe metal building was saved.
  • millccBegins it's 1000' drop into Palmdale, Ca.
  • nentOnly California would call this a forest.
  • palmResidential property in south Palmdale, Ca.

I moved from the Palmdale area in 2008 and have not been over this route for a few years. In 2009 the Station Fire, followed by a wet winter, had this route closed for almost a year. In Aug, 2011 I returned to see what the Station Fire had done and how well the area is recovering. I entered the forest from the south, at La Canada/ Flintridge, and found that Angeles Crest Highway, from La Canada to the Clear Creek Summit, had been extensively rebuilt. The slide show starts at La Canada where Angeles Crest Highway climbs north to Clear Creek Summit, then east along the ridge. If you arrive at Clear Creek Summit after a heavy rain has cleared the air, a beautiful picture of LA with the Pacific Ocean behind can be yours. About 2 miles east, Angeles Crest Highway intersects Angeles Forest Highway to begin the 25 mile northbound trek towards Palmdale California in the high desert. Straight ahead Angeles Crest Highway, 66 miles in total length, continues east towards the ski resorts, Cajon Pass, and Victorville on State Route 15.

As Angeles Forest highway leaves the Clear Creek drainage it begins to follow the Tujunga Canyon northeast. Shortly after you enter Tujunga Canyon, Big Tujunga Dam Road has climbed and intersects Angeles Forest Highway on your left. Big Tujunga Dam Road provides access to the bottom of Tujunga Canyon. In 1931 Los Angeles County finished the construction of Big Tujunga Dam. Big Tujunga Canyon Road follows the canyon into the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles. You cannot see the dam from Angeles Forest Highway unless you stop in the right place, exit your vehicle and look damn near straight down. Just below the dam is lower Tujunga Canyon Bridge. Water from Tujunga Canyon is the principal reason the Hanson Dam and reservoir was finished, 1940, in the San Fernando Valley, Sunland, Ca. Reservoir overflow is delivered to a typical Los Angeles concrete river that is pointed at the Pacific Ocean. For a better reference the principle cities are Flintridge (map bottom), Sunland (SW map bottom) and Palmdale (map top), shown here.

A mile or so north, is the Upper Tujunga Narrows Bridge. It spans upper Tujunga Canyon and connects Angeles Forest Highway to the Mill Creek drainage and the 4910 foot summit and the southern end of California's high desert. In the heat of summer this is a very popular swimming and picnic area. As I was approaching this bridge one moonlit night, a mountain lion leaped from the rocks above and stood on the roadside glaring at me. Not sure what was going to happen, I slowed, barely moving, and turned my head lights off. As I rolled by we made eye contact through the passenger side window: This animal was not afraid of me.

I searched for two pictures that would clearly show the damage caused by the Station Fire. This steep north facing slope was covered with timber and brush before the Station fire. On the far side, where this ridge intersects the road, is where a mountain lion and I shared eye contact one night. This picture captures the stark results of this tragic event. The area behind the maintenance depot had been planted with trees. There was about five acres of evenly spaced, twenty foot, trees before the fire. I wish I had taken that picture!

About five hundred feet north of the Big Tujunga Narrows Bridge is Singing Springs Tunnel. Once through the tunnel, Mill Creek drainage forms and the topography becomes friendly . Here is where I have seen most of the wild life. Black bear and deer feed on blue berry, grass, brush, and owls sit in the trees feeding on mice and snake that enter the roadway. At the lower end of the Mill Creek drainage is 16.5 privately held acres and the very popular Hidden Springs Cafe. The Cafe had taken a big hit.

Mill Creek drainage is a welcome site as it gently climbs to the 4910' summit. The summit is the site of the Angeles Forest Highways maintenance station. When it snows, this is where the worst of it will be. They do a good job keeping snow, ice and obstructions off the road. I do not have a 'before the fire picture' but this area was green with old and young timber. Behind the maintenance facility there was about 10 acres where planted young timber, 15 - 25 feet tall, was spaced and thinned. They saved the metal maintenance building.

To finish the Angeles Forest Angeles Crest Highway trip we drop 1000' feet from the summit into Palmdale, Ca.

Pres' house.gif Page