Windy Gap Trail to Little Jimmy Springs
Summary for Windy Gap Trail to Little Jimmy Springs Hike
Hike up excellent trail to this saddle on the San Gabriel Mountains crest which offers great alpine scenery and a short side hike to the lovely Little Jimmy Springs, a perennial mountain water source.
This hike begins very near the end of Highway 39, which takes you deep into the mountains up the scenic canyon of the San Gabriel River. The trail head is in the relatively little known Crystal Lake Recreational Area and Campground, which reopened in 2011, having been closed for 9 years after the entire area was devastated in the 20,857 acre Curve Fire in 2002. The area contains a surprisingly nice campground and day use area, a ranger station, a cafe, and Crystal Lake, one of the only natural mountain lakes in Southern California. It’s a small lake and gets pretty dry near the end of summer and in drought years, but after a wet winter the lake is reminiscent of a small Sierra lake, with its pine forest and granite cliff surroundings.
The area sits in a spectacular setting close against the granite backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains crest. Windy Gap is actually one of the low points on that crest, a saddle known for its eponymous high winds. The well-maintained and graded trail takes you steeply up the side of the mountain ridge, with increasingly scenic views, until you reach Windy Gap, where the trail joins with the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs along the San Gabriel Mountains crest here. A .25 mile jaunt further up the PCT takes you to the tranquil Little Jimmy Springs, a year round water source just off the trail.
Directions to Trailhead for Windy Gap Trail to Little Jimmy Springs Hike
Map of Windy Gap Trail to Little Jimmy Springs Hike with Downloadable GPX FileClick here to download the GPX File
Detailed Description for Windy Gap Trail to Little Jimmy Springs Hike
Note that the actual trail head for the Windy Gap Trail is a short distance into the campground, and there is a parking lot at the trail head. If the campground is closed, which it is in the winter, you will have to park at the ranger station and walk only about .3 mile up a road to the trail head. Make sure you have reviewed/printed and/or have access to the map above so you can find the trail head if the campground is closed.
Now you proceed up the trail, which is well-designed and easy to follow, through a pleasant shaded segment.
Soon you will arrive at a road, which you cross to the trail on the opposite side. Thankfully, since there are other trails in the area that cross each other, the trail has signs in appropriate places, and this is one of those. Always follow the indications for Windy Gap Trail.
The trail ascends briskly, and you will shortly encounter another road crossing – again you will follow the sign appropriately for our hike.
Now you begin to traverse a nicely designed series of steep switchbacks, which take you out of the forest and up the side of the mountain crest towards the saddle. Your vistas open up increasingly as you ascend.
As you progress, you will pass some dramatic areas of exposed rock, with interesting geologic features.
Shortly you will arrive at the very alpine area of Windy Gap itself. This hike is a relatively easy way to gain access to the magnificent San Gabriel Mountain crest. The views here are spectacular, so take some great photos to post on Facebook displaying your hiking acumen.
Note that you are now at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, which travels along the crest of the mountains at this point. This is a good spot to take another pic of yourself on the PCT, since there is a cool sign at this location.
I would highly recommend that you take the very short side trip to Little Jimmy Springs. Head to your left and slightly downhill, following the PCT, only about .2 miles. You will see a sign for the springs, which are about 50′ below and to the right of the trail.
The water pours out of a pipe that has been inserted into the granite itself, then into a basin, and then down the mountain. I am very careful about drinking water in the wilderness, but because the pure mountain spring water comes directly out of the pipe, this is one of the few places where I will drink spring water untreated. I just make sure to put my water container below the pipe so the water never touches any other surface, where it might get contaminated. Little Jimmy Springs is a serene and lovely spot, with flowering vegetation, singing birds, and some massive old-growth cedars for shade. Enjoy your time here, and now simply retrace your steps back down the trail to your parked vehicle.
Video of Windy Gap Trail to Little Jimmy Springs Hike
The spectacular views and spiritual energy of Windy Gap on a nice summer day. Video shot on Sunday 8/10/2015.
The tranquil ambiance of Little Jimmy Springs on a nice summer day. Video shot on Sunday 8/10/2015.