Liebre Gulch Instead of Liebre Mountain
By Leonard Friedman
Photos by Leonard and Rebecca Friedman and Bob Peltzman
Mid-morning on April 9, Rebecca and I met Bob Peltzman at Denny’s in Castaic, with the intention of driving Liebre Sawmill Rd (7N23) over Liebre Mountain. The two vehicle caravan first stopped at Sandberg Lodge, once the site of an upscale hotel on the Old Ridge Route. These days there is very little to see of the old hotel, but behind it we experienced some fantastic views down Liebre Gulch all the way to Pyramid Lake, and even saw some wild poppies. Bald Mountain, home to the Sandberg weather station and antennas, rose to the north.
We continued south on the Old Ridge Route, turning off to an abandoned Forest Service campground, requiring a bit of 4-wheel drive. After stopping there for lunch and conversation in the shade of a tree, we arrived at the beginning of Liebre Sawmill Rd, complete with a sign warning of a gate ahead. Sure enough, the gate was locked, though in past years it had been open. This time it was closed due to the Lake Fire of August and September 2020, which burned over 31,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest near Lake Hughes. So, we took out our Forest Passes, locked our vehicles, and went for a hike instead. (Only later did I realize that that probably wasn’t allowed either.) The closed road was in perfect condition and the views over the forest amazing. We came across plenty of wildflowers, especially on the steep hills, and what looked like a series of giant “ant hills” running up the mountainside which we concluded must have been a fire break. Rebecca almost lost her sunglasses while photographing the wildflowers, but we figured that would have been an allowable 10% trip loss.
Two hours later, we returned to our cars, and continued south on the Old Ridge Route to the end of the road at Tumble Inn with its famous stone arch remaining. The gate on the Old Ridge Route was actually open, but we decided to heed the signs telling us not to continue. Well, we did walk in a bit, spotting lots of manzanita along the road, but left our cars at Tumble Inn. But then we noticed another dirt road heading back north and down into the canyon, Liebre Gulch. The road did not appear on the Auto Club map, but was hinted at in De Lorme, so with no gate or warning signs, we decided to give it a try. The road marker said 8N05, but checking various sources later, it is also known as Tumble Inn Road and Edison Spring Road.
At the bottom of the hill in Liebre Gulch, we came to a T-intersection. Bob quickly determined that there had been a major washout to the right that we might have had difficulty getting through, so we went left instead, this time on 8N01 or Edison Spring Rd. Heading southwest through the gulch, we started climbing the ridge on the opposite side, next to a very steep drop-off. Once topping the ridge, the road curved back to the North providing spectacular views, and giving access to high tension power line towers for several miles and a buried crude oil pipeline. At the bottom of the next canyon, a sign was posted on a small fenced area proclaiming “West Fork Liebre Gulch North.” Who knew?
There were lots of forks in the road for eleven miles, but each time we took the one that looked more travelled, and we usually had the Bald Mountain antennas in sight. Eventually, at 5:45 p.m. we ended up at the aqueduct near Quail Lake Road, where I-5 and SR 138 meet. We started the trip seeking a mountain, but instead explored an impressive gulch. ~ Leonard