In winter, when snow covers the high peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains, this loop route offers a good workout with a great amount of variety along the way, leading to a peak offering fine views of the surrounding high country.
Monrovia Canyon Park is closed on Tuesdays. Parking fee is $5 weekdays, $6 weekends.
Take the trail behind the station and stay right at the junction with the Bill Cull Trail
which drops back down to the road. Cross the road and turn right on Sawpit Road #2N30
where there is a gate by the bridge over the creek. Follow the paved road as it climbs steeply up and around Sawpit Dam (decommissioned). Continue farther and stay right at the spur road leading down to BSA Camp Trask. The road turns to dirt. Look for two stone pillars marking the start of the Ben Overturff Trail
Follow the Ben Overturff Trail
which has nice interpretive signs along the way as it climbs, steeply at times, through an oak and bay forest to Twin Springs and then on to the junction with the Ben Overturff Spur Trail
. The short spur leads to the remains of Deer Park Lodge and is a nice place for a good break under oaks trees next to a seasonal stream.
After a well-deserved break, head back down the spur and turn left at the junction which returns back to the road where there is a vault toilet. Turn left and go up the road passing through chaparral of scrub oak, ceanothus, laurel sumac and sage. In 1.5 miles, White Saddle is reached, offering good views to the north into Fish Canyon and the high peaks beyond.
Turn right onto Van Tassel Motorway #1N36
and head southeast on this well-maintained access road which is primarily used to maintain the power lines it follows. The grade is easy to follow as it contours around the hills. Stay right at a junction with the Silver Fish Road where there is a water tank. The unmaintained road leads down to Stone Cabin Flats on Fish Creek then over to Hwy. 39 (not recommended due to very rough condition).
After a mile from the saddle, a fork is reached. Turn left onto the Van Tassel Ridge Road and go a few hundred feet. Look for a steep track on the left leading to the base of a powerline pole. Follow this track up to the top of the ridge, then proceed up the ridge past another pole and then further to the summit.
Mt. Bliss offers superb view to the north and east of the San Gabriel Mountains high country. The view south over the San Gabriel Valley can be outstanding (marred slightly by the powerlines) on a rare clear day when the ocean and Channel Islands can also be seen. The Fish Fire burned the peak and surrounding area in 2016. Return back the same way. Fire crews cleared the break down to the road on the north ridge which is shorter but this route is likely to be rough and overgrown.
On the return back down Sawpit Canyon, you can stay on the road to make a loop trip. The grade is easier and the terrain is more open allowing for good views of the canyon and valley below. There are also nice wildflowers in spring.
Oak, bay, sycamore, maple, and alder trees provide abundant shade in the canyon bottom. Open chaparral of scrub oak, ceanothus, laurel sumac, sage are more common on open slopes. Bears and deer are common. Watch for poison oak and rattlesnakes.
Bigcone Spruce were extensively logged in Sawpit Canyon to build the San Gabriel Mission and surrounding communities and only a few remain in the area. A "sawpit" is a trench where one man saws from below and another from above to rip long sections of timber.
Ben Overturff was a local developer who built and operated the Deer Park Lodge.