Tag Archives: Bear Creek

Backpacking the Upper Bear Creek Trail

The trailhead for this trail is off the newly re-opened portion of Highway 39 at mile marker 32. The trailhead is pretty easy to spot on the side of the road.  There is a parking lot with some signs and a bathroom.

Almost from the very start of the trail you are pretty much constantly climbing up towards Smith Saddle.  This part of the trail is nicely maintained but some areas are kind of steep.

After about 3 miles you make it to Smith Saddle where you can get a close up view of Smith Mountain.  The trail to the peak is just straight up.  There were some day hikers at the saddle that were getting ready to make their final push to the summit.  We, on the other hand, continued down the other side of the saddle to make our way to trail camp.

Almost right after the saddle you cross the wilderness boundary.  As the trail winds it’s way down you get great views of the mountains beyond.

Some parts of the trail going down were washed out and in disrepair, however you could still negotiate these areas with a little caution.

Once we got down to where trail camp was supposed to be we found that the whole area had been overgrown.  There was also lots of poison-oak all around.

We ventured up and down the stream to see if we could find any other clearings but to no avail.  We ended up squeezing our tents in on the banks of the stream in between rocks and plants.

It ended up working out alright and in a short time we had a pretty decent camp set up. When the sun started to go down we made some dinner and kicked back at our little camp spot we had set up. Later that night while I was wondering around in the dark I noticed this little caterpillar munching away on some leaves.  I could actually hear him munching, which I thought was kinda cool.

As I was checking out the caterpillar this millipede came cruising by outta nowhere and kinda caught me off guard, but it was kinda cool to check out as well.  I tried to pick it up but it wrapped up into a little ball,  I guess that’s it’s defense mechanism.

During the night I started hearing rain drops on my tent.  I thought it was probably just a passing sprinkle, but I was wrong.  In the morning we awoke to it still raining outside and our whole camp was wet.  We ate a really small, quick breakfast, packed up, and headed out.

Hiking through the rain wasn’t that bad, it was actually kinda cool.  It gave the trail we saw just yesterday a whole new appearance.

The clouds drifting through the surrounding mountains was also awesome to look at.

Once we made it back up to Smith Saddle we were out of the rain. You really get a great view from the saddle.

The last few miles from the saddle were pretty much all downhill with no more rain. We were back to the trailhead in no time.

I had never been on the Bear Creek Trail before but it was a great little piece of the San Gabriel Wilderness. The trip was about 12 miles all together; the perfect distance for a quick weekend backpacking trip. Below is a map of the route we took, the milage is only one way.