Mt Hillyer Trail Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||6.5 miles (10.5 km)|
|Other Options||5 miles out-and-back|
|Hike Time||3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,240 feet (378m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,203 feet (1891m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Permit|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Angeles National Forest|
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.
Getting to the Trailhead
The Mt Hillyer hike trailhead can be confusing; other guides have a variety of starting points. This guide follows one of the more traditional routes for the hike, and you don’t have to worry about washed out roads or high-clearance vehicles. As long as Angeles Crest Highway is open, you should be able to get here.
There’s not a good physical address for the trailhead, so follow these instructions instead.
Use this address:
Chilao Visitor Center, 1 Moccasin Trail, Palmdale, CA 93550
Instead of going to the visitor center, drive straight through until you reach the Silver Moccasin Trail parking area, which intersects the road.
Here is the Google Maps latitude and longitude map link for the parking area.
You need to display your Parks Pass or Adventure Pass to park here.
Gear For the Hike
Overall the hike is fairly exposed, so you should use sun protection and bring at least 1L of water (I bring 2L). And bugs can be around; plan accordingly.
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 Hillyer Trail Maps
The trails are generally well marked and easy to follow. The climb through the boulders can be tricky; there are many small use trails to bouldering spots. I’ll tell you what to look out for in the directions that follow.
Some GPX tracks and apps out there have this loop going in the opposite direction as I do. I find this (traditional) clockwise direction to be more enjoyable; it avoids doing the main ascent on a paved road. And if you want to avoid the pavement altogether, just hike to the second peak, turn around, and go back the way you came.
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.
Where is the Real Summit?
Once you dive into the map, you might notice that the official summit marked by the USGS is not the highest point, which is the higher ridgeline to the southwest (6200 ft). The Sierra Club has been using the higher 6,200 point as the summit since 1946. In this guide I’ll take you to both spots; each summit offers unique views and is worth a visit.
- This hike goes through the hideout area of Tiburcio Vasquez (1835-1875), the bandit who the character Zorro is loosely based on. The hidden pasture at Horse Flat Campground is where the bandits would keep their stolen horses, and the boulders of Mt Hillyer offered a fortress that they could retreat to if discovered. Vasquez was caught and hung in Runyon Canyon.
- The peak is named after Mary Hillyer, a beloved clerk who worked for the Forest Service in the 1920s.
- The loop is popular with mountain bikers, so keep an eye out. The tire tracks can come in handy. If you are in doubt of which trail to take, follow the bike tracks.
Mt Hillyer Hike Directions
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Turn By Turn Directions
If you need to use the toilet, do it at this campground.
If you don’t want to hike on (small) paved roads as part of the upcoming loop, just turn around and go back the way you came.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.