Angeles National Forest Hikes
With over 200 trails, there are Angeles National Forest hikes for everyone. Most of Angeles National Forest is within an hour of LA and Orange County, and it feels like you are worlds away. There are mountains over 10,000 feet, waterfalls, incredible views, solitude, pretty much anything you would want from an outdoors area.
You can check for any closures or alerts here.
Angeles National Forest Travel Tips
- Roads like SR-2 and SR-39 that go into Angeles National Forest can be closed for winter conditions, rock slides, fires, and accidents. It always makes sense to check out the official CalTrans website before you go; Google Maps doesn’t always route you for the closures. The Angeles Crest Highway Facebook page is also a great source for road conditions.
- Mountain roads are small and windy. Don’t expect to travel fast on them. 30-40mph is a good guide when planning your trip.
- Check the Angeles National Forest alerts web page too. Sometimes you’ll have fire restrictions or planned closures that might not be reflected in the current road closures.
- Local authorities will try to sell you an Adventure Pass to park, but you’re better off buying a National Parks Pass if you ever travel outside of the area.
- There are (formal) campgrounds in Angeles National Forest for RVs and cars. You can reserve them online here.
- You can also camp in the backcountry camps, which are first-come, first-serve. You often have to hike into these; there is no car access.
- You’ll often see Angeles National Forest abbreviated as ANF
Angeles National Forest Hiking Tips
- Always check the weather conditions before you go. The forest is between 1,200 to 10,064 ft, so the conditions can vary. Find a location near where your hike is and go from there. Good resources include the NOAA website, Mountain Forecast, and DarkSky.
- In the winter, check for snow on the trail. All of the hikes I have on this website are safe to do when conditions are normal. When it is winter, some hikes can become mountaineering experiences and are better left for those with lots of experience. Even people with experience die in the mountains of Angeles National Forest every year when the conditions are bad.
- The general condition of trails in Angeles National Forest is pretty good. There are some older trails that aren’t used much anymore, and are effectively impassable. Any guide that I have on HikingGuy will have trails in good condition, and if not, I’ll note that in the guide. If you’re using a map to plan a hike and aren’t sure of the conditions, call the ranger station and ask.
- There are many streams and water sources, but they can easily go dry. In my guides I’ll mention the water situation, but in general, taking 3L of water on your hike is a good idea.
- Most of Angeles National Forest does not have cell phone signal, so carrying a satellite communicator is a good investment.
- Trekking poles are great to have on climbs, descents, and through the brush.
- Insects can be intense in the summer month. Having good insect protection will save you from insanity.
- Don’t worry about animals attacking you.
- There are rattlesnakes when it’s hot out, but they mind their own business. They don’t actively attack humans unless threatened. Watch your footing and if you see one on the trail, give it space and let it pass.
- Mountain lions are rare but do live in Angeles National Forest. There is only one officially recorded attack recorded here in modern times, and it was non-fatal.
- You might see bears around areas with cabins and trash cans, or in the backcountry areas of the park. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in the park, have encountered bears, and have never had a problem. Usually they will be running away from you before you even see them. It is very rare that bear attacks, but it does happen. If you want to prepare for this, bring bear spray . I don’t bring bear spray with me in Angeles National Forest. When I camp I use an Ursack; I don’t bring a bear canister. Take a look at my guide to bear safety for more info.
- There are beautiful cute furry animals that you can potentially see.
- You can see mule deer all over the area.
- The higher peaks areas have herds of bighorn sheep.
- If you’re out before dawn or camping overnight, you might spot a ringtail cat.
- Then there’s the normal posse of raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, etc.
- There are some good forums to ask questions or get info on current conditions.
- SoCal Hiking on Reddit
- SoCal Hikers Group on Facebook (request membership)
- Angeles National Forest Alerts Page
Angeles National Forest FAQ
Is Angeles National Forest Open?
Angeles National Forest is often open but sections occasionally close when there are fires and other conditions. The Angeles National Forest alert page is the best place to check for any closures. The roads in Angeles National Forest are often closed though, so check out the official CalTrans website before you go.
Is Angeles National Forest Safe?
Even though there has been some bad press about gangs using CA-2 as a place to commit crimes, in general Angeles National Forest is very safe. There have only been a handful of murders in the last 20 years, much less than most places in Southern California. If you are scared of being attacked, I recommend bringing bear spray. Far more common are traffic accidents and preventable conditions like heat stroke.
Where is Angeles National Forest?
Angeles National Forest is the big mountain range to the northeast of Los Angeles. You can sometimes see the mountain peaks of Angeles National Forest towering behind Los Angeles on a clear day. You can reach the forest within an hour from Los Angeles.
Where to buy Angeles National Forest Adventure Pass?
First off, I highly recommend buying a National Parks Pass instead, which gets you entry to all the national lands in the USA and only costs a little bit more. Otherwise check this Adventure Pass list for a location near you.
Where to stay in Angeles National Forest?
You can camp in official campgrounds with your car, or hike into the forest and stay at a backcountry camp. You can find motels in Wrightwood, and AirBnb in towns like Mt Baldy and Wrightwood. There are limited cabins rentals at Sturtevant Camp. There are numerous chain hotel options just outside of the forest along the I-210 and I-10 corridor, with Rancho Cucamonga being a good place to stay that’s a quick drive to many hikes.
The Dawn Mine Trail hike takes you on a loop through history and beauty. You’ll see the old abandoned Dawn Mine, enjoy a cool swing installed there, and then retrace your way back along the Mt Lowe railway. But more than that, it’s a beautiful hike. You hug ridges with expansive views, you hike along a lush canyon stream, and then you descend along the ridge and soak in a vista that includes LA and the Verdugo Mountains. And there’s just enough climbing to make it a decent workout.
Altadena, CA - 6 miles, Moderate
The Mt Hillyer Trail hike takes you on a mellow summit loop through a little-hiked area of Angeles National Forest. The climb isn’t tough, the distance isn’t extreme, and that’s part of why it’s great. You’ll hike through the old stomping ground of 1860s horse bandits, complete with a hidden pasture and boulder hideout. And at the summit of Mt Hillyer, you’re rewarded with sweeping views of the eastern San Gabriels. Oh, and there are two different summits with two different views. So you got that going for you, which is nice.
Chilao Campground, CA - 6.5 miles, Moderate
The Mt Zion loop hike is a great option for those that have hiked from Chantry Flat before, maybe to Mt Wilson, but want something a little more off the beaten path. On this loop, I’ll take you on the Upper Gabrielino Trail, then on the historic Mt Zion Trail, built in 1896 and once the main trail into the area, then up to Mt Zion for panoramic views, and finally back to the start on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. And while there might be crowds on the nearby trails, this loop route on Angeles National Forest’s secondary trails offers peace and tranquility.
Arcadia, CA - 9 miles, Hard
This challenging and lightly-trodden loop hike offers three summits along the route: Mt Hawkins, Middle Hawkins, and South Mount Hawkins. The hike offers sweeping views of the peaks of Angeles National Forest, an interesting history, beautiful trails, a long descent down Hawkins Ridge, and three different peaks to bag from the Sierra Club’s 100 Peaks list. Escape the crowds on the nearby peaks and give the Mt Hawkins loop a try.
Irwindale, CA - 13 miles, Hard
Close to civilization but a world away, the short and shady Millard Canyon Falls hike follows a lush riparian habitat to a spectacular waterfall. The hike starts on a gradual downhill offering views into the foothills of Angeles National Forest, then heads through Millard Trail Camp and up through a richly biodiverse area to the fifty-foot waterfall. A shorter option cuts the hike down to about a mile and a half. It’s an excellent hike for families and those wanting a quick outdoor fix without a long trip into the forest.
Altadena, CA - 2.8 miles, Easy
For a quick mountain fix without driving into the mountains, try the Potato Mountain hike, right at the beginning of Angeles National Forest. It’s a moderate climb through some beautiful oak forests. The hike ends at the Potato Mountain summit, which offers views of the high peaks in Angeles NF, including Mt Baldy. And of course, there are the potatoes that everyone decorates and brings to the summit. It’s a fun hike that especially great for beginners who want to train or get a taste for the bigger mountain peaks.
Claremont, CA - 4.5 miles, Moderate
Tucked into Angeles National Forest away from the crowds, this loop hike to Mt Islip from Crystal Lake offers a little bit of everything in a very doable package. Starting at one of the only natural lakes in Angeles National Forest, Crystal Lake, the hike follows well-marked trails, offers spectacular views, and summits Mt Islip at 8,250 ft. After soaking in the sweeping views from Catalina to the Mojave, you have a long, gradual downhill cruise back to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area.
Azuza, CA - 10.5 miles, Hard
Stretching 28.8 miles through the heart of Angeles National Forest, the Gabrielino Trail covers not only some of the most popular areas, but also some of the most remote. And not only is it a beautiful hike, but it’s also got historical significance. The Gabrielino Trail was chosen as the nation’s first National Recreation Trail (NRT) in 1970 because it “represents its region, supports a diverse community, and is among Americas best trails.” Some sections of the Gabrielino Trail were in sad shape (and impassable) until August 2018 when local mountain bikers led a restoration effort that reopened this iconic trail once again. Today you can enjoy the Gabrielino Trail as a backpacking trip or an ambitious day hike. Keep reading for all the details.
Arcadia, CA - 28.8 miles, Hard
A hike to Mt Waterman and the Twin Peaks offers rugged and remote beauty, well-groomed trails, panoramic views of the major summits in Angeles National Forest, and an absence of major crowds. This guide shows you how to do the popular 11.5 mile “reverse lollipop” route to Twin Peaks and then back over Mt Waterman, but you can also just do a shorter 5.5 mile hike to Mt Waterman and get a taste of the beauty of the area. If you have the time, I highly recommend the longer hike. It’s a bit of a workout with a lot of up-and-down, but the summit of Twin Peak East is a great one.
Pearblossom, CA - 11.5 miles, Hard
The Switzer Falls hike is so much more than just a waterfall. In about 2 miles the trail to Switzer Falls takes you along a babbling brook, through historic ruins, on the side of a spectacular gorge, and then finally, to a pristine waterfall. Although I’ve listed the Switzer Falls hike as moderate because there’s a bit of climbing, overall it’s a very doable hike that offers many rewards for a small effort. It’s also a popular hike so it’s best done very early before the crowds show up.
Altadena, CA - 4 miles, Moderate
This Strawberry Peak hike offers a ton of great scenery in a relatively short distance. You wind around a ridge on Mt Lawlor with spectacular views, then do a short but tough climb to Strawberry Peak, the highest point in the front range of the San Gabriels at 6,164ft. You’ll earn great views of LA, Mt Wilson, and Mt Baldy. It’s a fun hike on its own, but even more attractive if you want to get a mountain climb in to build confidence for the higher peaks in the area.
Azusa, CA - 7.2 miles, Moderate
The Mt Wilson Trail is the oldest route to the summit to Mt Wilson. Unlike the popular route to Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat, the Mt Wilson Trail is mellow and lacks the crowds and kids looking for the waterfall. The Mt Wilson Trail offers beautiful views as it ascends the side of Little Santa Anita Canyon, and being the oldest trail, offers some historical landmarks as well. If you’ve only hiked Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat, I highly recommend giving this route a try too.
Sierra Madre, CA - 14.5 miles, Hard
The unique geology on the Devil’s Chair hike make it one of the most beautiful hikes in the area. The hike is in Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area, which is a transition zone between the Mojave Desert and San Gabriel Mountains. It’s also on the San Andreas and Punchbowl Faults And this easy/moderate hike ends on a dramatic rock perch called the Devil’s Chair, offering spectacular views of the colorful geology and fauna around you.
Pearblossom, CA - 7.5 miles, Moderate
The hike to Big Horn Mine is a fun and relatively easy way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Angeles National Forest without a major effort. The trail to Big Horn Mine winds it’s way along the side of a mountain, eventually arriving at the abandoned mine, where you can explore a historic structure from 1895 and grab some iconic photos (with Mt Baldy in the background).
Valyermo, CA - 4 miles, Easy
The hike to Mt Lukens, the highest point in the city of LA at 5,066 feet, is a fun one that doesn’t get as much traffic as other more popular Southern California hikes. It’s a tough 10 mile loop with almost 3,000 feet of total ascent, and you’re rewarded with great views and pristine wilderness, all within the city of LA.
La Crescenta, CA - 10 miles, Hard
The 6 hour, 10.5 mile Bridge to Nowhere hike in the San Gabriel Mountains is one those hikes that you have to do at least once in your life. As the name suggests, you hike along the San Gabriel River in the beautiful Sheep Mountain Wilderness for about 5 miles, and then, out of nowhere, there’s a huge, 120-foot high bridge! The hike is fun, especially on a hot summer day, because there are plenty of stream crossings and water holes to cool off in. It’s a classic Southern California hike that every local knows about, so give it a try.
La Verne, CA - 10.5 miles, Moderate
Everyone hikes Mt Baldy from Manker Flats, but have you done it on the Bear Canyon Trail? Also known as Old Mt Baldy Trail, this hike leaves from Mt Baldy Village on it’s way to the summit. Unlike the main hike up Mt Baldy (via Baldy Notch), the Bear Canyon Trail is usually not as crowded. That’s because it’s harder. It climbs 5740 feet in 6 miles. There are sections that are very steep. It’d doable with a decent level of fitness. This hike is a good choice for those who have hiked Mt Baldy from Manker Flats and now want to do it again, without all the hub-bub.
Mt Baldy, CA - 13 miles, Very Hard
The Three T’s Trail hike is one of the more peaceful hikes in the Mt Baldy area. This loop hike starts at Icehouse Canyon, climbs to Icehouse Saddle, then hits Timber Mountain (elevation 8,303ft), Telegraph Peak (elevation 8,985ft), and Thunder Mountain (elevation 8,587ft), and then descends down to Baldy Notch, Manker Flats, and back to Icehouse Canyon. It’s a long hike, but a favorite for those avoiding crowds.
Mt Baldy, CA - 16 miles, Hard
The Echo Mountain hike packs a lot of bang for the buck. You’ll hike up the Sam Merrill Trail, which follows the old Mt Lowe railway route up to Echo Mountain, where you can see the old ruins of the Echo Mountain mountain resort. USA Today included the Echo Mountain hike as one of the “10 Great North American Hikes” and Sunset Magazine called it one of the top 45 hikes in the west. The hike is easy to follow, has an interesting history, offers great views, is a good workout, and is close to LA. Overall it’s a win.
Altadena, CA - 5.4 miles, Hard
If you want a great Angeles National Forest mountain hike without the crowds, hike Ontario Peak (8,696 ft) and Bighorn Peak. The hike begins on the popular Icehouse Canyon trail but soon moves off to the much less traveled Ontario Peak Trail, where you might see more bighorn sheep than people. The Ontario Peak Trail roughly follows a ridge line, offering great views culminating in the “rock nest” summit of Ontario Peak. There’s also a short spur trip to Bighorn Peak, because, why not? This is a tough hike but worth the effort–one of my favorites.
Mt Baldy, CA - 14.7 miles, Hard
With one of the coolest summits in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Cucamonga Peak hike is a favorite. Cucamonga Peak, at 8,862 feet, has spectacular views of the LA sprawl, the desert, and surrounding peaks. The climb is tough but not brutal, the scenery and views are awesome, and the crowds aren’t as bad as Mount Baldy. You might even see some bighorn sheep!
Mt Baldy, CA - 12 miles, Hard
Mt Wilson, at 5,712 feet, is the peak with all the radio towers that sits behind the LA skyline. It’s not the tallest peak in LA, but it’s a great hike with a fun summit. Multiple hiking trails ascend Mt Wilson. This hike starts at Chantry Flat, which gives you a gentler climb to the Mt Wilson summit, a trailhead store, bathrooms, and great views of LA on the way down. It’s a fun hike and a good long hike for beginners.
Sierra Madre, CA - 14.5 miles, Hard
This 11 mile Mt Baldy hike brings you to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. With almost 4000 feet of climbing, it’s a tough yet popular hike, and well worth the effort. You can see from the Pacific to the Mojave on a clear day. There are a few ways to hike Mt Baldy, and this guide takes you on the most popular route.
Mt Baldy, CA - 11 miles, Hard
The Mount Baden-Powell hike packs a lot into a relatively short distance. On your way to the summit of Mt Baden-Powell (9,399 feet), you’ll experience the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon, 40 hardcore switchbacks, a monument for Mt Baden-Powell’s namesake, Lord Baden-Powell, they guy who founded the Boy Scouts, a barren saddle with jaw-dropping views, and a 1500-year old limber pine. And at the summit you’ll enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains. So you got all that going for you if you do the hike. It’s tough but very doable, I highly recommend it.
Vincent Gap, CA - 8.3 miles, Hard