As soon as I’m confident spring really here, I’m beating feet up the San Gabriel Canyon’s East Fork to a spot I haven’t visited for more almost ten years, the abandoned Allison mine perched on the side of Iron Mountain.
I’ve been to the Allison at least five times. It’s a challenging hike, but it’s easily accomplished if you prepare for an appx. 900 foot elevation rise from the canyon floor and are prepared to slog your way up washes and an unmaintained trail to the site of the Allison. http://www.everytrail.com/fullscreen.php?trip_id=115514
I’ve written about the Allison in previous posts. I’ve just never been specific about its name or location. With gold at more than $1,600 an ounce, the last thing I want to do is kick off a mini-rush on the East Fork. But Iron Mountain appears to be auriferous and the Allison was a working mine. Two of my San Gabriel Canyon history mentors—Bill Sele and his Masonic Lodge buddy Sedley Pe ck, repeatedly told me the story of the Allison when I was a teenager. They also warned me that hiking up to the remains of the Allison was thirsty work and to be sure to bring adequate drinking water.
The easiest path to the mine is to take the Heaton Flats trail on the East Fork. The mine is at the top of of Allison Gulch on the East Fork. The trail leads directly to the mine and was hacked into the side of Iron Mountain by the mine’s original owners, the Allison Family. There are a lot of artifacts at the mine. Old ore cars, a small ball mill (for crushing ore) and the remains of a four cylinder engine that was used to power the mill and a mine building were still there the last time I hiked up to the Allison ( in 2000). Going up to the Allison is a fun hike.
If you’re a gold seeker pay attention to the geological detritus that has accumulated in the nooks and crannies on the trail up Allison Gulch. The gold bearing ore is mostly granite, although I’ve seen quartz samples reportedly pulled from Iron Mountain.
The entrance to the mine is easily found but I sincerely believe exploring abandoned mines is a sure path to disaster. But don’t be afraid to poke around Iron Mountain. If you do, you can’t help but notice where the Allison’s owners dug other places looking for “the color.”
Is there gold in Iron Mountain on the San Gabriel’s East Fork? Bet your butt there is. There is no doubt in my mind that the two nuggets I pulled out of the East Fork south of its confluence with the Iron Fork came from that mountain. But my interest in abandoned mines isn’t a quest for overlooked nuggets or fractional grams of flour gold. Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by California’s gold miners; how they lived, what they left behind and what caused them to stake a specific claim. Take time to explore the site of the Allison and you’ll come to understand how driven prospectors were. According to my grandfather and Sedley Peck, all of the Allison’s heavy equipment—including the power for its ball mill was hauled up by pack mules. Unfortunately the story of the Allison didn’t end well. Its mill and living quarters were washed off the side of Iron Mountain in a storm.
A final thought about hiking up to the Allison—if you hike in from the ranger station, you can count on fording the East Fork several times, before you make your ascent, change into dry socks—unless of course you really want nice blisters on your feet. The hike up to the Allison is one of my favorite East Fork Adventures.
The Allison is just one of several old mines in the San Gabriel Canyon. The Big Horn Mine is equally well known and is filled with rusting Southern California gold mining artifacts. An all but forgotten mine is located down canyon and is an easy 20 minute hike westward up a fire road near Morris Dam. The San Gabriel Canyon was a mining center beginning in about 1850 and again during the Great Depression.
There really is gold in the Angeles National Forest, but don’t look to me for GPS coordinates. Take the time and explore the treasure trove north of Azusa and try very hard to leave only soft foot prints as testament to your explorations .—Jim Forbes on 0128/2012
nb—a USFS day use pass is required in this section of the Angeles National Forest and if you fish, a valid California Fishing license is required. Two other suggestions; let someone know where you are going hiking and when you expect to return, and do not leave donuts or other treats in your car when you park. Mother Nature is regenerating the canyon and the (black) bears have returned—jmf.