At 5,826 ft., Rattlesnake Peak is one of the smaller peaks but it’s considered to be the 2nd most difficult peak to reach in the San Gabriel Mountains per online articles. The 1st is Iron Mountain which I’ll be doing later this year in October with the 3H family. So for now, Rattlesnake Peak is the hardest hike I’ve ever done since the Skyline Trail last May.
At our meeting place near Target store along highway 39 at 5:30 am, we carpooled all the way up north 12 miles and turned right at East Fork Road with another 3.3 miles to Shoemaker Canyon Road and turned left and gone a couple of miles more until we reached the parking lot which has a locked gate at the end of the paved road. An Adventure Pass is need to park here. Christina Hinojosa, Dave Rucker, Gil Figueroa, Junie Wood, myself, and Gerardo Perez as our leader, a total of six hikers embarked to the unknown.
We started our hike by walking around the locked gate. Gerardo told us to watch for the trail on the left side of the dirt road. When we saw the 1st tunnel, that means we passed it. We backtracked and saw the trail which is 1.2 miles away from the locked gate. We climbed up the trail by scrambling through loose dirt heading to the left side and quickly the trail leads to the right then another left before starting to climb the steep ridge system of the mountain which is over 3500 ft. of elevation gain. We passed by Baby Rattlesnake Peak which was really steep on its own right.
Along the ridge, there were bees and I was unfortunate to get stung on my right foot. Luckily, it wasn’t giving me any problems during the hike. The trail was hard to follow since it hasn’t been maintained for awhile and the instruction was to follow the ridge of the mountain. And so we did as it was clear where to ascend. It was also nice to hear Dave playing his music loud which could scare off coyotes and mountain lions around just in case. We finally reached the peak and had our mini lunch. Had a bite from Gerardo’s taco rice and cheese and beer to go with it courtesy from Gil. While eating and resting, the view was amazing all around. The view of Big Iron Mountain and Mt. Baldy to the right can be seen all the time while we were hiking up. Junie showed off her big mirror if anyone needs it. Laughs were all around and not knowing that we’ll be so dirty when we reach down the mountain. We took our group photos. Gerardo attached a small US flag to the 39th marker.
After our break, Gerardo led us to a loop back down which was not most hikers take when I read it online. Hiking back down was much more strenuous and difficult than coming up.
We had to bushwhacked our way until we saw some parts of the trail down which was totally different from what we experienced coming up. Every time we hit a wall of bushes which by the way had lots of thorns and pointy branches, Gerardo and Dave tried to find the path down especially when the trail is a slippery slope. The thorns and some yuccas wounded our legs, arms, and hands. Some got light cramps. There were areas heading and suddenly you’re going up again and still encounter those thorny bushes. We also got a view of “Bridge To Nowhere” and Heaton Flats parking area from afar.
In some areas, we had to slid through loose dirt and grab a tree branch so we don’t fall all the way. A slight big rock hit my right shin but nothing serious. There was one area where if you slid without stopping, it would be huge drop down the cliff which was really scary. Luckily, I heard Christina shouting to turn left which we did and went down further to the ravine. As I looked forward, a lot of tall grasses, and fear kicks in, thinking there might be rattlers around. Gil being exhausted already; tells me there’s no other way but to go forward. A slight big rock hit my right shin but nothing serious. We reached the ravine where there was shade with cool breeze. The scratches, scrapes, punctures, bruises, and lots of sore asses are over. And it looks to me that this area is where water passes through when it rains and becomes small waterfalls. This was the only area where there was shade and of course the tunnels which we passed further down. They are popularly called “Tunnels To Nowhere”. As soon as we reached Shoemaker Canyon Road which is also called “Road To Nowhere”, and the 1st tunnel, a sigh of relief that we made it back safely. Both the tunnels and the road were built in the 1950s and 1960s was originally intended as an escape route from Los Angeles in case of a nuclear attack. It was too expensive at that time that the project was halted.
We already ran out of water and got dehydrated. Our goal was to head back to the parking lot as fast as we could and get some icy cold drink back at our meeting place. We were the only hikers on the mountain that day. We were so lucky to see no rattlers during our hike. We passed the 2 tunnels and some people, before arriving back at the parking lot around 4:30 pm. We looked like homeless people after this hike because we were covered with dirt. Thanks Christina and Gerardo for inviting me to join you guys in this “kick my ass” hike.
It would be unwise to bring your family and friends to hike Rattlesnake Peak unless they are well experienced hikers. So far, it’s the toughest hike that I have ever done just because of not knowing where you’re going, the slippery slope, and the sun beaming its heat above you. If you’re planning to do this hike, it’s better to do it on cooler months and bring lots of water and electrolytes. Hiking poles are helpful coming down the slopes. Also wear long pants to avoid being pricked by thorns. It’s a fun hike but make sure you’re ready for it.