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.
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!