It's been on my bucket list to hike to the peak of Mt. Whitney, the tallest summit in the lower 48 states. If you have the same wish, between now and early October is probably the best time to do it before the winter weather sets in. But before you attempt such a feat, you have to train a bit so you don't poop out half way up the mountain. To get in shape to tackle Mt. Whitney, many people choose Mt. San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains. It is the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet in elevation.
I haven't hiked Mt. San Gorgonio but another good training site is Mt. Wilson, the 5,710 feet peak overlooking the San Gabriel Valley. If you begin at Eaton Canyon Nature Park in Altadena, you will hike about 12 miles each way with an elevation gain of 4,400 feet. I did this hike last summer in the midst of a stifling heat wave.
From Eaton Canyon park, go to the nature center where you can get a map that shows how to look up to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. It probably won't be necessary. Just follow the main trail up the creek and when you get to the big concrete bridge, follow the wide dirt trail up the mountain. You won't find any water until you get to a small hike-in campsite halfway up the mountain. The terrain ranges from dry, dusty chaparral to shady pine and oak forests. Keep an eye out for bear, which have been spotted in the area. To read up on the toll road, check out this Wikipedia site.
Directions: From the 210 Freeway, take the Altadena exit east. After you past New York Ave. look for the Eaton Canyon Nature Park on your right. Park and follow the creek up river.
(Photo: Mt. Wilson from Altadena.)