Jones Peak is nowhere near the loftiest of the many named summits you can climb in the sharply rising “front range” of the San Gabriel Mountains. But its elevated position — barely one mile by crow’s flight from the fringe of the vast Los Angeles Basin metropolitan sprawl — affords you a 180-degree-plus view of a big chunk of Southern California. That view is nothing less than commanding during the best clear-air episodes characteristic of the late fall and winter seasons. The view is not — it should be noted — anywhere near impressive if the basin is choked in smog.
The starting point for the Jones Peak hike, Bailey Canyon Park, is a small wilderness park operated by the City of Sierra Madre. The peak, which towers right over the community, is named after Sierra Madre’s first major, C. W. Jones.
To reach Bailey Canyon Park in the most expeditious way, exit Interstate 210 at Baldwin Avenue and drive north nearly two miles to where it ends at Carter Avenue. Turn left and proceed 0.5 mile to the park’s small day-use parking lot.
From the west side of the parking lot, walk west under shade-giving trees to a gap in a chain-link fence. Pick up a paved service road just beyond, and follow it uphill and around a debris basin (a pit designed to catch flood waters and mud flows) lying at the mouth of Bailey Canyon. Follow the narrow Bailey Canyon Trail onward into the canyon.
A short distance ahead, a spur trail to a small, seasonal waterfall in Bailey Canyon splits left. Stay right and commence a crooked, unforgivingly steep ascent up the east wall of the canyon. As you climb, note the distant downtown Los Angeles skyline positioned over the mission-style buildings of a Passionist Fathers monastery right down below.
At 2.2 miles, the trail reaches a level about even with the seasonal stream flowing in the upper reaches of Bailey Canyon. A cabin foundation lies just below the trail on a small flat just above the stream. That’s a good place to take a breather, since the remaining 1.3 miles of the hike are again unforgivingly steep. Proceed generally east, up a series of tight switchbacks, and arrive at a saddle. Swing right and scamper up a sketchy and (what else?) steep path to the Jones Peak summit, and take in the comprehensive view.
On the clearest days, the tree-dotted urban plain rolls out like a shaggy carpet toward the Pacific Ocean, which takes on a silvery sheen in the winter-solstice sunshine. Look for as many as three of the Channel Islands punctuating the horizon: Santa Catalina Island (often obvious); San Clemente Island (sometimes glimpsed to the left of the leftmost tip of Santa Catalina); and tiny Santa Barbara Island (well to the right of Santa Catalina).
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
Scope out the commanding view atop Jones Peak in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 130 miles
Biking length: 7.0 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous