Located just miles outside of Los Angeles, Angeles National Forest is a pristine natural reserve with some of the most stunning sights in Southern California. The forest has over 500 miles of multi-use trails, taking you down canyons and up the San Gabriel Mountains. Many of the trails allow for off-roading and mountain biking. The park is known for its wildlife, with hundreds of bird species and a wide range of mammals, including black bears. If you visit during the winter, head to one of the many ski areas in the forest.
You’ll also find a range of water activities in Angeles National Forest. There are dozens of streams, creeks, lakes, and reservoirs throughout the forest, many of which have excellent fishing. If you stay at Coldbrook Campground, you can enjoy stream fishing and kayaking.
With a wide variety of campgrounds dotted throughout the forest, campers can find an RV site that’s perfectly suited to them. There are three RV campgrounds to choose from. Stay at Manker Campground, at an elevation of 6,000 feet, for some of the best hiking in the area. Or book at Los Alamos Campground and enjoy the waters of Pyramid Lake.
Located just north of Los Angeles, Angeles National Forest is one of the easiest to access major forest systems in the country. The most common way into the forest is to take CA-2 out of the city. You can also take I-210 from the city to Big Tujunga Road, which will lead you into the forest. If you are coming from the north side of the forest, in the Palmdale area, take CA-14 south to Angeles Forest Highway.
Angeles National Forest is quite large, with dozens of campgrounds scattered throughout the San Gabriel Mountains. Some are remote, requiring you to drive along twisting canyon roads. If you have a large rig, you should try to find a campground that is on one of the main roads in the forest, such as CA-2. If you’re visiting the more mountainous areas of the forest during winter, be prepared for snow and ice on the roads.
This 93-site campground sits close to Pyramid Lake, although it’s not directly on the water. There is drinking water, flush toilets, and a camp store. You’ll also have access to a dump station on the edge of the campground. The area is great for water activities, with excellent fishing, water and jet skiing, and kayaking. Overnight campers have first access to Pyramid Lake, where you’ll also find a boat launch. Smaller RVs, campervans, and trailers up to 26 feet can be accommodated at this campground.
With 22 sites located along the meeting point of Coldbrook and Soldier Creeks, this is a great campground for those interested in more private camping. Every site comes with a fire pit and a grill, and there are picnic tables in the communal areas. None of the sites have hookups of any kind. You’ll be near the access point for the trailhead that takes you to the top of Smith Mountain, as well as the trail that leads to the Bridge to Nowhere.
This campground, set at an altitude of 6,000 feet, has some of the best views of any area in Angeles National Forest. There are 21 sites, none of which have hookups of any kind. They do have fire pits, picnic tables, vault toilets, and access to water. Hikers can easily access the Mt. Baldy Bowl trailhead, which can be taken to Devil’s Backbone, a route that takes you a maximum elevation of over 10,000 feet. Small campers, trailers, and RVs up to 16 feet long can be accommodated. Make sure to keep food properly contained as not to attract bears that live in the area.
With hundreds of miles of trails leading you through the San Gabriel Mountains, hiking is the main attraction at Angeles National Forest. In total, there are 557 miles of trails in the park, with over 70 miles of National Recreation Trails. You can also connect to a 176-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. The trails are designed with hikers of all experience levels in mind, from short flat loops to hikes with dramatic elevation changes. Watch out for that hot Californian sun and bring a bottle of water when you leave the camper to go out on a hike.
The San Gabriel Mountains are one of the most popular destinations in the state for off-roading. There are over 350 miles of trails in Angeles National Forest, as well as open areas that allow you to pick up some speed. The forest has a number of trails with elevation changes of more than 3,000 feet, and you’ll also find plenty of narrow, twisting routes through the oak and pine trees.
Any forest service road is considered a public road, so you’ll have to wear a helmet or risk a fine. All off-road vehicles must also have the proper California state registration.
There are a number of fishing opportunities throughout Angeles National Forest, with streams, creeks, and reservoirs stocked with a variety of fish species. Fisherman’s Point Fishing Site is one of the most popular areas for angling in the forest, situated right on Little Rock Reservoir. You’ll be able to catch rainbow trout, carp, brown trout, largemouth bass, catfish and bluegill. There is a boat launch, and boat rentals are also available. Anyone over the age of 16 will need to have a California state fishing license if fishing anywhere within the forest.
With over 500 miles of trails, mountain bikers have plenty of ground to cover. Angeles National Forest has a wide range of different terrain types, from wooded waterside trails to steep mountain climbs. There’s something for mountain bikers of all experience levels. The Ken Burton Trail is a 14-mile loop that features a 2,000-foot climb, with scenic views of the forest below. Do take caution while on the trails, as most are shared with hikers. Most main trails are marked, so you’ll be able to see if mountain biking is allowed.
With a wide range of terrain and climate types, Angeles National Forest is home to an astonishing variety of bird species. It’s a popular weekend getaway for birdwatchers from the city, with the dramatic elevation changes giving you plenty of lookout spots. You might be able to see mountain quail, Steller's jay, oak titmouse, mountain chickadee, acorn woodpecker, and purple finch. There are a number of online resources that highlight many of the common bird species found in the San Gabriel Mountains.
If you visit the forest in your rig during the winter, you can take to the slopes at one of a number of ski resorts in the area. Mt. Baldy is one of the most popular ski areas, with a top elevation of 8,500 feet. It’s also just 45 miles from Los Angeles, making it the easiest resort to access from the city. Other ski resorts include Ski Sunrise, Mountain High, and Snowcrest Snowpark. Since the ski areas in the forest are commercially operated, you’ll need lift tickets to access the mountains.