The Road Less Traveled: Angeles Crest Highway

As your hands grip the steering wheel, your foot presses on the gas as you lift your other foot from the clutch, you realize that you’re finally free! Windows down, sunroof open, music blaring free! There’s not much like driving on the open road. It’s just you, the machine, and the asphalt. You’re not only pushing the machine to its limits, you’re finding out yours as well.
If you couldn’t tell, I love driving. Road trips, scenic drives along the coast, and curvy canyon drives, they’re my favorite way to travel. Don’t get me wrong, I love to fly. I love to ride the train. There’s just something about driving that soothes me. Man and machine as one. I’m a firm believer in exploring your own back yard. Get outside and find your path, your road, and go out and drive it! That road for me is Angeles Crest Highway.

 Angeles Crest Highway was originally intended to be a fire access road when construction started in 1929. With a 5 year break during WWII, the highway officially opened in 1956. The route’s construction was primarily handled by prison labor camps in conjugation with the Divison of Highways, now known as CalTrans. Officially a designated section of State Route 2, Angeles Crest Highway begins in La Cañada Flintridge, just north of the Greater Los Angeles Area.

As we make our way up this marvelous road, full of twisties, climbs, and descents, we break through the smog that covers the LA basin and into the pine-forested mountains. The views from here are amazing! You can see for miles around.

 We are finally free! The roar of the throttle is in our ears, and the wind blowing through our hair, we take what this road has to offer and ask for more! There are many turnouts and vista points you can take pictures from. One of my favorite vista points is near the Mount Wilson Observatory.  A quick detour down Mount Wilson Red Box Road to the Mueller Tunnels and you’ll have some breathtaking views. You can find directions to the Observatory here.

 About halfway through our drive, we reach the Chilao Flats area of the Angeles National Forest. During the 1860s and early 1870s the infamous bandit and horse thief Tiburcio Vasquez frequented the area, as he found the area’s meadows to be an ideal place to hide his stolen herds. Sometime before his capture in 1874, one of his men was said to have killed a bear with a knife, earning his nickname “Chillia” (or Hot Stuff). From this story comes the name of the region today, Chilao. A few years later, in 1888 an explorer named Louis Newcomb then settled in the area, building a cabin not too far from what would become the current location of today’s Newcomb Ranch, which was erected in 1939.    The Ranch has served as a restaurant, hotel, general store and gas station over the years, and much of the original two-story structure was destroyed in a fire in 1976. The building was rebuilt and opened as a restaurant, run for many years by Lynn Newcomb Jr. Today, Newcomb’s Ranch is owned by Dr. Frederick H. Rundall.

  The food at Newcomb’s Ranch is great. The service is awesome, their breakfast dishes are outstanding and their chili is some of the best you’ll find. They’re open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Even without the great ride and views, it would still be worth the trip just for the food. Plus they have wifi to upload all your selfies 😉

 While most people that drive Angeles Crest Highway stop at Newcomb’s Ranch, there is much more to Angeles Crest! The views only get better the further up you go. And with considerabley less traffic, it’s just you and the road. And maybe a passenger or two; unless you left them back at Newcomb’s Ranch.

 After continuing about 10 miles further, there’s the everpopular Twin Tunnels. The curve to the west of the tunnels is often referred to as Spare Parts Lane where many an accident has occured in either direction. One of the real bummers of this location is that if you take a stop here, you’ll notice all the parts that have gathered over the years. It’s best to maintain a safe speed when going through these tunnels.

 About a mile past the tunnels, we come across a widely used “Checkpoint” for law enforcement, which is the location where Highway 39, or Azusa Canyon once tied into into Angeles Crest Highway. There are some really great views here, as well as a nice place to regroup.

  With the road winding its way into the distance, we continue along Angeles Crest Highway climbing higher and higher, until we reach Inspiration Point. Inspiration Point is obviously known for its amazing views overlooking the San Gabriel River Basin (East Fork). While Inspiration point isn’t actually a mountain itself, it is one of the highest elevation point on the Angeles Crest Highway, at 7,385 feet. The highest point on Angeles Crest Highway is Dawson Saddle at 7,901 feet. Inspiration Point offers views of most major mountains in the area including Blue Ridge, Pine Mountain, Mt Baldy, Iron Mountain, Pine Mountain Ridge, and Mt Baden Powell. If you are up for a small hike, take the short Lightning Ridge Nature Trail, which loops around the top of Inspiration Point and offers even more incredible views. On a clear day you can actually see the island of Catalina from Inspiration Point. You can even access part of the Pacific Coast Trail.

 As the sun goes down at our backs, we exit the Angeles National Forest, and make our way back home, satisfied and amazed at the road we left behind.

Angeles Crest Highway is definitely something you want to experience for yourself! Here are a few tips when planning your trip.

1. There is hardly any cellphone reception while driving Angeles Crest Highway. While it’s relatively impossible to get lost if you stay on the highway, after Newcomb’s Ranch, traffic dies down considerably. If you have an accident, or flat tire, etc, it’s best to let someone know where you’re going.

2. Angeles Crest Highway is approximately 66 miles long, and there are a few amenities, trailhead and campgrounds with facilities along the way, but there are no gas stations. Make sure you fill up before making the trip.

3. The best time to drive Angeles Crest Highway is in the morning. Not that there is a lot, but you avoid most of the traffic, and you can enjoy breakfast at Newcomb’s Ranch. If you need directions to get started, You can find a map at the beginning of the post, and a great starting point by clicking here.

4. Due to avalanche and land slides, the higher elevations on Angeles Crest Highway will sometimes close through the winter months. There are signs stating which parts are open/closed.

5. Remember to bring your camera! There are so many picture opportunities, it’s unreal! Just remember to be safe and enjoy the trip and never stop exploring!

Do you have a favorite road or trip you like to take? If so, please tell me about it! You can comment below or on Facebook too!


A Hole In My Shoe

73 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled: Angeles Crest Highway

  1. Adding this to my list of daytrip options for my husband and I. I’ve been as far as Wrightwood, coming from I-15, but have never made it to the Crest Highway. I’d love to go take a bunch of photos!

  2. Again, Joe! Nice pictures. No cellphone signal and all that, thanks for the tip, at least if someone knows where you are going someone will know where to look for you in case something goes wrong.

  3. This is really interesting and I enjoyed all the historical tales that you’ve incorporated (always love a good horse thief story!). I’m not a huge fan of driving but I’m quite happy to go on a road trip if I’m in the passenger seat 🙂

  4. Funny…one of the things I miss most when I am traveling is driving (although I only have a car – not a motorcycle). That looks like an amazing ride. I always get a kick out of those National Forest signs. They look so retro !

    1. Haha! Yeah, they are pretty retro. They’re like that all over the California and lots of places in the U.S. Maybe they just have a lot of the same ones and it’s easy to reprint them?

  5. This really brought me back! I have spent so many hours in Angeles Forest over the past few years. It is such an amazing place and so close to the city! Mount Wilson was my spot to go to think. It is so calm and peaceful up there staring down at the city below. My dog and and have hiked a few of the trails throughout the park and even went camping. The one thing I didn’t do there that was always on my list was eat at Newcombs Ranch! They were always closed by the time we were done hiking. 🙁 Thanks for all the wonderful pics and bringing back good memories!

    1. Yes! Mt Wilson is one of my favorite Places to go as well! There are some neat little access points for some incredible views! I’ll be doing a post about them later on. You definitely have to come back and visit Newcomb’s Ranch. Even if its just a drive up Angeles crest for it. The breakfast is Awesome!

  6. So you took a trip in my backyard… I live down the hill in La Crescenta and take this road up to the mountains very often. Very beautiful pictures! Thanks for joining us for #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. That’s crazy! You have to go drive them! I’ve been trying to document all of them in the Los Angeles are because there are a bunch of nice ones! If you need suggestions, let me know!

  7. I too love a good road trip. Crank up the music and go. It’s always a good reason to make a playlist for the drive. I wonder what will happen if we go to automated cars- what about the joys of driving! If you ever make it to Australia- you have to try the Great Ocean Road, southwest of Melbourne. It’s up there as one of the all time greats. Thanks for sharing, it looks like a great drive.

  8. This is such an amazing highway. The first photo looks like a piece of spaghetti wrapping around a mountain. Bizarre but beautiful in a road-loving type way 🙂
    The Ranch looks great. Love a good pit stop but this one looks properly American. Sounds like you had an awesome adventure.

  9. We have traveled all of 49 American states, 9 Canadian provinces, and 6 Mexican states five years in an RV (what my book is all about) and driven so many highways. Top on the list are Alaska Highway, Big Sur, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Natchez-Trace Highway, and the Highway to the Keys! Thanks for bringing back all those feelings and stories. Love road trips!

  10. The combination of great photos, bits of history here and there, and beautiful description of the road made the trick: I could not stop reading. I am not a big fan of driving, but I can easily see myself in the passenger’s seat perhaps of some classic convertible (hopefully, it would not be too cold up there) enjoying majestic scenery on a sunny summer day.

  11. We always love road trips, too–we’ve done a ton this summer! That’s interesting that it was originally intended as a fire road. Glad they turned it into a highway because it looks fantastic! Would love to do this drive sometime–I’m adding it to my list!

    1. It really is Chris! Duel was actually filmed in the area. They used Angeles Crest, Sierra Highway, and Angeles Forest Highway quite a bit. There were some others used as well, but the majority was on these roads. Pretty crazy!

    1. Definitely correct that error Julie! 😉 There are some good ones near you too! Like Ortega Highway. I did a post on that one too. Let me know what you think of “my road” after you take the trip!

  12. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! We did this drive while on the West Coast this year and love love loved it! We didn’t stop at Newcomb’s Ranch, though did the whole way to get the views at Inspiration Point. Very useful tip to fill up with gas before you go – we found that a lot of the uphill driving meant that we went through more gas than we had planned for, though luckily made it back – weren’t sure what we would have done without any cell phone signal!

    Great photos – so glad you enjoyed your quick trip 🙂

  13. Ah! My second time hearing of this beautiful highway; the first being on your instagram, haha. This article has only enforced my beliefs of how similar it looks to the Sea to Sky Highway, I just know I have to drive this highway one day. So gorgeous! Thanks for sharing, Joe. 🙂

  14. Driving is liberating – I actually find that at times the best part of a trip is the drive to get to whichever place I am meant to visit. I have been dreaming of actually going on a motorbike trip 🙂

    1. It really is isn’t it? It’s my preferred way to travel. Unless there’s a T.A.R.D.I.S. Around haha! I’ve been wanting to do the Trans American Trail by motorbike for awhile now. That would be an awesome trip!

  15. Doing a road trip in those cars would make the trip a whole different experience! When I was 14 we drove through the Alps and I always swore I’d do that again. Two amazing road trips I have been on – scooter ride to Pai, Thailand and a camping three week trip across America back in 2011. Magic way to see a country.

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