8 Special Places to Visit in the San Gabriel Mountains

The snow-capped peaks of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument rise above the skyline of downtown Los Angeles
The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument offers sweeping mountain vistas just outside of Los Angeles.

Carl Larson Photography / Getty Images

In October 2014, after more than a decade of advocacy from various area residents, lawmakers, and environmental organizations, President Barack Obama designated nearly 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument. Stretching up against the length of the Los Angeles metropolitan area from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino County, this special place is often considered the recreational "backyard" of Los Angeles. The national monument designation allows for enhanced protection of this gorgeous natural area for generations to come.

From the Devil’s Punchbowl to Strawberry Peak, here are eight special places worth a visit in the San Gabriel Mountain National Monument.

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Mount San Antonio

A hiker poses in front of the snow-capped summit of Mount San Antonio.

Taylor Reilly / Getty Images

Commonly known to locals as Mount Baldy, the 10,068-foot Mount San Antonio is the highest point in Los Angeles County. The lower section of the mountain contains sparsely spread clusters of tree species within the yellow pine forest community—white fir, sugar pine, lodgepole pine, and western yellow pine. Upper portions of Mount San Antonio, beneath the treeless alpine zone, consist strictly of lodgepole pine forest. The nearly 10-mile-long Mount Baldy Notch Trail is one of the most popular trails on the mountain, although the challenging route contains some steep sections on loose gravel and is only recommended for experienced hikers.

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Ontario Peak

The snow-capped peak of Ontario Peak on a partly cloudy day

Richard Par / Getty Images

Named after a nearby city, Ontario Peak is one of many high peaks located within the Cucamonga Wilderness section of the San Gabriel Mountains. The 8,696-foot-tall summit is renowned among outdoor enthusiasts for the challenging hiking trail that leads up to it. Ontario Peak Trail takes hikers along a 12.1-mile roundtrip route that features plenty of gorgeous mountain vistas. The trail is often quite busy, so it is recommended that hikers arrive early for their ascent.

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Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area

Looking down into the canyon with the limestone formations of Devil's Punchbowl

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a scenic geological formation situated along the northern slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains. The Punchbowl is characterized by a 300-foot-deep canyon known as a plunging syncline (a compressed v-shaped fold within the earth’s sedimentary rock). The sandstone-covered area contained an education center for visitors until it burned down in the September 2020 Bobcat Fire. The one-mile-long Devil’s Punchbowl Loop Trail is a family-friendly hiking route that provides incredible views of the famous canyon and surrounding mountain peaks.

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Waterman Mountain

The shrub-covered Waterman Mountain during the summer

Ken Lund / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Situated along the northern border of the San Gabriel Wilderness is the 8,041-foot-tall tree-covered Waterman Mountain. The popular recreation spot is often blanketed in snow from winter to early spring and contains several small ski areas, including Mount Waterman and Buckhorn Ski Club. In warmer months, Waterman Mountain hosts hikers along the moderately challenging six-mile Mount Waterman Loop Trail. The climate supports a population of bighorn sheep that can often be seen grazing on grassy slopes. Go in the spring, after the snow melts, to see those slopes covered in wildflowers.

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Bridge to Nowhere

The arched Bridge to Nowhere crossing a dry creek bed among rocky slopes

A Syn / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Built in 1936, the pedestrian arch bridge known as the Bridge to Nowhere was originally part of a grand plan to connect the nearby city of Wrightwood (north of the mountains) to the San Gabriel Valley (south of the mountains). After the Los Angeles of 1938 washed away the connecting East Fork Road, which was still under construction at the time, the project was abandoned. Today, the Bridge to Nowhere remains isolated deep in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, though it is often visited by intrepid hikers.

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Jackson Lake

The water of Jackson Lake reflects autumnal trees and shrubs on a clear day

Rennett Stowe / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Jackson Lake is a small, tree-lined body of water located within a canyon east of Wrightwood. Fed by snowmelt from nearby mountains, the lake sits above the San Andreas fault and is known as a great spot for fishing where rainbow trout, bluegill, and largemouth bass are commonly caught. Jackson Lake is also well known for the many scenic campgrounds and picnic spots that dot the area.

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Strawberry Peak

A silhouetted tree in front of Strawberry Peak at sunset

Santiago Urquijo / Getty Images

At 6,164 feet tall, Strawberry Peak is widely visible from the greater Los Angeles area. The towering summit was named for its shape; some say the peak resembles an upside-down strawberry. Experienced hikers know Strawberry Peak for the difficult and very popular 7.2-mile Strawberry Peak Trail, which leads to the summit and offers unbeatable views of downtown L.A. However, hikers must be extra cautious about where they plant their feet because rattlesnakes are a frequent sight in the area.

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Mountain High

Skiers take to the evergreen-lined slopes of Mountain High

Mike Gonzalez / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Mountain High is a popular ski resort near Wrightwood that consists of three different areas—West Resort, East Resort, and North Resort. The 7,000 to 8,000-foot-high West Resort is most popular among visitors largely due to its high elevation and subsequent heavy snowfall. The East Resort contains predominately long ski runs, and the North Resort features slopes perfect for beginner and moderate-level skiers. Mountain High is also home to the Sky High Disc Golf Course, which takes visitors along a two-and-a-half-mile nature trail through scenic forest terrain.