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).
I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: Women – Men
On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.
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 Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 2020.
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
Your best move to navigate this hike is to take a paper map, compass, and a GPS device. Load the GPX track from this hike onto your GPS to ensure that you’re on the trail. I’m a big fan of GPS watches; I just glance down at it to cross-check my position and use paper when I want a deeper dive. The GPS watch that I’m using now is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (price: REI or Amazon). It’s pricey but has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of other wellness, fitness, and smart-watch applications. For a more affordable option, check out the value-packed Garmin Instinct (price: REI or Amazon), a similar watch without some of the features. There are also great smartphone GPS apps like GaiaGPS. If you end up getting GaiaGPS premium, I’ve arranged for a 20-40% discount for my readers.
|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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.