By Brian James
There’s nothing like driving a 340 horsepower muscle car through the mountains in sunny California on a gorgeous summer day. Now, I know that driving a 4,100 pound, rear wheel drive, four door sedan down a twisty, mountain road can prove to be a handful. That is exactly why Angeles Crest Highway is the perfect road for a car like the Dodge Charger.
Angeles Crest Highway was built between 1929 and 1956 and it spans 66 miles through Angeles National Forest. This isn’t your average scenic route. Angeles Crest Highway provides you with breathtaking scenic overlooks of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, and the Mojave Desert–just to name a few. With turnouts at almost every quarter of a mile, you have plenty of opportunities to pull over for emergencies, to let other cars pass you or to enjoy the spectacular panoramas of Southern California. The road also offers plenty of extra curricular activities along the way such as Mount Wilson (for hiking), Switzer Picnic Area, Buckhorn Campground, Mountain High Ski Resort and Newcomb’s Ranch Restaurant and Bar.
So, what makes Angeles Crest Highway the perfect road for a Dodge Charger? The Dodge Charger is long, wide and heavy. Put those three things together on almost any mountain road and you will find yourself driving either very slowly, or working so hard to get the car out of the mountains in one piece that you’ll end up with cramped muscles and a sweaty seat. Unlike other mountain roads (Mulholland), Angeles Crest Highway has long, sweeping curves that are a joy to drive in a car like the Dodge Charger. The majority of the road is smooth and nicely paved, so you don’t have to worry about going home with a dent in your spine. The curves are spaced out fantastically well so that you don’t have time to get bored but still have plenty of time to hammer out of the turns like a race car driver and let the suspension settle before pitching the nose back into another corner.
The surrounding San Gabriel Mountains also provide the perfect acoustics for echoing that glorious HEMI exhaust note through the valleys and back into your ears. One of the biggest reasons I love Angeles Crest Highway is because I can always count on it to help me escape the California heat. The HEMI does not like the heat, at all. In fact, no combustion engine performs well in the heat. One of the biggest let downs (in my opinion) of driving mountain roads in California is that within a few minutes your engine is heat soaked and performance goes down the drain. But even in the middle of the summer, Angeles Crest Highway temperatures stay in the mid 70s and 80s, which keeps the HEMI happy and pulling all day long (however, high altitudes can negate the advantages of cooler temperatures).
Just remember to watch out for other folks, especially bikes and motorcyclists. Keep your eyes on the road and on your mirrors and get out of motorcycles’ way because, let’s face it, trying to keep up with them will end poorly for you. Another really important thing to know is that during the winter time, things can get pretty slippery. The roads get wet, icy and snowfall can be significant at higher altitudes. The great news is that there are signs and electronic message boards that display road and weather conditions when needed. Additionally, you can find weather and road conditions on the Caltrans website here. You can also find a comprehensive road guide to Angeles Crest Highway here.
Angeles Crest Highway is not only the perfect road for a Dodge Charger. It is the perfect road for any car, no matter how big, how small, how fast, or how slow. If you’re a local car enthusiast trying to get out of LA, or a tourist, Angeles Crest Highway is must-drive for everyone alike. Check out the gallery below for more pictures of this weekend sprint.