Hike Log

Beware the Saddle


Red Box

Type of Hike:

Day hike

Trail Conditions:

Trail in good condition


Road suitable for all vehicles


No bugs


Snow free

Road (CA-2) was closed at Mt. Wilson road, so I was a little worried about large crowds.  Fortunately there was still parking available at Red Box, and I was able to leave the parking area at 8:30AM.

The hike up was uneventful, and cool enough that a long sleeve wicking shirt over a separate short sleeve wicking shirt worked well.  Sturdy convertible pants offered some protection from the yuccas and rocks when scrambling, but shorts would have worked fine.

Getting out early will be more and more important as the days get warmer – you're protected with shadows from Mt. Lawler as you make your way to the turn-off to Strawberry Peak.  After that you have sun the whole way.  At one point on the final ascent my dog was apparently getting too warm (black fur), so he found some shade, dug down to moist dirt and rested for a bit.

Once you hit the turn-off you start spending energy climbing a short incline, then as noted in the trail descriptions you find yourself giving up elevation before the final ascent… which has a sweet false summit as you follow the ridge to the true summit.  Through these areas you may find yourself scrambling a bit.  Having a dog with you as I did can be beneficial when going up… but when he's jamming down the hill pulling while you're trying to find purchase on sand covered rocks, it can be difficult to descend gracefully.

As noted in the title, beware the saddle… on the return.  For me the bigger challenge of the saddle was on the return after summiting.  You've just expended some decent energy and enjoyed the peak… and you've negotiated the rocky descent… and only then did I get to realize how deep the saddle is when making my way back up on the return to the trail that wraps Mt. Lawler.  I think it was the hardest part of the hike due to reduced energy reserves.

All in all very pleasant hike though, with lots of folks prepping for Whitney hikes.  While there were a good number of people on the summit, I found myself hiking alone with my dog for the most part.

Returned to my vehicle by 12:20 after relaxing on the peak for about 20 minutes, so the estimate of 4 hours seems pretty accurate.  Very pleasant summit.

NOTE:  Many of the online hike / trail descriptions mention a “hard left” at about a mile into the hike. First of all, the “left” looks like a natural continuation of the trail.  What it is referring to is making sure you don't just keep going straight up a steep ascent of Mt. Lawler.  There can be some confusion because at this point in the hike there are actually two different lefts you can take.  One is on a well maintained and travelled trail that wraps around Mt. Lawler (the one you want).  The other is an overgrown ascent to a small peak with what looks like abandoned (or not yet completed) power poles along the path.  I make this note becuase I spoke with a couple of hikers who almost took the incorrect left turn.


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  1. We were wondering about the “left sharp” also. Actually met couple who ended up going down because of their GPS. We run into them later on our way down. They returned to the sign to go up the way we went.

  2. Fantastic trip report! Thanks for sharing the little details that sometimes snag others on this trail.

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