Mt Wilson, at 5,710 feet, is the peak with all the radio towers that sits behind the LA skyline. It’s not the tallest peak in LA, but it’s a great hike with a fun summit. Multiple hiking trails ascend Mt Wilson. This hike starts at Chantry Flat, which gives you a gentler climb to the Mt Wilson summit, a trailhead store, bathrooms, and great views of LA on the way down. It’s a fun hike and a good long hike for beginners.
The Chantry Flat parking lot fills up early. Get here as close to opening at 6am as possible to ensure that you have a spot. Some times it opens early. It’s not uncommon to have people waiting for the gate to open.
You also need a parking pass for the lot. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every national park, national monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the general store in Chantry Flats.
When the lot is full, people park down on the side of the road and walk up to the trailhead.
If you want to take public transportation, there are sometimes weekend shuttles from the Arcadia Gold Line station. Check out the website or give them a call to see if it’s running when you want to go.
Gear for the Hike
Even though Mt Wilson is a beginner friendly hike, its long and you should have hiking gear, not just workout clothes. It’s rare for Mt Wilson to get snow, but it does sometimes. And in the summer, there can be thunder storms. Check the summit forecast before you go.
Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:
Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.
I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.
Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.
The dams you see throughout the hike to Mt Wilson were built in the 1960s to keep sand and rocks from traveling downstream to the larger Big Santa Anita Dam and reservoir. The paved road that the hike starts on used to head up along many of the smaller trails that you’ll hike on, and was used to bring up the cranes, cement mixers, and other trucks needed to create the dams.
Most big dams have a smaller “sill dam” downstream that is used to protect the foundation of the larger dam upstream. When you see any lower dam missing, it means mother nature went ahead and blew it out. The first sill dams blew out in 1969 during a wet El Nino year.
Many of the (private) cabins that you see on the hike were built in the 1910s-1920s when the U.S. Forest Service encourage people to build them. The supplies used to build them were brought in by mules, and still are today by Adams Pack Station. Over the years the elements have destroyed many cabins, and today there are less than 80 of them. You can stay in some of the ones at Sturtevant Camp.
You can watch this video in 360 degrees. I have a version of this video where you can pan around in 360 degrees and see every angle of every trail junction, the trail conditions, and more. This is how you can use and view them.
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