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Angeles National Forest: Hiking Trails

Vincent Gap to Prairie Fork

While this trip is a good one for fishermen, it is also rewarding for the general hiker. The trail descends four miles and 2,000 ft. in elevation down Vincent Gulch to Prairie Fork, a major tributary of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. The path leads through a pine and fir forest with oaks and other trees becoming more numerous lower down the route. While the hike down is pleasant and fairly easy, the climb back up can be arduous, especially if you are already tired. There is usually a small stream in Vincent Gulch, but much more water in Prairie Fork and in the East Fork farther down. (This water should be treated before using.) If you're lucky, you may see a Bighorn Sheep.

At the bottom of the trail where Vincent Gulch joins Prairie Fork, a right turn will take you to the East Fork and Mine Gulch, directly below the Bighorn Mine. It is possible to camp there, but first make local inquiry at a ranger station and obtain a free Campfire Permit.

Another 11 miles down the East Fork is the East Fork Ranger Station, which is at the end of the East Fork road leading up from Highway 39 in San Gabriel Canyon. The trip all the way down through the East Fork is scenic and a great adventure, but is difficult. It is almost all rock-hopping with numerous stream crossings and almost no trail. This extended trip is for the experienced hiker, and should not be taken alone. Do not attempt this trip in winter or early spring when the stream flow is high.

At the bottom of the trail at Prairie Fork, a left turn leads up to Cabin Flat (two miles) and the end of a dirt road leading down from the Angeles Crest Highway at Blue Ridge. This road is open only during summer and fall, until closed by snow.

Directions

The trail starts at the south edge of Vincent Gap. Descend a few feet to the trail leading out to Bighorn Mine. A short distance out, turn left on a path branching off and down into Vincent Gulch. Vincent Gap is on the Angeles Crest Highway about 53 miles from La Canada, or 5.5 miles from Big Pines.

This trail enters the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area, and a Wilderness Permit is required if you are entering from East Fork. Permits are available at the East Fork Trailhead.

A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for your vehicle while parked at the trailhead.

Distance: 8.8 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Topo map: Crystal Lake and Mt San Antonio

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