LA Times
Los Angeles Times

May 11, 2004

Greeting the day between city and sky
*Photographer Robert Gauthier has to get up early to join Azusa Pacific University President Jon Wallace on Garcia Trail.

By Jon Wallace
One of the most amazing things my hiking group does is watch the city wake up. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:50 in the morning in front of my home, which is just a half-mile from the bottom of Garcia Trail in Azusa.

It's pretty steep, and we we've hiked it probably more than 100 times. For busy people, it's a great deal -- you get your heart rate up and you get to be in the outdoors. A round trip takes about 50 minutes.

One of the professors at Azusa Pacific University maintains the trail, and a number of our students volunteer to keep it up. We also use the trail as a way to introduce students to the incredible resources in the San Gabriel Mountains.

It's a typical trail for the area, with a lot of chaparal and grass. There's also mustard, sage, yucca, purple lupine and orange monkey flowers. It's well-tended, which is important because we can get up and down the dirt trail pretty easily.

You could make it an all-day hike by linking with other trails once you get to the ridge at Azusa peak, but it's a nice up and back. You can look down over dozens of towns in the San Gabriel Valley, up toward Mt. Baldy or South to the ocean.

It only takes us 25 minutes to become really removed from the city. It's like the Times photographer said: We can almost reach down and touch the city, but we also seem so far away.

The particulars

Where: Garcia Trail to Azusa Peak in the San Gabriel Mountains.

What: A 2 1/2 mile-round-trip hike with a 1,240-foot gain. The trail, which climbs about 866 vertical feet per mile, is steeper than many in the San Gabriels.

How: Exit the 210 freeway at Azusa Avenue and go north. Turn right at Sierra Madre Avenue, drive about a mile to L.A. County Fire Station No. 97 and park. Walk up the fire station driveway to a grass area, where the trail begins.