Rattlesnake Peak Trail is a 5.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Azusa, California that offers scenic views and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.
A very steep hike along a ridge system with over 3500 feet of elevation change. Considered the 2nd most difficult peak to reach in all of the Angeles National Forest. From the locked gate (34o14.12'N 117o46.23'W, elevation 2210ft) follow the dirt road for 1.1mi (about 35min) to the point where the route to Rattlesnake Peak climbs through the brush slope on your left (34o14.96'N 117o45.88'W, elevation 2670ft). This is the critical navigational point on the hike and can be recognized as follows. Begin to take note when the dirt road makes a broad detour to the left into a substantial lateral gully. As you emerge from this detour, the road rounds a headland and, immediately in front of you, you should see a pyramid-like pinnacle just to the left of the road. Just before this pyramid the road crosses a small but deep gully. You should be able to find the remains of an old road that travels up the left-hand side of this gully. (You will also see some road remains on the steep slope on the right of the gully but ignore this.) To reach the old road there is an initial steep climb of about 15ft; several ducks have also be placed here to mark this critical junction. Having made the initial climb, proceed up the old road and veer right after about 100yds following the old road bed as it crosses to the other side of the gully. After another 100yds, the road reaches a saddle in a small cutting just to the west of the pyramid. Here you will recognize a prominent ridge that climbs steeply to the west from the saddle. The route follows a rough use-trail on the apex of this ridge. The use-trail is generally clear but overgrown in some places. At such points my advice is to stick to the apex of the ridge in order to relocate the trail a short distance further on. The first part of the climb is steep and proceeds in a NW direction. However, at 34o15.19'N 117o46.10'W and an elevation of 3380ft (and about 1hr 30min from the start), the trail reaches a broader ridge and turns westward (left), climbing more gently. Here there are several fields of dense brush and it becomes harder to follow the trail; head for the rocky outcroppings above you on the apex of the ridge. Then, at 34o15.12'N 117o46.55'W and an elevation of 3940ft (and about 2hr 20min from the start) the ridge you have followed merges with a north/south ridge and the trail turns north to follow the latter. It is then a matter of following this ridge all the way to the summit. There are some ups and downs and places where the overgrown brush has obliterated the trail but, 4.5hrs and 3.4mi from the start you will reach the 5826ft summit of Rattlesnake Peak (34o16.31'N 117o46.61'W).
Did this with my wife and son, plus dog, on Christmas Day, 2016. This was one day after a big winter storm moved through and we found snow in the last 800', with 3" on the summit.
As far as 'routes' go (as opposed to 'trails'), Rattlesnake Peak is relatively mild. Once the right exit from the closed Shoemaker road is located, route finding is simple: just follow the ridge, mostly on a surprisingly good user path.
The brush is a non-issue after the fire a few years back. No real need for long pants.
There are a couple of sections of steep stuff, but mostly it is just uphill hiking of the sort where you can simultaneously enjoy the view.
I recorded about 9 miles and 3500' of gain. 5 hrs round trip, 6 hrs with stops.
Highly recommended for anyone reasonably fit. The views and setting is sublime, there's solitude and quiet - and nothing really to get you in trouble.
So the first three miles of this hike is a fire access road with two tunnels. After that the AllTrails map just stops and there is a marked path to the right which dead ends and an unmarked path to the left (refer to my uploaded pic of the map from my Fitbit). The unmarked path to the left is a very steep incline up shale and through thickly overgrown bushes that see little to no traffic. Once up that incline you are on the peak of something and can see Rattlesnake Peak in the distance. However this was unknown at the time since the AllTrails map just stops at the junction and indicates the hike is only 5 miles in/out. However when I got home and looked at the map provided by Fitbit it became obvious that this trail is much longer to the peak. You MUST wear long pants/sleeves for this trail since the bushes are primarily cat's claws and yuccas and overgrown. I always wear long pants/sleeves so I was fine but my partner wore shorts and a tank top and was full of scratches by the end of it. Also (other than the two tunnels) there is absolutely no shade on this trail. Honestly I would not do this hike again or recommend it with Baldy so close. If you just want a challenge, Ice House Canyon up to Thunder Peak is a 15 mile hike with a 5000ft incline and you don't need a machete to do it. Rattlesnake peak trail goes from huge fire access road to absolutely no defined trail where the AllTrails maps ends yet as you can see from the picture of the map from my Fitbit you are no where near the peak. Maybe there was a junction we missed, but as an experienced hiker I am very good at finding trails and am almost certain (99%) that we took the right path (the left line on the map). If I were to do this trail again I would have to use a GPS tracker with real-time tracking in order to make sure we hit the peak. As opposed to my Fitbit which tracks the GPS but can only be seen once the hike is finished and uploaded to the website (in other words you need service).
Iron mountain little brother.
Wow for me! What an amazing challenge. Trina's comments below are right on the money. All I would add, is to make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for this. I drank 48oz of water (w/electrolytes) from the time I got up (0230) to the time I hit the trailhead. I stepped of at 0600 to avoid a lot of the heat that I knew was coming later in the day. I was 63 degrees at that point. I carried 5 liters of water with me and on the last mile down I drank my last 16oz. I was thankful that I had more water on ice in the car. It took me 7hrs 38mins to complete this 9.25 mile hike. The late morning temp at the peak was 90 degrees and the early afternoon temp when I reach my car was 105 degrees. I too have completed the Six Pack of Peaks (minus San Jacinto, doing that on in two weeks), as well as, 46 other hikes and this is certainly the toughest so far.
Nice and sunny trail carry a lot to water hat, Cream to protect you from the sun.
Five stars for the adventure and challenge of the trail, not the trail condition. This type of trail is what hiking is all about for me---feeling like you are discovering something new and special. I've done the Six Pack of Peaks and if those types of trails are your jam, this probably isn't for you. That type of hiking is easy in comparison to this.
The trail isn't well marked so I STRONGLY suggest you bring a GPS track with you (this is available but challenging to find and the track linked to this page is NOT to Rattlesnake Peak). However, I've been twice in the past month and the trail was substantially easier to follow the second time because the shrub brush is dying out as the summer progresses.
A lot of bushwhacking and scrambling over small rocks and other obstacles is required for this hike so if you aren't tough and experienced, choose another hike. I went the first time with a friend who was used to hiking only well maintained trails with graded inclines and we didn't make it very far because the bugs, poor trail, intense climbs and volume of critters (mostly lizards but potentially snakes as well) freaked her out.
Stick with this though and you will feel pretty bad ass when you summit!
They ain't lying when they say it's a tough hike. I went up to the peak for the second time 1/30 and the first time in October. I had tried it in April and turned back at the saddle (Graveyard Saddle?). I think that hiking this on a warm clear day would be a true suffer fest.
Look for the mile marker 3.39, the scramble up to the overgrown old road and the start of the hike is just before it. If you turn the corner and see the tunnel turn back you've gone too far and you'll probably see the scramble up to the trail. Once you get off the road it gets tough and stays tough. Follow the road, cross the wash and when you reach an open area where the road forks straight ahead a or to the right go left and up.
The "trail" goes up and up. Follow the ridge. It's tough to get lost, but look for cairns. As long as you follow the ridge you'll get to the summit. Eventually.
Eventually you'll reach a rocky narrow saddle before Baby Rattlesnake. This part is steep to the right and wicked steep to the left. Take care.
For your sins, right past the saddle the trail drops down steeply and then up Baby Rattlesnake, cursing every foot of elevation you lost.
It ain't over at Baby Rattlesnake either. It's onward and upward with a couple of sections where you're sure your almost done on to reach them and see there is still further to go.
Finally you'll reach the summit and reap the reward. It's tough to appreciate the views when you're working your way up, but once at the summit the views are awesome.
Relax and enjoy. You worked hard enough for it.
The way back down is steep and loose. Poles are helpful. I've fallen and broken poles every time on this trail, and usually end up falling in
a yucca too.
It seems like a long walk down and it does
take some time. The stats don't do justice to the hike. I clocked it at about 9 miles, and 2.5 of that are on a road. But it ain't an easy 9 miles. This is a tough short hike.
Take more fluids than you think you'll need. Do it while it's cool. Overcast is good too. There is absolutely no shade on this burnt out ridge. Still it's an accomplishment and a great hike.
It's a great work out and very rewarding but the directions posted on here are to somebody's house so I would advise to get your own directions .
The crucial turn is just (like 15 ft) before mile marker 3.39, which is about 1.3 miles from the gate. Pictures show the market and the steep section up about 30 feet to the old road.
My own experience included an entire hive of bees swarming down along the ridge. Quite scary.
It was definitely a challenge, rewarding, and breathtaking. The climb was so steep that I was on my toes for about 1/3 of it. I literally climbed up the mountain ridge all the way to the top. There were no switchbacks or wide trails. It's what some of my friends would call an animal trail. I was told that not too many people ever go on this hike, which made it perfect for me. If I wanted something easy and popular, I'd do Runyon canyon or Griffith Park.
There's no bush whacking required anymore, but my trekking poles were definitely helpful, and pay attention for the ducks, especially the one before you turn left to go up the ridge. I added an arrow on the ground, made of little rocks, and I put 2 more ducks on either side of the beginning of the ridge, but who knows how long it'll last.
I recommend wearing long thin hiking pants. It gets hot, but it was nice to have pants on when I slid back down from the peak, and when I walked through this "planty" part.
There are no waterfalls or bridge or cave filled with gold and amethysts at the top. It was just me and the mountain, and a couple of butterflies. Everything else was quiet, even my head.
Keep in mind we got off trail so this may not be as good as other reviews. But even so, I don't think it would have been that beautiful even if we got the right trail.
Having said that, it was fun to make our own trail and bush-wack our way up to the top. But still we never got a "pretty" view. You're surrounded by Mts so if that's your thing, it's great.
It was very quite. No one on the trail actually. Parking is not enforced because literally no one goes to this part, so don't worry about parking pass. The trail at the bottom of this (Bridge to Nowhere) IS enforced heavily.. though.
This hike is incredible. The views are awesome but you cant even appreciate it until you get to the top because the hike is so arduous that you are concentrating on just getting to the top! There is a lot of scrambling up loose shale and rock but ultimately a fantastic workout and great accomplishment.
Extremely difficult hike - took 4 hours to go 3.5 miles from the trailhead to the top of the peak. 2 hours to get back to the car. Lots of loose soil and rock made for a treacherous hike. Much of the brush had been burned off in a fire several months ago. Stunning views though made it all worth while.