HIKE TO: Strawberry Peak TRAIL: Mountaineer's Route from Colby Canyon MILES: 6.46 miles out and back TIME: 2:47 hrs up, 2:17 hrs down DATE I WENT: 12/20/20 DIFFICULTY: moderate ELEVATION: 6165ft ELEVATION GAIN: 2684 ft PARKING PERMIT: yes LOCATION: Angeles National Forest
Strawberry Peak’s Mountaineer’s Route is considered a class 2-3 climb, meaning it’s a scramble that requires the use of your hands and route-finding with some exposed sections on a steep hillside (which I found were easily avoidable this time around). The trail is about 2 miles on a normal dirt hiking trail, then 1 mile on the mountaineer’s route.
I first hiked this trail in April 2017 – I hiked up to Strawberry Peak via the Mountaineer’s Route but was too scared to come back down the same way so I lollipop-looped through the Strawberry Peak Trail back down, connecting back with the Colby Canyon Trail, passing through San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Strawberry Meadow. Note: I ended up back at the same trailhead, this is not the Strawberry Peak trailhead.
I’ve always wanted to come back and hike the Mountaineers Route to the peak both up and down and when I finally went back for it this month… it wasn’t bad at all! I look back and wonder why I was so scared the first time.
Strawberry Peak Trail Report
[Sunday, Dec 20, 2020] The trailhead for Strawberry Peak’s mountaineer’s route starts at the Colby Bridge Day Use Area which is just a dirt pullout on the left. You hike the Colby Canyon Trail through Daisy Canyon (passing a dry waterfall) for a little over a mile and then the trail opens up with full sun exposure for the remainder of the hike. There are some switchbacks before reaching Josephine Saddle just 2 miles from the trailhead and 1381 ft elevation gain.
The mountaineer’s route begins straight up the mountain on your right towards Strawberry Peak – it’s 1275 ft elevation gain in 1.23 miles with two scramble sections and a flat-ish hiking trail in between that requires a little route finding and bushwhacking, but ultimately you’re just heading in the direction of Strawberry Peak in front of you so all trails will connect. You approach the beginning of the route from the left side of the mountain (from the saddle, continue on Colby Canyon Trail for just a couple of steps, and make a sharp right onto the worn-ish dirt path. Note: if you hike down the lollipop trail through the meadow like I did my first time, this is where you’ll reconnect with this trail).
I found the first section to be more nerve-wracking than the second. The second scramble is actually longer and higher with more exposure (& more fun) but I think the first one made me nervous because it was very strong winds and it’s been a while since I had done something like this. After the first scramble, anxiety and my fear of heights settled in. I already started toying with the idea of hiking down a trail instead of climbing down this route. But coming down the mountaineer’s route was the goal of this hike so I distracted myself in conversations with my hiking partner.
Mind Over Matter
After reaching the summit of Strawberry Peak, I knew I was only halfway through the adventure. Going down always frightens me more than going up. We enjoyed the summit off to the sides (due to crowds) for well over an hour before heading down. The idea of going down the mountaineer’s route gave me a lot of anxiety, but I was also really freaking excited for it. Maybe I came up a harder way the first time, or maybe I’ve just been in more similar and comfortable adventures since the last time I was here, but the scramble was actually really easy and fun! There were maybe two moves where I questioned how it would be going down… but it wasn’t as bad as I built it up in my head.
Random Thoughts from This Experience
- Having long legs helped 😛
- Since I’m scared of heights, I know facing the mountain backwards when going down usually helps a lot (& I do that for other hikes), but I found it easier to face forward/ sidewards so I could see where I’m going down, even though Ayumi went first and was able to spot me. Maybe it’s a sign I’m getting more comfortable with heights?
- I’ve done a handful of scrambles and love route-finding, but still new to all the technical mountaineering stuff. I think this is a beginner-friendly trail for any hiker that wants to try mountaineering and has a good sense of direction, climbing, and safety. Just do your research before you go 🙂
- Wear shoes with good grip
- Tug on all the rocks before putting your weight on it
- Bring a sun hat!!
Gear I Used on This Hike
- Eddie Bauer Day Pack
- 2L Hydration Reservoir (Bladder)
- Sun hat *must have*
- Ultralight hiking boots (I believe my current shoes are not available anymore but all of my Adidas Terrex all have great grip on the soles)
- Leggings from this collection
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