Dan's Hiking Pages: Hikes in the San Gabriels and Beyond
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Mt. Bliss (3720')
via Van Tassel Fire Road (1N36)
Azusa / Angeles National Forest / Southern California

Trail Stats
Mileage (r.t.) 8.6
Trailhead 840'
Mt. Bliss 3720'
El. gain 2880'
Gain per mi. 670'
Mount Bliss stands as a prominent summit in the San Gabriel front ranch above Monrovia, Duarte, and Azusa. The route follows a broad fire road (1N36) all the way until you get to the summit ridge. The road is steep and will give your legs and lungs a good workout. The prominence of the power lines, the topography, and the road make it easy to find your location on the topo map all along the way.

In September 1929, a horrific wildfire raged through the front range of the San Gabriels, starting in San Gabriel Canyon and burning west. Fanned by fierce Santa Ana winds, the blaze scorched thousands of acres of chaparral. It took a thousand firefighters three weeks to control the inferno. The fire was so difficult to control because there was very limited access to the range in those days. So after the fire, the Forest Service launched a crash plan of cutting a network of fire roads throughout the range. Van Tassel Fire Road was built at the heart of that devastated fire zone, and today, more than 80 years later, it remains a vital part of the fire suppression network.

Bliss Sunrise As you climb, you'll have nice views of the San Gabriel Valley to the south, Van Tassel Canyon to the east, Spanish and Sawpit canyons to the west, and the ridges to the north, Rankin Peak (5291'), Pine Mountain (4539'), road cuts from the Rincon-Redbox Road (2N24), and of course, Mt. Baldy and accompanying high country to the east. Mt. Wilson (5710') looms to the west. Once on top of Mt. Bliss, you have an unobstructed 360-degree view. On one of those rare clear days, you have striking views of the urban sprall in the basin below.

Passing the summit on the road, you can continue north 1.3 miles to the juction at White Saddle (3220'). From there you can hike 4.8 miles west down Sawpit Canyon (2N30) to Monrovia Canyon Park. You can also continue north 3.1 miles to meet Rincon-Redbox Road.

Season: November - May

Generally speaking, the front range of the San Gabriels is best hiked in the cooler months and the back range is best in the warmer months. Mt. Bliss sits in the front range, and reaching it on a hot summer day can be miserably punishing. There is virtually no shade en route, and the haze, smog, and brown hills are less than desirable. If you do hike it in the summer, it is more tolerable to go in the early morning or late afternoon. Early in the summer the "June Gloom" (marine layer, coastal fog) can make nice walking conditions but also can greatly obscure your views. The views on top of Mt. Bliss can be splendid on a clear winter day when the distant high country is covered with snow and the great visibility would allow you to see to the ocean. See Seasons of the San Gabriels for a detailed description of minding the seasons.

Getting to the Trailhead:

From the I-210 Foothill Freeway, traveling west: exit at Irwindale Avenue in Irwindale. Turn right (north) and go 0.2 mile. Turn left (west) on Foothill Blvd. and go 0.7 mile to Encanto Parkway. Turn right (north).

From the I-210 Foothill Freeway, traveling east (or the I-605 traveling north): Exit Mt. Olive Avenue in Duarte. Turn right (east) on Huntington Drive and go 0.6 mile to Encanto Parkway. Turn left (north). (Note: Huntington Drive turns into Foothill Blvd at the intersection of Encanto Parkway.)

Drive north on Encanto Parkway 1.3 miles. Turn left onto a dirt road, the entrance to Encanto Equestrian Center (marked with a yellow sign). Drive about 0.5 mile and park on the left side of the road across from the horse stables. The hike starts at the north end of the equestrian center. No Forest Adventure Pass is needed since this hike begins outside the forest boundary. See street map below.


Trail Description:

From the north end of the equestrian center at the month of Van Tassel Canyon, take the fire road left as it crosses the creek.

The road is steep, and as you climb you are rewarded with expanding views out over Azusa, Duarte, and beyond. After you pass the fire hydrant SW 15, in another 100 yards you will cross over the unmarked Azusa boundary, leaving the city limits. In another few minutes you pass under the power lines and in a few more minutes you walk past the locked gate, heading west. Shortly, the road cuts back sharply to the east and climbs steeply to the next noteworthy landmark: a large retaining wall supporting the base for the power-line towers. It usually take me about one hour to get to this point.

Morning on Bliss
Early morning on Mt. Bliss - Looking northwest toward Monrovia Peak.
The road now generally follows below the ridge on the east side, passing by a couple saddles which yield nice views to the west. After the second saddle, the road passes to the west side and below high point 3043' to reach the divide overlooking Spanish Canyon. The road cuts back to the east but continues on the west side of the watershed divide with views to the west into Spanish Canyon and Sawpit Canyon.

After a while more you will pass by water hydrant SW 13. Shortly the road cuts back to the east and the summit of Mt. Bliss comes into view. In a few more minutes you pass under the power lines and arrive at a junction with a road that cuts back to the right, 4.2 miles from the start.

The easiest way to climb the summit is to turn right (southwest) onto this side road. After about 50 yards turn left (east) on the unmaintained spur road that passes to the left of three power-line towers. In a couple minutes you achieve the board ridge. Follow the use path as it bends north and hike along the undulating ridge and climb the final pitch to the summit of Mount Bliss (3720'), in about 10 minutes. The brush along this ridge section (primarily California buckwheat) invades the route; long pants are certainly helpful to spare the legs from scratches (see note below for an update on the route condition 11-16-13).

On the summit, there's a log book tucked safely in baggy in a red coffee can. The peak does not get many visitors. Enjoy the views. Return the way you came. icon

Topo Icon View Topo Map (908K)

On top Mt. Bliss
On top Mt. Bliss (3720') 4-27-03, 6:13 PM - Looking south from where I came.

Street Map

Trail Notes:

  • Route condition update 11-16-13 - Robert Page reports that approaching the summit, what used to be a narrow use trail through the chaparral past the electric tower is now a raw fire break about two bulldozer blades wide right up to the summit and then beyond, following the ridge as it goes off toward the north and east.
  • Alternate starting point - Tom Chester describes a starting point from Mel Canyon Road in Duarte (last updated May 1997). When I last checked that route in summer 2011, it was overgrown and is not passable. Another option is to go one block east of Mel Canyon Road to Opal Canyon Road, turn left (north) and follow the paved service road to the green water tank. There appears to be a crude path disappearing into the brush that gets some foot traffic. I'm usually not dressed for bushwhacking, so I've not scouted it in years.
  • Wildlife - I have seen deer several times and a fox once. On my hike on August 21, 2005, the road had been freshly re-graded to repair damage from the heavy winter storms. In several sections where the dirt was soft, the abundance of fresh animal tracks clearly revealed the presence of many creatures, from bear, large cats, and deer, to canine and an assortment of smaller animals, birds, and snakes.
         Mountain lion alert: A hiker reports (LocalHikes.com) having come face to face with a mountain lion on the road while coming down on October 22, 2005. Read news story about mountain lions (11-9-05) and what to do if you encounter one. I saw fresh mountain lion tracks on 8-14-11.
  • Google Maps mislabel - They incorrectly label Van Tassel Fire Road (1N36) as Silver Fish Truck Trail. Silver Fish (2N28) runs from Hwy 39 near Morris Reservoir and intersects Van Tassel Fire Road about 0.2 mile southeast of White Saddle. Silver Fish has long been abandoned and is impassable.
  • Highpoint - Mt. Bliss is certainly not a high mountain by California standards, but it is higher than the highest points of 22 states. See United States State High Points from peakbagger.com.
  • Plane crash - On June 6, 1971, a U.S Marine Corp. F-4 Phantom fighter jet and a Hughes Airwest DC-9 airliner collided in mid air. Forty-nine people parished. Jeff McNabb reports: "The DC-9 impacted the east slope of Mt. Bliss after the two collided at 15,000 feet and the fighter ended up in Van Tassel Canyon. A lot of debris from the passenger plane rained down over the whole area and not all items were recovered. There's still pieces up there." Jamie Blasquez writes: "The only survivor was the RIO in the backseat of the F-4 who bailed out; the pilot did not." The Aircraft Wrecks in Southern California website lists the crash: 06/06/71 DUARTE,CALIF N9345 DOUGLAS DC-9 49. AirDisaster.Com provides a few details and a photo. LostFlights by Michael McComb provides a detailed narrative and an impressive gallery of photos. Any other information you have concerning this crash, I'd appreciate it if you passed it my way.

Related links on Dan's Hiking Pages:

Trail Links:

Book:

  • Los Angeles County: A Day Hiker's Guide - by John McKinney (The Trailmaster, 2006). "Mt. Bliss." Puts the round trip at 8.0 miles from the Valley View Park (Mel Canyon) trailhead. Historical background and trail description. In his 2006 edition and in the previous books, his write-up is vague and inaccurate (including his map which wrongly places the summit of Mt. Bliss to the west of the road).
Last Hiked: August 14, 2011


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This page was last updated November 16, 2013.

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