LA Mountain Hikes
|In This Guide|
LA is not usually thought of as a mountain hiking city, but some of the best LA hikes are in the high mountains, all within an hour or so of downtown. In fact, some of these peaks are only a few thousand feet lower than Mt Whitney. Check out these great LA mountain hikes.
Hike the Tallest Peak in LA
Angeles National Forest is home to some of the best LA hiking, including Mt. Baldy, the tallest peak in the city of LA, at 10,064 feet. The hike to Mt. Baldy is tough and long, 11 miles, with a some of the hike exposed above the tree line. If you have a good level of fitness and some hiking experience, you should go for it. Mt Baldy is a LA rite-of-passage hike and must-do.
Full Mt Baldy Hike Directions and Info
(If you want to avoid the crowds but sweat more, try Mt Baldy on the Bear Canyon Trail.)
Hike the Peak With the Best Views
San Jacinto is unique in a few ways. It’s one of the peaks with the most prominence in the USA (aka it’s steep and rises dramatically). It also sits high above the San Gorgonio pass, which separates LA from Palm Springs and the Sonoroan desert. From the peak, you have 360 degree views. The green Southern California hills to your west, the high mountains to the north, the arid desert to your east, and the high peaks in the San Diego area to your south. It’s impressive.
This is a hard and long hike, but the good news is that you have some options. There’s a challenging but incredibly beautiful route from Idyllwild. You can also “cheat” and take the aerial tramway from Palm Springs half the way up, and then hike the rest.
Full San Jacinto Peak hike directions and info.
The Coolest Summit
We all know it’s about the journey, not the destination, but when you’re hiking to the top of a mountain, the destination is pretty important too. Cucamonga Peak, one of the highest peaks in LA, has the best views and photo ops. There are cool rock overhangs and formations – lot’s of options for great shots. And unlike Mt Baldy, the crowds aren’t bad and you have great views of the LA metro area.
Cucamonga Peak hike directions and full info.
Best LA Mountain Hike for Beginners
The hike to Mt Wilson is not short. And it’s not easy. But it’s great if you want to get your feet wet and start preparing for higher hikes like Mt. Baldy. The entire hike is below 6000 feet, so you don’t have to worry about harsh alpine conditions. The hike is shaded and protected from the sun. Most importantly, the summit has a full suite of facilities, including a snack bar, a museum, bathrooms, and water filling stations. Mt Wilson is a very user friendly hike.
Full Mt Wilson hike directions and details.
Best No Crowds Hike
The best LA hikes have the biggest crowds. If you want to do a great hike without the crowds, try Ontario Peak. The first half of the hike goes up Icehouse Canyon, which is popular (and scenic). But after that first stretch, you take the trail less traveled. I’ve done this hike several times without seeing another soul. And it’s great. An added bonus is that the views are incredible (comparable to Cucamonga Peak). Keep your eyes open, you might even spot some bighorn sheep!
Ontario Peak hike directions and details.
Hike the Tallest Peak in Southern California
San Gorgonio is the highest peak in SoCal at 11,503 feet. It’s only 3000 feet lower than Mt Whitney, the tallest point in the lower 48. Hiking San Gorgonio is tough, long and climbs 5000+ feet. But it is an epic, must-do LA hike, so start training and put it on your list.
San Gorgonio hike directions and info.
Quick Mountain Hike Fix
If you’re in the city, want to do a mountain hike, but don’t have time to drive into the mountains, head to Altadena and hike Echo Mountain. The 5 mile hike feels like a mountain, and offers great views of the city and surrounding peaks. The peak has cool ruins and is a great place to watch the sunset.
Echo Mountain hike detailed directions and info.
The Highest Mountain in the Lower 48
It’s not technically a LA mountain hike, but many hikers use Los Angeles as a jumping off point for Mt Whitney, just 3 hours away. So Mt Whitney is unique – it’s a tall peak that’s also accessible by hikers — no mountaineering experience needed. It is tough though, don’t get me wrong, but it is doable. In addition to the physical challenge, you also need to get permits and deal with some red tape. My guide to hiking Mt Whitney has everything you need to know if you want to hike this iconic mountain.
Mt Whitney hiking and permit guide
List of LA Mountain Hikes
|Echo Mountain Hike on the Sam Merrill Trail||5.4||1500||Hard||Leashed|
|Mount Baden-Powell Hike||8.3||2620||Hard||Off Leash Okay|
|Hike Mt Lukens From Deukmejian Wilderness Park||10||3897||Hard||Leashed|
|Mt Baldy Hike||11||3830||Hard||Off Leash Okay|
|Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike To Mt San Jacinto||11||3164||Hard||No|
|Cucamonga Peak Hike||12||4300||Hard||Leashed|
|Hike Mt Baldy on the Bear Canyon Trail||13||5740||Very Hard||Leashed|
|Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat||14.5||4110||Hard||Leashed|
|Hike Ontario Peak and Bighorn Peak||14.7||4170||Hard||Leashed|
|White Mountain Peak Hike (California)||15||3623||Hard||Leashed|
|San Bernardino Peak Hike||16||4650||Hard||Off Leash Okay|
|Hike the Three T’s Trail||16||5400||Hard||Off Leash Okay|
|San Gorgonio Hike||18.5||5390||Very Hard||Off Leash Okay|
|Hike Mount San Jacinto From Idyllwild||19.5||5080||Hard||No|
|Cactus to Clouds Hike||21||10400||Very Hard||No|
|Hike Indian Truck Trail to Santiago Peak||21||6860||Hard||Off Leash Okay|
|Mt Whitney Hike||22||6100||Very Hard||No|
All LA Mountain Hikes
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 about 3,900 feet of total climbing, and you’re rewarded with great views and pristine wilderness, all within the city of LA.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto is a great way to bag Southern California’s second highest peak without putting in a huge effort. It’s still a tough 11 mile hike, but it’s nothing like climbing to Mt San Jacinto from Palm Springs or Idyllwild. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway cuts about 6,000 feet of climbing off the hike, and offers a nice base station where you can grab a snack after your successful summit. The summit of Mt San Jacinto is one of my favorites because it straddles the line between Coastal California and the Sonoran Desert, allowing you to see the transition between the two. On a clear day you’ll see from the Pacific Ocean to Mount Charleston in Las Vegas. A really fun and insanely beautiful hike.
The Indian Truck Trail offers an alternate way to hike Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mountain). It’s not a rustic single-track trail like the Santiago Peak hike from Lower Holy Jim Trail, but instead includes some wider Forest Service dirt roads (Indian Truck Trail is also known as forest road 5S01). You might see a few 4x4s or mountain bikes, but otherwise it’s very mellow. It’s a beautiful hike, so don’t let this stop you.
The White Mountain Peak hike brings you to the third highest peak in California, only a few hundred feet lower than Mt Whitney, and the highest outside peak of the Sierra Nevada. The hike is tough, but doable, and meanders through the White Mountains Wilderness section of Inyo National Forest: a rugged a beautiful mountain desert, tucked into the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada. The summit of White Mountain Peak offers great 360 views from the Eastern Sierras to Nevada.
The Mt Whitney hike is on every hiker’s bucket list. At 14,505 feet, it’s the highest point in the lower 48, and is one of those rare high peaks that you can hike to without any mountaineering skills. There is some prep work you need to do, like getting your Mt Whitney permit and dealing with the altitude. This hike guide has everything you need to know to successfully climb Mt Whitney. Keep reading for all the info.
The Cactus to Clouds hike is epic. It was rated one of the hardest day hikes in the world by Backpack Magazine. You start in downtown Palm Springs and climb over 10,000 feet to the summit of Mt San Jacinto, with a large stretch on the treacherous Skyline Trail. The Cactus to Clouds hike should only be attempted by the very experienced and very fit hiker, and only under the right conditions. This guide gives you all the info you need to do this incredible hike safely.
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.
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.
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. These directions have an optional hike extension to a scenic viewpoint at Inspiration Point.
At 11,503 feet, the San Gorgonio hike brings you to the highest peak in Southern California. The hike to San Gorgonio is an iconic SoCal hiker rite of passage, and I highly recommend it. There are a few ways to hike to the peak. This hiking guide takes the Vivian Creek trail, which is the quickest way to the summit at 10 hours roundtrip. It’s a tough hike but doable in a day if you train for it.
The San Bernardino Peak (10,649 feet) hike is tough but rewarding. The San Bernardino Mountains were named after San Bernardino Peak, which was named by one of the pioneer friars in California, Francisco Dumetz in 1835. I like this hike a lot. The crowds are light, the fauna is beautiful, and it offers sweeping views of Mt Baldy, Mt San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Big Bear Lake, and the Inland Empire.
There are a several routes to hike Mount San Jacinto. This route from Idyllwild is my favorite. The climb is not as steep as the other routes, you don’t need a special permit, and the views on the whole hike are spectacular. John Muir called the views from Mount San Jacinto the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth. On a clear day, you can see from Catalina Island to Southern Utah. That’s because Mount San Jacinto, at 10,834 feet, is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the USA, rising 10,000 feet above the San Gorgonio Pass below. This hike to San Jacinto includes a stretch on the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon. The hike is long, and you need a good level of fitness to do it.
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.
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 Wilson, at 5,710 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.
This 11 mile Mt Baldy hike brings you to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. With about 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.
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.