Hike Josephine Peak From Colby Canyon

Hike Josephine Peak From Colby Canyon

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Hike Josephine Peak
  • The Best Trail to Hike Josephine Peak
  • Parking, Maps, and Insider Tips
Total Distance (?)8.4 miles (13.5 km)
Hike Time4 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)2,300 feet (701m)
Highest Elevation5,558 feet (1694m)
Fees & PermitsNone
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Angeles National Forest
Park Phone747-322-6574
Monthly Newsetter

Standing prominently in the western San Gabriels, Josephine Peak offers a cool summit with sweeping views. There are a few ways to hike to the summit, and this guide covers my favorite route, which takes the (single track) Colby Canyon Trail (instead of the fire road). This is a great “off-the-beaten-path” hike where you never see crowds, making for a peaceful and pleasurable experience.

Note the yellowish tinge in the images of this guide. The air was covered in smoke from the 2021 KNP Complex in the Sequoia National Park, about 150 miles away.

Where is the Colby Canyon Trailhead?

The trailhead is easy to spot, and is off Angeles Crest Highway, close to the Switzer Falls area. Use this trailhead address:
Colby Canyon Trail, 701 Angeles Crest Hwy, Tujunga, CA 91042

Josephine Peak Hike 1
If you’re driving from the western end of Angeles Crest Highway, you’ll be able to see Josephine Peak as you drive up into the forest.
Josephine Peak Hike 2
The lot isn’t massive, but I’ve never seen it full.
Josephine Peak Hike 3
There’s a trailhead sign here to confirm you are in the correct spot. FYI no parking pass is needed here.

Gear For the Hike

This hike is mostly exposed, so make sure you bring sun protection and about 2L of water. In the winter there can be snow. And if you have trekking poles, I’d bring them for the climb and descent.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Latest Price
REI | Amazon

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.

My October 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Josephine Peak Trail Maps

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.


How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Elevation Profile

Hike Josephine Peak From Colby Canyon Elevation
There are some little ups and downs along the way, but overall you’ll be climbing, with a nice flat section between Josephine Saddle and the intersection with the fire road.

3D Map

Hike Josephine Peak From Colby Canyon 3d Map
It’s an out and back hike up Colby Canyon Trail to the summit. You can also see the fire road route on this map, which I don’t think is as nice a route as Colby Canyon.

Josephine Peak Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Josephine Peak Hike 4
The trail starts just to the left of the Colby Canyon Trail board.
Josephine Peak Hike 5
At the start you’ll have a short downhill into the canyon, crossing the (usually dry) creek a couple of times.
Josephine Peak Hike 6
And then you start to climb. At the beginning the climb is a little primitive.
Josephine Peak Hike 7
And then gets more graded and established as it continues.
Josephine Peak Hike 8
And soon you crest the ridge, which has sweeping views over Colby Canyon. In the distance you can see the trail zig-zagging its way up to Josephine Saddle.
Josephine Peak Hike 9
And as you continue, you’ll be treated to unique views of Strawberry Peak (on the left), which actually does look like an upside down strawberry from here. Here you’ll go down a small downhill with evidence of the 2009 Station Fire.
Josephine Peak Hike 10
Start climbing up the wide switchbacks, which offer nice views down to the mouth of Colby Canyon where you started.
Josephine Peak Hike 11
As you climb, you’ll also start to see San Gabriel Peak (left) and Mt Disappointment (right) in the distance.
Josephine Peak Hike 12
There’s some solid trail work here.
Josephine Peak Hike 13
After the first section of switchbacks, you have a short flat stretch before the next series, which you can see ahead.
Josephine Peak Hike 14
At the top of those last switchbacks you’ll see a concrete structure ahead. This is Josephine Saddle.

What’s the concrete structure? It’s a big cistern, used to collect water. The top is angled inward to a hole where the water flows in. It was built by the Los Angeles River Flood Control Project to monitor rainfall, but according to this map, I don’t think it’s used anymore (this one’s ID is LARFCP 1948). You can see similar ones around Angeles National Forest, including one on Mt. Gleason, stamped LARFCP 1947. There’s a side trail to climb onto the cistern if you want to check it out.

Josephine Peak Hike 15
When you get to Josephine Saddle, make the hard left.
Josephine Peak Hike 16
You’ll hike from the saddle clearing onto a singletrack trail.
Josephine Peak Hike 17
This section is flat and pleasant as you follow the ridge.
Josephine Peak Hike 18
The views north into Angeles National Forest are spectacular.
Josephine Peak Hike 19
When you come around a bend you’ll see Josephine Peak in front of you.
Josephine Peak Hike 20
You’ll come to a little clearing on the left with great views south.

Who is Josephine Peak named after? It’s Josephine Lippencott, the wife of USGS surveyor Joseph Barlow Lippencott, who used the peak as a triangulation station.

Josephine Peak Hike 21
The last viewpoint offers great views toward downtown LA.
Josephine Peak Hike 22
Then you’ll come to the intersection with Josephine Peak Road #2N64. Hike straight and continue uphill.
Josephine Peak Hike 23
The rest of the hike is on this dirt road, but it’s not too bad and offers great views.
Josephine Peak Hike 24
After a switchback, stay on the main road and avoid small side trails.
Josephine Peak Hike 25
You’ll start getting some spectacular views of Strawberry Peak (right).
Josephine Peak Hike 26
And you can see the trail you climbed up below you.
Josephine Peak Hike 27
As you wind around to the east, you can see Mt Lukens with all the radio towers on top.
Josephine Peak Hike 28
Hike past the helipad at the wide clearing.
Josephine Peak Hike 29
And after a narrow section of trail, you’ll reach the summit!

You’ll notice the concrete blocks, which were once the base of a fire tower. The tower stood from 1938 to 1975 when it burned down in the Mill Fire. At that point many towers in Angeles NF were being dismantled and abandoned anyway because the smog was so bad.

Josephine Peak Hike 30
You’ll have views over toward Mt Wilson (the peak with the antennas).
Josephine Peak Hike 31
And to the north you can see Mt Pacifico, about 10 miles away.
Josephine Peak Hike 33
And you also get the incredibly dramatic views of Strawberry Peak.
Josephine Peak Hike 32
There’s also a USGS benchmark if that’s your thing.
Josephine Peak Hike 34
Enjoy the summit, take your photos, and then just return the way you came up!

This guide last updated on October 1, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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