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.
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 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.
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.
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.
This guide last updated on September 1, 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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