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One of the best things about living in Southern California is its many first-class beaches. You can look up the beach water report as well as weather and surfing information on this website: http://www.healthebay.org/brc/statemap.asp. The Thomas Guide lists beaches and their access roads. Barbecue grills are always allowed; however, fires, in general, are not. There are many other water sports available besides swimming and surfing: sailing, diving, water-skiing, and fishing. The Caltech Sailing Club has its own boats which you can take out after you try out with them and pass a test. Cruise companies also offer trips to Catalina and the Channel Islands (call Island Packer Cruises at (805) 642-1393).

  • Hermosa City Beach - There are lots of volleyball nets set up on this beach. Good for swimming. Not very crowded.
  • Huntington State Beach - A premier Californian “surf city”, this is a nice beach that allows you to have bonfires and lets you stay past dusk. You have to go early to get a bonfire spot. The water is a little too close to the oil rigs. There are clean bathrooms.
  • Laguna Beach - This is the prettiest beach in the LA area and is well worth the one-hour drive from Pasadena. A couple of the best snorkeling and diving spots in southern California are here, namely Shaw’s Cove and Fisherman’s Cove.
  • Leo Carillo State Beach-Located a few miles past Malibu on PCH, it has both rocky and sandy sections. There are great tide pools with star fish, anemones, and other creatures during low tide; dolphins and whales have been seen swimming fairly close to shore.
  • Newport Beach - Boasts a 3-mile stretch of wide sand and 2 piers. A cruise in the Newport Harbor will be memorable.
  • Point Dume County Beach-A really nice beach as far as LA is concerned. Tends to be less crowded and cleaner. The view along the trail to the top of Point Dume is beautiful. Parking is available in the lot near Point Dume.
  • Redondo State Beach - Another classic big sandy beach. Lots of volleyball, rollerblading, and surfers.
  • Santa Monica State Beach - Close to Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica pier, so you can combine all three for a nice day. The beach is wide and occasionally crowded. You can walk, jog, bike or rollerblade along the boardwalk next to the beach.
  • Venice Beach - A great place to watch an eclectic mix of people. The boardwalk is filled with fortune tellers, large snakes, artists, performers, and kiosks selling touristy garbage and food. Home of Muscle Beach, a weight lifting gym right on the beach. You can rent bikes and rollerblades and dodge the pedestrians along the boardwalk.
  • 'Will Rogers State Beach - Named after the Hollywood actor, this is a rather nice beach, especially for surfing. It’s not nearly as crowded as Venice or Santa Monica.

Hiking and Backpacking

Hiking and Backpacking Organizations

The following groups organize hiking and backpacking trips:

  • The Caltech Y Rents a limited amount of backpacking equipment at very reasonable prices.
  • The Sierra Club As a member you’ll receive a newsletter with a schedule of planned group hikes around southern California

Sources of Information


The best print sources of information about hiking in the mountains around Pasadena are:

  • San Bernardino Mountain Trails, Wilderness Press
  • Trails of the Angeles, Wilderness Press
  • Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County, Wilderness Press
  • REI and Sports Chalet (see sporting goods section)

Similarly, two guidebooks describe backpacking opportunities in the Sierra Nevada:

  • Sierra South-100 Backcountry Trips, by Winnett and Winnett
  • Sierra North-100 Backcountry Trips, by Winnett and Winnett

In addition, you may wish to read:

  • A Field Guide to Geology in Southern California by Robert P. Sharp
  • The Mountains of California by John Muir

USGS topographic maps can be purchased from the Cal Gold Pasadena Map Company at 2569 E. Colorado Blvd; (626) 795-3626 or from REI at 214 N. Santa Anita Ave, Arcadia; (626) 447-1062.

The Angeles National Forest and Other Nearby Trails

Many trails can be found along the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2). Other nearby trailheads include the following:

  • Arroyo Seco: Oak Grove Park
  • Big Santa Anita: Chantry Flats Campground
  • Eaton Canyon: north end of Altadena Ave
  • Mount Wilson Trail: Mount Wilson Trail Road
  • Millard Canyon: Millard Campground
  • Sam Merrill Trail: north end of Lake Ave

Fees for the Angeles National Forest:

A day parking fee or an annual pass is required in the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino National Forests. A single pass is valid in all four forests. Since it is a parking fee, passes are not required for bicycling or hiking from the outside. Exceptions are also made for previous fee sites such as campgrounds, ski areas and San Gabriel Canyon on the weekends, off-road vehicles (which need another pass), ranger stations, visitor centers, or other Forest Service offices, and for volunteers and educational institutions. Passes can be obtained from Forest Service offices, either in person or by mail, and are be sold by other vendors such as REI. Stickers fee for additional vehicles are required.

Rock Climbing

Southern California offers some of the best in the country; Joshua Tree, in particular, is incredible. A number of local shops sell equipment and guidebooks, notably REI and Sports Chalet. The Caltech gym and REI have climbing walls. More information about Caltech Climbing: http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~alpine/wiki/Caltech_Rock_Gym.

The following is a listing of the closest spots to Caltech:

  • Caltech Climbing Wall-(5 minutes) is located in the Brown Gymnasium.
  • Freeway Wall-(15 minutes) is under the 210 in the Arroyo Seco, offering several glue-up leads and some traversing.
  • Malibu Creek-Has two climbing areas - the Planet of the Apes Wall, and the Ghetto Wall. Almost all of the routes are 5.10+, with the Ghetto wall being the more advanced. From LA 101 North to Las Vigenes Rd. Turn left, and follow the road. The park entrance is just past Mullholland Hwy.
  • New York Wall-(10 minutes) is under New York Ave. in Eaton Canyon. You will find a reachy glue-up traverse and a few 5.10-5.12 leads.
  • Sespe Gorge-(2.5 hour) is located in the Los Padres National Forest, about 20 miles north of Ojai. It’s a 300 foot tall granite wall right off the road, and has some really excellent crack climbing. Most of the routes are lead routes, with top roping possible on the right side of the wall. There are a couple of bolted routes (5.11+) on the right side of the highway. There are major rockfalls and `shedding’, so wear a helmet. Take LA 101 north to Ventura, take Hwy 33 turnoff. Continue through Ojai, Sespe is about 20 miles north on the left side of the road. Parking is on the side of the road.
  • Smuggler’s Cove-An abalone preserve located in Rancho Palos Verdes between Portugese and Inspiration Points. The cliffs are made of this very weird blue rock, with a lot of pockets. Since this is a nature preserve, there is no bolting allowed. From LA 405 S to Hawthorne Bl. Drive south on Hawthorne until you reach PCH. At this point, Hawthorne will become narrow and windy. Stay on it until you hit Palos Verdes Dr. South. Turn left and park in the parking lot for the “Abalone Cove Shoreline Park”. Hike South on Palos Verdes Dr. Past the house at Portugese bend until you see the trail. Or, go straight onto the south end of the beach, and make your way around the point on the cliffs.
  • Williamson Rock-Williamson is really many rocks in close proximity to each other. On weekends, many climbers are also in close proximity to each other. This is mainly a sport-climbing area, and IMO the routes are very over-bolted. From LA 210 Fwy to Hwy 2. North on 2 for about 1 hour; parking is on the left just past Eagles Roost picnic area.

Skiing and Snowboarding


Southern California has some great backcountry ski areas. Local to Pasadena, the San Gabriel mountains, particularly the areas around Baldy, Cucamonga, Wrightwood, and Baden-Powell have great snow in winter. Further afield, the San Bernardino mountains have great multi-day ski touring options, and Mount San Jacinto provides good trails at the top of the aerial tramway along with an extreme ski descent down the North Face. The super-keen-and-experienced can also head to the Sierra Nevada's and enjoy exhilarating ski mountaineering opportunities among the many high peaks.

Snow junkies are recommended to join the mailing lists operated by the Caltech Alpine Club to stay up to date with skiing opportunities and also the latest safety information (particularly avalanche danger etc.).


http://www.skisocal.org/ is a great resource for resort skiing.

  • Lake Tahoe Area - http://www.snoweb.com: website about all 14 resorts around Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is about an 8 hour drive, but it rewards you with beautiful mountains, lakes and world class skiing.
  • Mammoth - http://www.mammothmountain.com - If you are really into good snow, Mammoth is definitely worth the slightly longer (~ 6 hours) drive.
  • Mount Baldy http://www.mtbaldy.com - The closest ski resort. About an hour drive from Caltech. It only has a few trails, which is ok for a day of skiing. Doesn't make snow, so the season is limited.
  • Mountain High http://www.mthigh.com A decent ski resort about 1 1/2 hrs drive away. Very little mountain driving on the way. Offers discount tickets for a group with 20 or more people.
  • Snow Summit http://www.snowsummit.com Enjoy a nice view of Lake Arrowhead at the top of the mountain. This is the biggest, nicest, and most expensive resort in the nearby San Gabriels.

Surfing and Windsurfing

For information on the weather and the surf conditions, check at http://www.surfrider.org/

You can windsurf on almost every beach around. The good spots for beginners are the sheltered areas like Marina del Rey or Alamitos Bay. For those who have already gained some confidence on a board, Malibu, Cabrillo (the most difficult spot), and Castaic Lake (which is inland, northwest of Pasadena) are places to consider. You can rent boards on the beach (average: $10/hour) or become a member of the Caltech Surf and Windsurf club, which offers board and wetsuit rentals for $5-$10/day to its members. Renting a surfboard is possible on every beach, though it may be expensive. From Caltech, the most convenient place is Santa Monica. It’s great for an afternoon of surfing. Better but also farther is Malibu, the place for surfing in Southern California. For more information, get in touch with the Caltech Surf and Windsurf Club (http://surfclub.caltech.edu/).

Horseback riding

  • San Pascual Stables
  • Altadena Stables
  • Circle K Riding Stables
  • Griffith Park Horse Rentals
  • Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables

Mountain biking

The front range of the San Gabriel Mountains is only a few minutes’ drive from campus, allowing convenient access to a network of hundreds of miles of hiking trails, fire roads, and cross-country routes. With the aid of a specially designed, fat-tired, off-road machine, can explore the far reaches of a mountain range rich in natural history and beautiful scenery. Some other trails in the area may be closed to bicycles; check with the U.S. Forest Service as to where you can ride legally. Riding on illegal trails could mean the end of all biking in the Angeles National Forest. Excellent guidebooks for the San Gabriel range are Trails of the Angeles, by Robinson and Mountain Bicycling in the San Gabriels, by Immler. The publishers also offer a companion volume on the San Bernardino Mountains to the east. The USFS pamphlet Mountain Bicycling in Eaton Canyon/Mt. Wilson Area also provides some useful general guidelines on mountain biking in the area. USGS topographic maps can be purchased from the Cal Gold Pasadena Map Company at 2569 E. Colorado Blvd; (626) 795-3626 or from REI at 214 N. Santa Anita Ave, Arcadia; (626) 447-1062. If you need riding buddies, join the Pasadena Mountain Bike Club: http://www.pmbc.org


For white-water, California has rivers with rapids classed from a slight ripple to a shear drop depending on the season and snowfall. The best flow is generally late spring. The closest rafting/kayaking opportunity to Tech is probably the Kern River with its Class 3 rapids. It is only about three hours away. Slightly faster and farther are the Kings, Merced and Yantze Rivers. For beginners, all the above rivers have commercial tour groups that take you down the river all day and entertain you at night by the campfire. More economically, you can go on one of the JPL hiking club trips, which may include rafting, canoeing, hiking, backpacking, or mountain climbing.

The Caltech Outdoors club has kayaks available to rent inexpensively (http://www.its.caltech.edu/~outdoors/).