Mt Hawkins Loop Hike (Hawkins, Middle, and South Mount Hawkins)
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||13 miles (20.9 km)|
|Hike Time||5-7 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||3,750 feet (1143m)|
|Highest Elevation||8,850 feet (2698m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Permit|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Angeles National Forest|
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.
Many other guides take in only Hawkins Ridge and South Mt Hawkins. This guide is about 1.5 miles longer and also offers Mount Hawkins, which offers great views and is worth the extra mileage.
Getting to the Trailhead
The hike starts in the Crystal Lake campground area, at the Windy Gap Trailhead. The area can be confusing, with lots of roads and some inaccurate trailheads listed on Google Maps. Finding the big trailhead parking lot is not a big deal once you know where you are going. Here are the actual parking lot coordinates:
If your automotive GPS can’t get to those coordinates easily, just navigate to the Crystal Lake Visitor’s Center and then follow the map below.
Crystal Lake Visitor’s Center, 9877 N Crystal Lake Rd, Azusa, CA 91702
Once you’re at the Visitor’s Center, use this map to get to the Windy Gap trailhead parking lot.
Sometimes the gate to the campgrounds (just past the Visitor’s Center) is closed. If that’s the case, park in the big lot just east of the Visitor’s Center and walk up to the trailhead (about 10 mins).
You need a parks pass or Adventure Pass to park at Crystal Lake.
Gear For the Hike
This is a tough backcountry hike and, I recommend being prepared for all conditions. Water is seasonal, and there’s no great sources right off the trail, so I recommend bringing everything that you will drink (probably around 2-3L).
Garmin inReach Mini
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost.
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My Review & Guide
How is this Different than a GPS?
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
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Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2022.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Mt Hawkins Loop Trail Maps
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
|South Mount Hawkins||8.5||7783|
|Windy Gap Trailhead||13||5840|
- There used to be an all-wood fire tower on South Mount Hawkins. It was originally erected on nearby Mt Islip in 1927, but then moved to South Mount Hawkins in 1937. The tower burned down in the 2002 Curve Fire. You’ll be able to see the concrete base and ruins of it on the hike. The Angeles National Forest Fire Lookout Association tried to raise money to rebuild it, but the road to the tower was abandoned by the Forest Service and the plans were scrapped.
- The 2002 Curve Fire destroyed much of the area that this hike goes through. You’ll still see burnt trees and cleared hillsides, evidence of the destruction. The area has bounced back nicely though.
- Mount Hawkins, South Mount Hawkins, and Middle Hawkins are allegedly named after Nellie Hawkins, popular waitress at the Squirrel Inn from 1901 to 1906 who, according to historian John Robinson, “charmed and attracted miners, hunters, and campers.” She must have been quite something.
- The Squirrel Inn, which is a great name, is no longer there, so don’t go looking for squirrel pie after your hike. Today the Coldbrook Campground stands on the site where it was located.
- There’s an unofficial fourth Hawkins peak called Sadie Hawkins Peak. It’s not an official peak or particularly exciting, but I’ll show you where it is if you want to look.
- This loop used to be hiked by the Sierra Club as a “Sadie Hawkins Day” outing (but they also bagged Throop Peak). You can read a funny LA Times account of the hike from 1946 where the reporter who was tagging along bellyaches about how hard the hike is.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
From the summit of Mt Hawkins, head back to the Hawkins Ridge Trail junction.
The OSM maps show the Hawkins Ridge Trail going straight down the ridge from Middle Hawkins summit, which is not the case (at least anymore). I recommend heading back down the way you came from Middle Hawkins and then continuing on the trail. The GPX file and map in this guide correctly documents the trail, even though it doesn’t match the OSM trail.
This guide last updated on November 21, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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