Mt Hillyer Trail Hike

Mt Hillyer Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • Which Mt Hillyer Trailhead to Use
  • Gear Recommendations and Tips for the Hike
Total Distance6.5 miles (10.5 km)
Other Options 5 miles out-and-back
Hike Time3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,240 feet (378m)
Highest Elevation6,203 feet (1891m)
Fees & PermitsParking Permit
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Angeles National Forest
Park Phone747-322-6574

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

Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 2
Look for the Chilao Visitor Center signs from Angeles Crest Highway, the  drive in.

Instead of going to the visitor center, drive straight through until you reach the Silver Moccasin Trail parking area, which intersects the road.

Mt Hillyer Trailhead Parking Map
Here’s a map showing the trailhead relative to where you drive into the visitor’s center. Just drive straight past all the picnic areas and parking lots.

Here is the Google Maps latitude and longitude map link for the parking area.

Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 3
This is the trailhead parking area. It’s not a big lot, but there’s usually not a lot of people here. If the lot is full, park in one of the earlier parking areas that you passed.

You need to display your Parks Pass or Adventure Pass to park here.

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There is no water or toilets at the trailhead, but there are primitive toilets at Horse Flat Campground, 1 mile into the hike.

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.

La Sportiva Spire

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: WomenMen

Osprey Talon

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.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

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.

My September 2020 Top Gear Picks

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.

Click Here To View Map

Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

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?

Two Mt Hillyers On Topo Map
Why is the official Mt Hillyer, at 6162 feet, lower than the 6200 feet ridgeline that’s about 300 yards away?

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.

Elevation Profile

Mt Hilyer Elevation Profile
The climb has a small respite when you get to Horse Flat Campground, and then you head up again. The descent is an easy cruise back to the start.

3D Map

Mt Hilyer 3d Map
After a climb on the Silver Moccasin, you start the loop in a clockwise direction.

Hike Brief

Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 33
The campground at Horse Flat features hitching posts, a direct tie-back to when the area was used to pasture stolen horses.

Mt Hillyer Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn By Turn Directions

Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 4
Start the hike at the Silver Moccasin trailhead by the parking area.
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The trail starts to gently climb, and you’ll get some great views to the south and west.
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After about a mile, you’ll reach this intersection. Make the left to leave the Silver Moccasin Trail and head toward Horse Flat Campground.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 7
When you reach Horse Flat, make the hard left onto the Mt Hillyer Trail. We’ll be coming back here on the return loop.

If you need to use the toilet, do it at this campground.

Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 8
From here we’re taking the Mt Hillyer Trail to the summit, two miles away.
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The trail twists uphill.
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As you enter the boulders, you’ll get some views to the south. That’s Santiago Peak in the distance.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 10
Avoid the side trails to the left that lead into a popular bouldering area.
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And when you get to this big switchback, make the hard right. It’s easy to not cut back and go straight into a maze of boulders.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 13
The trail goes through lot of boulders. If you’re in doubt of where the trail is, look for the mountain bike tracks.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 14
There are dozens of nice spots among the boulders with overlooks and places to pitch tents.
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Eventually you’ll gain the ridge and the peaks to the west, including Mt Wilson (with the towers and observatory), will become visible.
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The summit area of Mt Hillyer is broad and flat, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views.
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The first summit (6200ft) is off to the left at this split. Look for the big pile of boulders ahead. The main trail continues down to the left.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 18
This is the Sierra Club summit for Mt Hilyer. Climb up the boulders to enjoy the views.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 19
To the west you’ll get wide panorama that includes Mt Wilson, San Gabriel Peak, Mt Disappointment, and Strawberry Peak.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 20
And to the north Pacifico Mountain looms large.
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When you’re done at the summit, head back to the trail as it starts downhill.
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Head through the little meadow as the trail twists around toward the second summit.
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There’s a small trail to the second summit (6162ft) on the right. It’s only few minutes hike and is worth the views.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 24
Soon you reach the summit, which offers another pile of boulders to climb and has views of Mt Waterman and Twin Peaks.

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.

Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 25
Head back to the trail and start the descent.
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When you get to the trailhead at Rosenita Saddle, make the hard right onto the small paved road.
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Head downhill on the road that winds through the pines and scrub.
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When the road splits, bear right.
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You’ll see a sign for the Horse Flat Campground, the next landmark on the hike.
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Hike past the pay station.
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When you reach the loop road split, you can go either way. The righthand option is a little flatter.
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At the far end of the loop road you’ll see the turnoff for the trail that you arrived on earlier. Head back on that trail to retrace your steps back to the start.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 35
When you get to the Sliver Moccasin Trail, bear right and hike back down the hill to the trailhead.
Mt Hillyer Trail Directions 36
And eventually you’ll reemerge at the parking lot!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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