Say hello to the pride and joy of Los Angeles ... and the country's newest national monument!
Thanks to a move by President Obama on Oct. 10, a whopping 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel mountains have officially been designated a national monument, after more than a decade of support from residents, lawmakers, environmental organizations and other key players.
Stretching up against the length of the Los Angeles metropolitan area from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino County, this special place is often considered the recreational "backyard" of Los Angeles.
So what does this national monument designation mean for visitors? Well, after enduring years of underfunding and poor visitor services, this gorgeous area will now be equipped with new restrooms, trash cans, visitor information, trail signs and educational programs.
Of course, the San Gabriel Mountains are more than a pretty backdrop and hiking destination. In addition to aesthetic and recreational value, the San Gabriel Mountains provide one-third of Los Angeles' drinking water. Making sure that this natural monument is preserved for generations to come is important for the daily life of those who live nearby.
The designation is also great news for the flora and fauna that call the range home. Despite its next-door neighbor status to one of the largest cities in the country, the San Gabriel Mountains boast a plethora of thriving wildlife, including mountain lions, coyotes, spotted owls, San Gabriel mountain salamanders and desert bighorn sheep (seen above). These bovids experienced a rapid population decline in the 1980s and 1990s, and it was estimated that less than 100 individuals remained between 1995 and 2002. Today, these desert bovids are on the rebound thanks to focused conservation efforts and volunteer survey work.
Continue below for a look at just a few of the striking landmarks and attractions found within the San Gabriel range, and you'll see exactly why so many Angelenos are smitten.
Photo: Doc Searls/Flickr
Mount San Antonio
Also known as Mount Baldy, this 10,068-foot peak is the highest point in Los Angeles County. The best way to get to the summit is to take one of three hiking trails (the most notable being the Devil's Backbone trail), or take a ski lift from the Mount Baldy Ski Lifts resort.
Photo: Jason Hickey/Flickr
Bridge to Nowhere
Built in 1936, this bridge was originally part of a grand plan to connect the the city of Wrightwood (north of the mountains) to the San Gabriel Valley (south of the mountains). After the great flood of March 1938 washed away the connecting East Fork Road, which was still under construction at the time, the project was abandoned. Today, the bridge remains stranded deep in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, though it is often visited by intrepid hikers.
Although they are a bit of a drive from Los Angeles, the striking sandstone formations and canyons of Devil's Punchbowl are definitely worth a visit. The stretch of land is located on the northern slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains, and it is managed as a Los Angeles County park. While there are plenty of hiking trails to explore on your own, there is also a nature center, guided tours and educational programs that are worth checking out, too.
Photo: Rennett Stowe/Flickr
The San Gabriel Mountains boast many lakes, reservoirs and other bodies of water. This particular scenic pool, located just west of Wrightwood, was created by the San Andreas fault and is mostly fed by the snowmelt of the nearby mountains. It's a great place to go fishing in the summer, and there are plenty of campgrounds and picnic areas around the area. If you happen to visit in the winter, it's not uncommon to see the surface of the lake completely frozen.
Photo: Mitch Barrie/Flickr
The San Gabriel Mountains are home to plenty of tall, scenic peaks, and this one, named for its proximity to the town of Ontario, is one of them! At 8,693 feet, Ontario Peak is the 10th highest summit in the range. It's located in the San Bernardino Forest, where hikers can test their endurance on a 13-mile trail that features a 4,100-foot elevation gain.
Learn more about the San Gabriel Mountains and start your adventure by visiting San Gabriel Mountains National Monument page on the U.S. Forest Service site.