Objective: Summit Mt. Emma and Old Mt. Emma, San Gabriel Mountains, California
Distance: 6.2 miles (out and back)
Peak Elevation: Mt. Emma: 5,273’, Old Mt. Emma: 5,063’
Elevation Gain: 1,633’ (Mt. Emma: 1,380’, Old Mt. Emma: 253’)
Who was Emma Pallett? What did she do to deserve such acclaim? Was she the epitome of old-fashioned prim and proper values or was she the vanguard of new modern sensibilities? From Mt. Emma Road, climb to Mt. Emma, follow Mount Emma Ridge, and hike to Old Mount Emma. The Emmas are the two northernmost peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Directions to Trailhead
From the 210 East in La Cañada, take the Angeles Crest Highway (CA-2) for 9.5 miles to Angeles Forest Highway. Turn left (north) and drive 20 miles to Mount Emma Road. Turn right and drive 2 miles to a shallow saddle (there is a sign for the trail on the right). There is a parking area on the left side of the road.
Directions to Summit
Trailhead: The Mount Emma Trail is marked by a sign. Hike southeast up a use trail until it meets a firebreak.
0.2 miles: Follow the firebreak to the summit.
1.5 miles: You have reached Mt. Emma. Continue northeast along Mount Emma Ridge.
3.1 miles: You have reached Old Mt. Emma. Turn around and head back.
On a breezy, early autumn morning, the firebreak to Mount Emma is pretty much a straight chute to the ridgeline. The soft powdery dirt line is steep and steadily rises directly to Mount Emma Ridge. Along the way, sprigs of rosemary sweetly scent the air. The summit of Mount Emma is at the intersection of the trail and the ridge. From here, the surrounding hills look like leopards’ backs, with artichoke green and mahogany polka dots.
Emma Ridge is a rollercoaster ridge. The first rise and fall is a big dipper and indubitably a doozy. The downslope seems almost vertical. My steps simultaneously shorten and quicken with all my weight in my toes crashing against the inside of the boots. I use a sideways shuffle-slide-push descent technique to avoid slipping down the loose scree. It feels like someone has released a bag of marbles directly in my path. Climbing on the return is reminiscent of Looney Tunes cartoons where the foil’s legs are moving at warp speed but not going anywhere. After the saddle, there is a little dip and rut filled with rocks, which leads straight to Old Mount Emma.
The sweeping vistas at Old Mount Emma present the San Gabriel Mountains to the south and Antelope Valley to the north. You can see undulating slopes that are rolling for miles in every direction.
Overhead, a murder of crows ominously circles and seems to click and caw in a menacing fashion. One crow suddenly dives straight down, which creates a zipping whizzing sound. I guess I just learned why a group of crows is named a murder.
Display your adventure pass.
The peak is named for Emma Pallett. The Pallet family owned a 900-acre ranch in Los Angeles and a ranch in Rivera. Early maps mislabeled another summit as Mount Emma, which is why the other peak is now named Old Mount Emma.