COURSE HISTORY

The first annual Angeles Crest 100 was held in September 1986. Race Management has strived to keep the race’s original point-to-point course from Wrightwood to Altadena largely in tact, while preserving it’s level of difficulty. However, a combination of new wilderness designations and just nature being nature has mandated
that a few changes be made over the years.

2023 Bypassing Chantry

The basic plan for 2023 AC100 is to finish in Altadena via Kenyon/Devore Trail to the top of Mt Wilson, bypassing Chantry. The race will pass through Shortcut, Redbox and Newcomb Saddle, but after Newcomb Saddle, it will go back on the Rincon-Redbox Rd/Gabrielino Trail toward Redbox, but take Kenyon/Devore Trail to the top of Mt Wilson and to Idlehour, Sam Merrill, Millard and Loma Alta Park in Altadena.

2022 OUT-AND-
BACK COURSE

The Bobcat Fire of 2020 torched many areas of the course, as runners will begin to see approaching Islip Saddle. Due to excessive damage from the fire and subsequent rainstorms on the trail through Chantry Flats, Newcomb Saddle, Redbox and Shortcut Saddle, trail access remains closed. After two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and fire, the decision was made to host an out-and-back course from Wrightwood to Shortcut Saddle and back – a worthy challenge for all who have missed the San Gabriels. We have every intention of returning to the point-to-point course in the future, as the forest allows.

AUGUST DATE

Since 1986 the Angeles Crest 100 was held annually in late September/early October. After the devastation of the 2009 Station Fire and years of drought, the decision was made to move the race to the first weekend in August, in the hopes of avoiding fire season. While the race is undoubtedly a bit more challenging in the Southern California summer heat, the race has not been canceled since.

MT. WILLIAMSON / THE TUNNELS

2019 AC100 Runners on Course

With the expansion of the Pleasant View Wilderness (PVW) came a major course update in 2016. No longer allowed to use the PCT section in the PVW from Islip Saddle over Mt. Williamson, the race now utilizes the shoulder of Highway 2 until rejoining the trail over Kratka Ridge, lovingly referred to by local runners as the “scenic mound.” The current course between the Islip Saddle and Eagle’s Roost is now a 2.5-mile section of pavement that travels through the Williamson Tunnels.

COOPER CANYON

The original Cooper Canyon section was updated in 2005 when environmental concerns over the endangered Mountain Yellow-legged Frog closed a section of the PCT leaving Eagle’s Roost. Runners instead traveled the shoulder of paved Highway 2 to the exit of Buckhorn Campground, which they ran through to join the Burkhart Trail to Cooper Canyon Trail Camp. For a number of years, the course then took a “death march” up a fire road until rejoining the trail for the final ascent up to Cloudburst Summit, but was replaced by a section of the PCT, adding a mile but also a lot more scenery (and maybe even a slight breeze). Awaiting the outcome of an Environmental Impact Report regarding the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, the intent has always been to return to the original course through the infamous inferno that is Cooper Canyon, however the same Pleasant View Wilderness expansion that disallowed the race to travel over Mt. Williamson has also barred us from entering Cooper Canyon at all. For the foreseeable future, the course must continue for 4.6 miles on the asphalt of Highway 2 all the way to Cloudburst Summit.
2019 AC100 Runner on Course

SULPHUR SPRINGS

2019 AC100 Runner on Course
Beginning in 2016, a short section of highway paralleling the trail must be traveled to avoid Pleasant View Wilderness. Beginning at the Pajarito Highway Crossing, the course rejoins the original trail at the Glenwood turnout/bathrooms.

THREE POINTS TO MT. HILYER

As of 2016, the course now leaves Three Points on a new section of trail to, again, avoid the PVRW. What used to be a rolling section of PCT to join an asphalt grade up to Manzanita Saddle, home of the Three Points Aid station, is now a rolling, exposed section of the Silver Mocassin Trail, joining the asphalt of Santa Clara Divide Road through Bandido Campground and entering Three Points Aid from the opposite direction. While the direction traveled and trails used have changed, the nature of the course here is largely preserved. The 2016 running saw an added out-and-back on an exposed fire road to Pacifico Mountain to regain lost mileage, but this was removed with the 2017 Red Box addition (see below).
2019 AC100 Runner on Course

RED BOX ADDITION

In 2016, environmental concerns over the endangered Arroyo Toad habitat closed access to the Edison fire road where it crosses the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Leaving the Shortcut Aid Station, runners now use the Silver Moccasin Trail down to West Fork, turning on the Gabrielino Trail which ascends to the new aid station and crew access point at Red Box. From there, the course travels back down to West Fork via the unpaved Rincon Red Box forest road, continuing directly up to the aid station Newcomb’s Saddle. Adding 8.5 miles and 1,300’ of gain, this new section makes up for the elevation lost over the removal of the Mt. Williamson, Cooper Canyon and Mt. Hilyer climbs and the cumulative mileage lost between Islip Saddle and Three Points. With the added climbing, heat and technical nature of the trail, most runners believe this has made the course significantly more difficult, and truer to the spirit of the original 1986 course.

THE WINTON BYPASS

In 1999, the AC100 Trail Volunteers built the “Winton Bypass,” lead by (you guessed it), longtime Forest Service volunteer and 30-year Co-Race Director, Hal Winton. The new trail traverses below Manzanita Ridge on Mt. Wilson, replacing a 16% grade section of nasty, crumbling ridge.

THE FINISH LINE

2019 AC100 Champ Melissa Danehey at the Finish Line. Photo: Ivan Buzik
The original finish line of the course was at the Rose Bowl, and was replaced by Johnson Field in 1992. This resulted in the course being shortened from 101.9 miles to 100.2 miles.
The current finish line at Loma Alta Park was adopted in 1998, but the overall distance of the course remains the same as the 1992 edition.

ON COURSE CHANGES

As with many historical races, course changes throughout the years have sometimes made it difficult to accurately compare finishing times for the purposes of records. The original course length was 101.9 miles with 20,610’ of elevation change, while the modern course is 100.2 miles and 19,930’, and contains 7 miles of road running. On paper, it would seem fair to say the original course was more difficult. However, many seasoned AC runners argue that the hotter weather during the August date combined with the degradation of trails, decreased tree cover and the addition of new, technical trails due to fire, drought and wilderness designations have actually made the course more comparable than one might think based purely on mileage

Course Records

The course records on the original course were set at 17:35:48 by Jim O’Brien and 22:36:57 by Kathy Britcliffe, both on a historically cool day in 1989. The modern women’s record is held by Pam Smith, who ran 21:04:18 in 2014, and is considered enough of an improvement to make the difference in courses negligible. For the men, O’Brien’s record still stands.
Jim O’Brien, Hal Winton and Jussi Hamalainen at the 2014 finish line, celebrating Jim’s then 25-year-old record.

Jim O’Brien, Hal Winton and Jussi Hamalainen at the 2014 finish line, celebrating Jim’s then 25-year-old record.

AC100 2016 RD Hal Winton. Photo: Dahiya

AC100 2016 RD Hal Winton. Photo: Dahiya

THE FUTURE

Continuing the tireless work of Hal Winton, rest assured that we are working year-round to keep the Angeles Crest  100 in business and reduce the amount of mileage this trail race is forced to run on pavement. By fostering  relationships with the United States Forest Service through trail service and stewardship, taking an active role in  our communities and other special interest groups and lobbying local politicians, we are committed to preserving  and restoring the historic Angeles Crest 100 course. Over the past few years, an all-volunteer group formed Trail  Running Advocates of Southern California (TRASC), a 901c dedicated to fostering work for play relationships  between trail running events and public land management. Their first project is working to return the AC100 to the  original course and secure passage along the historic route in perpetuity.