Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat

Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat

In This Guide
  • How to Get to the Mount Wilson Hike
  • Mount Wilson Trail Maps
  • Checking Out the Mount Wilson Observatory
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • What You Need To Do the Hike
Distance14.5 miles (23.3 km)
Time7:30 Hours (Total Time)
DifficultyHard
Total Climbing4,110 feet (1253m)
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park NameAngeles National Forest
Park Phone626-574-1613

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.

Getting to the Chantry Flat Trailhead

Use this GPS address: Chantry Flat Recreation Area, Sierra Madre, CA, 91011, USA.

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.

Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat parking
The Chantry Flat parking area opens at 6am and fills up quickly. You might have to drive down the road to park if the lot is full.
bathrooms at Chantry Flat
There are basic bathrooms at Chantry Flat.
Mt Wilson Trailhead
Here’s detail of the lot and where the trailhead is.

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.

Here’s what I bring:

Garmin inreach review

If you want hiking gear recommendations, check out my full gear list. I only recommend and review gear that I actually use. No company pays me to push their product. Everything on my gear list is battle tested on the trails, and should work well for you too.

See The Gear I Use

The summit is home to Mt Wilson Observatory, where you can take a guided tour of the telescopes and grab a snack at the Cosmic Cafe. Generally when I do the hike, I skip any observatory visits but always grab a snack at the Cosmic Cafe.

Mt Wilson From Chantry Flat Trail Maps

There are multiple routes up to the Mt Wilson summit, and this guide covers one of the most popular routes. You go up “the back way” and come down “the front way” as the locals say.

Fenix 5x Hiking Review

I highly recommend bringing some form of paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.

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.

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat 3d map
The Mt Wilson hike from Chantry Flat is a nice loop that has tree cover for most of the way. It’s a good hike to do on hot days because of the shade.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat elevation
Aside from a little dip at the start and end, the hike climbs steadily toward the Mt Wilson summit. Take your time and pace yourself.

What to Know Before the Hike

Mt Wilson Hike Updates 9
You’ll see a ton of these dams, dating back to the 1960s on this hike.

Mt Wilson From Chantry Flat Hike Directions

Video Directions

Want to see this in 360/VR? I have a version of this video where you can pan around in 360 degrees and see every angle of every trail junction, etc. - check it out here on YouTube

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Turn by Turn Directions

Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trailhead
The trail starts on the forest road at the entrance to the Chantry Flat parking lot.
Mt Wilson Hike Updates 10
The trail sign at the start confirms you’ve got about 50 feet done,  7 miles to go.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat road
Hike down the paved fire road, which used to go all the way (paved) to Sturtevant Camp (you’ll see that later).
hike sign
Some inspiration for your hike.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat bridge
At about 0.6 miles, you get to the bottom. Hike across the bridge.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat bathrooms
There are bathrooms at this big trail junction.
Gabrielino trail sign
Take the Gabrielino trail towards Mt Wilson.
Gabrielino trail entrance
This is the Gabrielino trail entrance.
Gabrielino Trail
The Gabrielino Trail winds its way up Santa Anita Wash, past dams and private cabins.
hiking sign
More hiking wisdom.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail
At about 1.4 miles, hike to the left.
Gabrielino Trail sign
Right after the turn, the Gabrielino Trail splits.
lower Gabrielino Trail
Hike right to the lower Gabrielino Trail.
lower Gabrielino Trail
The lower Gabrielino Trail follows the Santa Anita wash again, this time with great views along the cliff.
Mt Wilson Hike Updates 8
There are call boxes at various points along the hike. I have no idea if they actually work, but they’re worth a try if you get in a jam. Luckily much of this route is heavily travelled and help is usually close at hand.
poison oak
At about 2 miles, the trail crosses a rock pile. Watch out for poison oak here.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail
At about 2.2 miles, hike across the stream.
Falling Sign Junction
At about 2.4 miles, you reach the Falling Sign Junction.
Falling Sign Junction
Hike to the right at the Falling Sign Junction.
Cascade Picnic Area
At about 2.9 miles, you reach the Cascade Picnic Area. Hike to the right, up the hill.
Spruce Grove Campground
A little after 3.5 miles, you reach Spruce Grove Campground.
Spruce Run Campground bathroom
If you need a bathroom break, Spruce Run Campground has them. It’s also a good time to have some food before the main part of the climb.
Sturtevant Trail junction
At about 3.8 miles, you reach the Sturtevant Trail junction.
Sturtevant Trail
Hike to the left onto the Sturtevant Trail toward Mt Wilson.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail crosses stream
Shortly after the last junction, the trail goes up some stairs.. Make the left here, avoiding the hike straight into Sturtevant Camp .
Upper Zion Trail Junction
At about 4 miles, you reach the Upper Zion Trail Junction. Continue hiking straight toward Mt Wilson.
sign at the Upper Zion Trail Junction
This is the sign at the Upper Zion Trail Junction.
Sturtevant Camp
Sturtevant Camp, also at the junction, is a cool little set of cabins in the middle of the forest. Save it for your next visit and keep hiking on the Sturtevant Trail.
rock field
After climbing a bit, the trail enters a rock field. Keep to the left to stay on the trail.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail climbs
Now you climb. This is the steepest mile or two. Switchbacks ease your pain as you climb toward Mt Wilson.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail sign
Almost there! At about 5.3 miles you arrive at the sign. Keep hiking toward Mt. Wilson, the toughest part is behind you.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat views
The views start opening up as you approach the Mt Wilson summit.
Mt Wilson Hike Updates 7
Keep your eyes open for wildlife. There are a ton of trees and therefore dead leaves. Most of the scattering around is from squirrels, but sometimes you’ll see a mule deer too.
Mt Wilson summit
The Mt Wilson summit! You’ll arrive here at around 6.8 miles.
Mt Wilson Summit Map
Here’s a quick map of the summit area. The following images walk you through it.
Mt Wilson summit
The Mt Wilson summit is a big complex that includes the observatory, radio antennas, and the tourist areas. When the trail ends, make the right to check out the big white structure.
cris hazzard at Mt Wilson Observatory
Check out the Mt Wilson Observatory. There is a visitors center in the big, 100 inch telescope building.
bridge on Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat
After checking out the 100 inch telescope, head across the little bridge.
Mt Wilson summit
Make the right after the bridge and head straight down the road to the other side of the Mt Wilson summit.
Astronomical Museum
The Astronomical Museum is on the road and worth a stop if that’s your thing.
 Rim Trail
Ignore the turn for the Rim Trail and keep hiking down the road.
Mt Wilson Hike Updates 2
Look for a curved turnout heading up to the highest area. Hike up that trail.
Mt Wilson Hike Updates 1
You’ll come out in a parking lot, hike straight to the bathrooms and cafe.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat bathrooms
There are bathrooms here.
 water fill stations
There are water fill stations here. Fill your hydration system for the trip back down.
 Cosmic Cafe
Grab a bite at the Cosmic Cafe to fuel up for the rest of the hike. The PBJS sandwich did the trick for me.
Mt Wilson summit views of LA
Enjoy the Mt Wilson summit views of LA as you have a bite.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat views
Head back to the big parking lot and check out the views. You can see all the way to Catalina on a clear day.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail
Okay, let’s head back down. This is a little tricky. Avoid the trail by the USGS marker, and instead take the trail by the Mt Wilson Trail sign in the middle of the lot.
Mt Wilson trail sign
The Mt Wilson trail sign is at the midpoint of the parking lot.
Mt Wilson Trail
Enjoy a few hours of decent as the Mt Wilson Trail heads back down the mountain.
views of LA
As you hike down the Mt Wilson Trail, there are great views of LA.
lizard on rock
Don’t forget to look down too! Lots of critters around here.
Mt Wilson Toll Road
At about 8.4 miles, the Mt Wilson Trail arrives at the Mt Wilson Toll Road. Hike to the left onto the Mt. Wilson Toll Road.
Mt Wilson Toll Road
Continue down the old Mt Wilson Toll Road. It first opened in 1891 and charged hikers 25 cents to hike up to Mt Wilson. A landslide in 2005 closed it for a while, and you can still see remnants of rock slides and washouts.
Mt Wilson Trail
At about 8.9 miles, make the left onto the Mt Wilson Trail.
Mt Wilson Trail
Keep your eye out for mountain bikers coming from behind, especially as you head onto the narrower Mt Wilson Trail.
Mt WIlson Trail
Head straight down the Mt WIlson Trail, avoiding any side trails.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail
Enjoy yourself as the the trail seems to descend for miles and miles. You earned it. It’s like cutting through warm butter.
Winter Creek Trail
At about 9.5 miles, there’s an unmarked junction. Hike to the left, which is the Winter Creek Trail. You’ll take Winter Creek Trail back toward Chantry Flat.
Mt Wilson Hike Updates 5
Make the left at the bench on the much smaller trail.
Winter Creek Trail
A trail post at the unmarked junction tells you the correct direction for the Winter Creek Trail.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat trail
Enjoy more miles of descending as the Winter Creek Trail heads down towards Chantry Flat. Keep heading downward and avoid any small side trails that head up.
Lower Winter Creek Trail
At about 11.9 miles, the Winter Creek Trail splits. Make the left for the shorter and more scenic Lower Winter Creek Trail.
Lower WInter Creek Trail
Continue down the Lower Winter Creek Trail, and at 12.2 miles, you reach the Lower Zion Trail Junction. Hike to the right and stay on Lower WInter Creek Trail toward Chantry Flat.
dams on Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat
As you descend along the creek, you’ll notice the dams that you saw when you started the hike earlier.
Hoegee Campground
The trail goes through the Hoegee Campground. Walk through the campground to find the trail.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat scenery
The scenery on this part of the trail is really nice. Soak it in, the hike is almost over.
Mt Wilson Hike From Chantry Flat junction
At about 13.9 miles, you reach the big junction from the beginning of the hike. Go right and back up the paved climb to the parking lot.
cris hazzard at chantry flat
YOU DID IT! The Mt. Wilson trail hike is no joke. 4000+ feet of climbing and 14+ miles. Go ahead and treat yourself to dessert, you just burned a billion calories.

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