Mt. Disappointment got its name when a group of government surveyors lugged their equipment up the mountainside thinking it was the highest peak in the area.  To their disappointment, nearby San Gabriel peak was some 170 feet higher.  The hike; however, is far from disappointing.

On this particular Sunday, I had planned to hike with my brother.  Although it had been raining off and on for the past three days, the weather seemed to have let up.  So we set off.   As we approached the trailhead, it was apparent that the north face of the range had recently been blanketed by a layer of fresh snow.  We parked at Red Box and walked about one-third mile up the Mt. Wilson Road toward the trailhead (San Gabriel Peak Trail).  At trailhead elevation (roughly 4600-4700 feet), the ground was covered with patches of freshly fallen snow.   Clouds billowed among nearby mountain peaks.  Ascending the trail, the snowcover became thicker, and the visibility decreased.  The trail was hard to follow in some spots due to the snow cover; however, we were fortunate that another couple had set out earlier that morning and created tracks for us to follow. We ran into them on their descent - they were the only other hikers we saw on the trail that day.

Given that it never snows in the city, an opportunity to experience the mountain winter scenery was truly epic. Icicles hung from yucca and pine trees, and snow covered the thorny manzanita. The only wildlife observed was a single squirrel, however, the numerous animal tracks embedded in snow painted a picture of recent activities. Since the snow had likely fallen here overnight, were all these tracks from the last 12 hours? They looked so fresh…

I have identified the animal tracks as those of bird, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, coyote, and mule deer.

The San Gabriel Trail ends at the Mt. Disappointment fire road. After following the fire road to the ridgetop, one can either turn left and proceed up to San Gabriel Peak or turn right and continue up the fire road to Mt. Disappointment. Although we had originally intended to see both peaks, we decided to travel only to the top of Mt. Disappointment due to low visibility that day. Visibility at the top of Mt. Disappointment was only about 50 feet due to heavy fog. It was pretty cold and windy up there, and the snow was about 8 inches deep. We looked at all the empty buildings and structures from the old Army Nike missle station, and had a snack.

For the descent, we decided to take the Mt. Disappointment fire road the entire way back. According to Robinson (see reference), this adds about one mile to the trip. We figured it would be safer and easier (going downhill in slippery conditions is always harder than going up!). The way down turned out to be extremely fast.


  • References - Hike 29 from Robinson’s Trails of the Angeles
  • Trailhead - Robinson states that the trailhead “begins about 50 feet to the left (east) of the [Mt Disappointment] fire-road gate”. According to my compass, the trailhead began about 50 feet south of the gate, and headed in the westbound direction.
  • Parking - a small parking area is available adjacent to the Mt. Disappointment fire-road gate. In winter, this parking area was covered in snow; therefore, I chose to park at Red Box (adds about 2/3 mile to the trip).
  • Safety - when hiking in snow, be sure that you have the proper attire/equipment/knowledge before heading out on the trail. Always hike with a buddy, and when in doubt, don’t go out!

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 8th, 2009 at 9:34 pm and is filed under Hiking. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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