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).
The Most Comfortable Hiking Shoe Ever
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak 4.5 (Women: REI | Amazon + Men: REI | Amazon) 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 work great on the trail. It’s a favorite of PCT and AT hikers for a good reason!
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
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. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated February 2021.
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 offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
Mt Hawkins Loop Trail Maps
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.
|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. which is not named after Nellie Hawkins. 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 January 26, 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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