The High Desert Trails are a network of trails off of the iconic Pacific Crest Trail in the Angeles National Forest. These trails offer hikers, and their canine companions, the “High Desert Experience” in the wild Mojave Desert and San Gabriel Mountains. These trails are known for their peaceful solitude and ruggedness, in fact you may not encounter another human on the whole trail. The trail navigates steep canyon walls, creek beds, and exposed granite masses.
This network of trails is often combined to form a loop, starting from the Vincent Gulch Divide. Here you can find plenty of parking and a variety of trailheads, including access to the Pacific Crest Trail. Restrooms and a bench can also be found near the parking lot.
From here your adventure can begin on the Manzanita Trail. This trail is an 11 mile out-and-back trail that starts at the Vincent Gulch Divide and shoots northwest to the South Fork Campground. The canyon walls and forest provide shade along the trail, along with refreshing spring water. The trail runs parallel to the Punchbowl and Cocktail fault lines, and eventually connects to the Devil’s Punchbowl Trail. From South Fork Campground, the South Fork Trail heads southwest along South Fork Big Rock Creek to the Islip Saddle. Portions of this trail are exposed and especially isolated, and offer great views of Mount Lewis, Mount Islip and Throop Peak. From the Islip Saddle Trailhead, you can connect to the Pacific Crest Trail, heading back east to the original parking lot and trailhead.
Dogs are welcome to join their humans on these trails, as long as they stay leashed and you leave no trace. The trail has very limited amenities, so be sure to bring your own supplies, including food and water for you and your pup. The peaceful desert and mountain wilderness on the High Desert Trails are sure to leave you and your doggo breathless!