One of the quickest and most exhilarating highs in L.A. is also one of its most literal. At 7,903 feet, the stretch of Angeles Crest Highway that crests at Dawson Saddle is the highest road in the county. It's also one of the most enchanting. Within moments of taking Highway 2 north from La Cañada Flintridge and disappearing into the folds of the San Gabriel Mountains, you're in a rocky-desert lunar landscape, which eventually gives way to towering pine trees. Less than 45 minutes after leaving downtown or Silver Lake, you're higher than the Mile-High City and, in winter, seeing pockets of snow blooming like fields of vibrant white flowers against shady hillsides. There's a whole lot of nothing up at Dawson Saddle — nothing man-made, that is. There are wide-open skies, intensely detailed stars, football-size pine cones, little gray foxes, howling winds and steep, rocky cliffs dragging ancient trees down in majestic, slow-motion landslides. —Falling James

Angeles Crest Highway, between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap, Angeles National Forest, $5 daily parking pass. (818) 899-1900,

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