Plant Guide to Dawson Saddle Trail

Introduction and Explanation of Plant Trail Guides

Highlights of This Trail
Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time
The Plant Guide


This trail is one of the most beautiful of the high country. It begins at the highest elevation on the Angeles Crest Highway at 7903 foot Dawson Saddle. After 1.8 miles and 1000 feet of elevation gain, mostly on a ridge with superb views in nearly-all directions, the trail ends at the Pacific Crest Trail. From that junction, you can head east to Mt. Burnham and Mt. Baden-Powell, or south to Throop Peak, Mt. Hawkins, South Mt. Hawkins or Mt. Islip.

For photographs of some of the plants on this trail, as well as some from nearby areas, see Michael Charters' Photo Gallery from June 2009.

The beginning of the trail at and near Dawson Saddle is confusing. Only an old unsigned trail begins exactly at Dawson Saddle. That trail has one short section with poor footing where one risks slipping in an area where a slip would be very unpleasant. That trail meets the newer better trail after 0.21 miles on it, at mile 0.30 on the newer trail.

The trail guide here begins at the new trailhead which is about 0.10 miles east of Dawson Saddle, across from a pullout on the north side of the Angeles Crest Highway, about 0.04 miles beyond (east) of Mile Marker 69.59, signed simply as "Trail" at the Highway. There is a very large sign at mile 0.02 on the trail, saying "Dawson Saddle Trail. Built by boy scouts the summer of 1982 to commemorate the 75th year of world scouting. Total Volunteer hours: 3,540". That sign had been gradually falling down, listing at about 30° in August 2002; 40° in July 2013; 45° in Aug 2014; and 50° in Aug 2015. The sign was then reset in the ground sometime between Aug 2015 and June 2015, since it was listing at only about 15° in June 2016.

For a plant guide to the PCT heading east to the junction with the Mt. Baden-Powell Trail, see Plant Guide to PCT from Dawson Saddle / Throop Peak Junction to Mt. Baden-Powell Junction.

For a plant guide to the PCT heading west to Windy Gap see Plant Guide to PCT from Dawson Saddle / Throop Peak Junction to Windy Gap.

No plant trail guide is yet available for the new trail to Throop Peak from the PCT.

Highlights of This Trail

The trail gives an extensive look at the plants of the high country of the San Gabriels, as well as extensive vistas of the surrounding country. The views are literally from the desert to the sea on a clear day.

The trail has many botanical highlights:

See also Regional Distribution of the Plants on Dawson Saddle Trail.

Number of Unique Taxa On This Trail

Section not updated since 2003

Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time

The following table gives the dates the trail was walked and taxa recorded. After each visit, the table gives the total number of taxa on the list and the breakdown of the taxa without positive identification. See Explanation of Plant Trail Guides to understand the symbols below.

Visit DateVisit ## taxa# "?"# "sp"# "~"# "ssp"Comments
6/9/20021360401only up to mile 1.06

In addition to the visits above, Jane has made a number of visits to this trail previously without recording all the taxa.

The Plant Guide

See also Flora of Throop Peak Area for a plant list in family order.

Some of the species, especially at the very beginning of the trail, are not present there in all years.

At Dawson Saddle itself in 2014 were about five plants of what is probably Kochia scoparia, which may be a waif here. The plants were vegetative on 18 August 2014. There are also a large number of Russian thistle plants, Salsola gobicola.

In August 2014, the old trail that begins at Dawson Saddle had ~50 plants of Parish's oxytheca, Acanthoscyphus parishii var. parishii (= Oxytheca parishii var. parishii). It also has a single plant of Ribes velutinum. Neither of these species have been seen on the new trail.

See Notes on the Scientific Names Used At This Site.

An asterisk (*) before the common name indicates a non-native taxon.

The #Pls represents the minimum number of plants of each species visible from the trail, up to a maximum of 99. Note that the number of plants in this guide reflects the number within a somewhat-larger distance from the trail than our previous convention of it being only the number of plants within an arm's-length distance from the trail.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (4 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (1 double-sided page). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

MileS#id?Common NameScientific Name#Pls
0.00This guide does not follow the old unsigned trail exactly at Dawson Saddle, SR2 (7903 feet). Instead, head east on SR2 to the new trailhead, about 0.04 miles beyond (east) of Mile Marker 69.59.
0.00Plants at trailhead, in order from west (on the right) to east, beginning at the Jeffrey pine 5 steps to the right of the trailhead.
0.00r1Jeffrey pinePinus jeffreyi99 / 9
0.00r2*Jerusalem oakDysphania botrys99 / 1
0.00r3giant blazing starMentzelia laevicaulis40 / 1
0.00r4rock buckwheatEriogonum saxatile75 / 5
0.00r5threadleaf common rabbitbrushEricameria nauseosa var. oreophila15 / 3
0.00r6Grinnell's beardtonguePenstemon grinnellii var. grinnellii99 / 9
0.00(pinedrops, Pterospora andromedea)
0.00The trailhead
0.00r7Nevin's bird's beakCordylanthus nevinii30 / 2
0.00l8squirreltailElymus elymoides99 / 9
0.00l9California brickellbushBrickellia californica2 / 2
0.00l10Davidson's buckwheatEriogonum davidsonii5 / 2
0.00Begin hiking trail
0.0011pussy pawsCalyptridium monospermum30 / 2
0.00l12silky lupineLupinus elatus99 / 9
0.01r13green-leaf manzanitaArctostaphylos patula99 / 9
0.01b14Davidson's lotusAcmispon nevadensis var. davidsonii25 / 2
0.01r15pinegrove groundsmokeGayophytum oligospermum50 / 5
0.01r16santolina pincushionChaenactis santolinoides20 / 3
0.0117white catch-flySilene verecunda15 / 2
0.01l18white firAbies concolor99 / 9
0.02Switchback to right; sign: "Dawson Saddle Trail. Built by Boy Scouts the summer of 1982 to commemorate the 75th year of world scouting. Total volunteer hours 3540. Elevation 7903 feet. USFS".
0.05r19Davidson's phaceliaPhacelia davidsonii6 / 2
0.06l20sugar pinePinus lambertiana99 / 9
0.07l21pine lousewortPedicularis semibarbata99 / 9
0.07l22broad-seeded rock-cressBoechera platysperma20 / 2
0.08l23Tehachapi ragwortPackera ionophylla20 / 2
0.08r24mountain whitethornCeanothus cordulatus99 / 9
0.09Switchback to left; jct. old path to right that leads now to a steep dropoff in 6 paces.
0.09r25slender woodland starLithophragma tenellum99 / 2
0.09r26Southern California drabaDraba corrugata5 / 1
0.09b27beaked penstemonPenstemon rostriflorus50 / 4
0.11l28southern Sierra phaceliaPhacelia austromontana99 / 4
0.14r(alpine sulfur-flowered buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum var. minus)
0.18b29curl-leaf mountain-mahoganyCercocarpus ledifolius99 / 3
0.18l(snow-plant, Sarcodes sanguinea)
0.19b30one-sided bluegrassPoa secunda ssp. secunda20 / 2
0.19l(California cliff-brake, Pellaea mucronata var. californica; clasping-leaved caulanthus, Caulanthus amplexicaulis; a waif of desert pincushion, Chaenactis stevioides)
0.19l31Mojave linanthusLeptosiphon breviculus99 / 2
0.19l32San Gabriel linanthusLinanthus concinnus3 / 2
0.19r33woolly mountain-parsleyOreonana vestita99 / 3
0.19Switchback to right.
0.20l34Parish's needlegrassStipa parishii var. parishii30 / 3
0.21l35alpine sulfur-flowered buckwheatEriogonum umbellatum var. minus40 / 3
0.25l36wax currantRibes cereum var. cereum20 / 4
0.27l37Ross' sedgeCarex rossii5 / 2
0.27r(Sierra gooseberry, Ribes roezlii var. roezlii)
0.28l38lodgepole pinePinus contorta ssp. murrayana99 / 9
0.30rJct. with old trail from Dawson Saddle. Prickly cryptantha, Cryptantha echinella, is found 0.03 miles down the old trail.
0.30r39Burlew's onionAllium burlewii99 / 9
0.31l40toothed wintergreenPyrola dentata1 / 1
0.34l41low pussytoesAntennaria dimorpha7 / 1
0.37l42bitter rootLewisia rediviva var. minor99 / 5
0.38Begin open area.
0.39l(Peirson's lupine, Lupinus peirsonii)
0.39l43southern alpine buckwheatEriogonum kennedyi var. alpigenum99 / 5
0.39Now on ridge for first time. The trail will stay close to the ridgeline for the next 0.4 mile.
0.39(fir mistletoe, Phoradendron bolleanum, 100 feet south)
0.39l44Sierra mousetailIvesia santolinoides30 / 1
0.40r45pine dwarf-mistletoeArceuthobium campylopodum40 / 1
0.41r46Peirson's lupineLupinus peirsonii75 / 2
0.41From right to left, view of the three peaks of Williamson Peak with the South Fork Trail below, Waterman Mountain, Strawberry Peak, Twin Peaks, Throop Peak, Mt. Burnham and Mt. Baden-Powell
0.4447snow-plantSarcodes sanguinea5 / 2
0.56Trail leaves ridge, now on east (left) side slightly below the ridge.
0.60Jct. faint trail that merges from the right that leads to ridge.
0.63Back on ridge.
0.66l48San Bernardino beardtonguePenstemon caesius50 / 5
0.7249plain mariposa lilyCalochortus invenustus1 / 1
0.72Trail leaves ridge and is just below ridge on east side.
0.77Trail now goes farther below the ridge. An old trail, in disrepair, is on the ridge.
0.85r50bush chinquapinChrysolepis sempervirens99 / 9
0.91Cross small drainage with lots of lodgepole pine
0.97l51pinedropsPterospora andromedea5 / 3
0.97Cross small drainage with lots of lodgepole pine
1.02Deep bear clawmarks on lodgepole pine, 6.5 feet above ground, in August 2002.
1.05Cross small drainage.
1.11Mt. Baden-Powell now visible again, now on the right of Mt. Burnham.
1.17First small area burned in 2002 Curve fire. Only spot fires occurred along the rest of the trail, beyond the edge of the main fire.
1.20Saddle with view of Mt. Wilson, San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Islip, Twin Peaks, Strawberry Peak, and Mt. Waterman. Trees have numerous bear claw marks. Trail heads back to east side of ridgeline.
1.20r52spwreath plantStephanomeria virgata or S. exigua ssp. coronaria1 / 1
1.20l(limber pine, Pinus flexilis)
1.21r(spineless horsebrush, Tetradymia canescens)
1.24b53limber pinePinus flexilis99 / 9
1.35r54Yosemite rockcressBoechera repanda1 / 1
1.38rUnusual closed depression
1.39The final saddle on the trail. The trail now leaves the ridgeline and traverses the north slope of Throop Peak.
1.44r55Sierra gooseberryRibes roezlii var. roezlii2 / 2
1.45Cross drainage. Many lodgepole pines here.
1.54Cross middle of three small drainages that join below the trail.
1.62Cross drainage.
1.67Cross drainage that is a limber and lodgepole pinecone graveyard.
1.72Cross drainage.
1.79Jct. PCT; elevation 8860 feet; end plant trail guide.
Off-trail only species given in guide:
0.1956clasping-leaved caulanthusCaulanthus amplexicaulis1 / 1
0.1957desert pincushionChaenactis stevioides1 / 1
0.1958California cliff-brakePellaea mucronata var. californica20 / 1
0.3059prickly cryptanthaCryptantha echinella5 / 1
0.3960fir mistletoePhoradendron bolleanum1 / 1
1.2161spineless horsebrushTetradymia canescens1 / 1

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Copyright © 2002-2016 by Tom Chester, Jane Strong, Walt Fidler, Adrienne Ballwey, Nancy Accola, Keir Morse and Jane Tirrell
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Updated 9 June 2016