“Enjoy peace and solitude in the San Gabriel Mountains, only 1.5 hours from Los Angeles.”
— Taylor Reilly
Birding · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
California State Route 39 no longer connects with Highway 2, as 39 has not been maintained for several years after numerous landslides. Winter conditions can cause road closures on 39, so be sure to check before traveling to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area.
There are some sections of loose rock, but overall the trail is in very good condition.
The Windy Gap Trail first takes you up 1,740 feet over 2.5 miles to Windy Gap, a pass along the Islip Ridge. During the ascent through the Crystal Lake Basin, you'll see remnants of the 2002 Curve Fire that devastated the area. Some of the trail's terrain is loose, although volunteers have done a good job containing major washouts and clearing the trail of loose rocks.
When you reach Windy Gap on the Islip Ridge there is a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. If you want to reach the Mount Islip summit, ascend west (left at the junction) onto the Mount Islip Trail. Or, if you want to descend back to the Windy Gap Trailhead, run back down the trail from the direction you came.
When you reach the junction with South Hawkins Road, continue straight on the Windy Gap Trail downhill to the trailhead. Use this last section of flatter terrain for your cool-down, before making it down to the car. After making it to the trailhead parking lot, reward yourself with some food, beverages, and ice cream at the Crystal Lake Basin Snack Bar and Trading Post.
Flora & Fauna
The Crystal Lake Basin provides beautiful 360-degree scenery of alpine flowers and various types of coniferous trees. Wildfire scars can be seen across the basin - leftover from the 2002 Curve Fire, a reminder that the San Gabriel Mountains landscape is ever-changing.