Mt Wilson Trail Hike

Mt Wilson Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Hike Video
  • Mt Wilson Trail Maps
  • Parking for the Mt Wilson Trail
  • Getting Ready for the Hike
Distance14.5 miles (23.3 km)
Hike Time6 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)5,640 feet (1719m)
Highest Elevation5,712 feet (1741m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dog FriendlyNo
Park WebsiteAngeles National Forest
Park Phone626-574-1613
Stay In Touch - - -

The Mt Wilson Trail is the oldest route to the summit to Mt Wilson. Unlike the popular route to Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat, the Mt Wilson Trail is mellow and lacks the crowds and kids looking for the waterfall. The Mt Wilson Trail offers beautiful views as it ascends the side of Little Santa Anita Canyon, and being the oldest trail, offers some historical landmarks as well. If you’ve only hiked Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat, I highly recommend giving this route a try too.

How to Get to the Mt Wilson Trail

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The hike starts at Mount Wilson Trail Park. The bathroom is the building in the back.

Getting to the trailhead is relatively easy. You park on the street (for free) around Mt Wilson Trail Park and walk a few minutes up the street to the actual trailhead. The address to use is:

Mt Wilson Trail Park, 189 E Mira Monte Ave, Sierra Madre, CA 91024

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There’s free street parking but you might have to walk a few minutes to the trailhead if you get here late and park farther away.

The neighborhood is residential so please be respectful of neighbors, especially if you’re leaving in the early hours of the morning. There are bathrooms in the park but are sometimes locked; try to go before you arrive. There are bathrooms at the summit though.

Gear For the Hike

This is a tough, long hike and you need proper hiking gear. Bring 3L of water, snacks, and proper navigation gear. When you get to the summit you can refill your water bottles and grab a bite at the Cosmic Cafe (check the hours, open seasonally). Sometimes there can be bugs, bring some bug spray just in case.

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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.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

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 Wilson Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Mt Wilson Trail Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

Mt Wilson Trail Elevation Profiles

Mt Wilson Trail Hike Elevation
The elevation profile is pretty straightforward, you go up. And up some more. The good news is that the downhill from Mt Wilson is easy peasy.
Mt Wilson Trail 3d Map
The trail climbs along Little Santa Anita Canyon until it gains Manzanita Ridge at the bench. From there it’s a short stretch to the old Mt Wilson Toll Road and then the summit.

Mt Wilson Trail History

Orchard Camp
Orchard Camp, at the halfway point on the hike, used to be a popular resort on the Mt Wilson Trail.

There’s a really great write-up on the history of the trail here if you want to dive deeper.

Mt Wilson Trail Hike Directions

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Video Directions

FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.

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Turn by Turn Directions

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Head onto Mt Wilson Trail (road) by Lizzie’s Trail Inn, which is right next to the Mt Wilson Trail Park.
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Shortly after walking up the road the “trail” trailhead is on your left.
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There’s no missing the trailhead. Lot’s of signs tell you to be careful, be polite, and all that good stuff.
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This short stretch of trail follows the road, climbs some steps, and then rejoins the road, which soon turns to dirt.
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Keep going straight on the dirt road.
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And go straight some more. At this point the dirt road transitions to a dirt trail.
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Now you’re hiking! Enjoy the trail as it climbs up the side of Little Santa Anita Canyon.
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Bear right to continue on the Mt Wilson Trail. The hard left leads to Jones Peak.
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The climb is tough but not too steep. Don’t forget to take breaks and turn around, the views are spectacular and you’ll be able to see the trail you hiked on earlier.
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At the junction for First Water, bear left.
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You’ll get some glimpses of the mountains in the distance as the trail continues to climb.
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At the junction with the Bailey Canyon Trail, continue right. Shortly after this you’ll pass a clearing used as a helipad. Hopefully you don’t have to take a  chopper out of here.
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The trail has some shaded sections as it makes its way past Decker Springs.
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There are some beautiful sections of trail on this stretch.
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At the halfway point you’ll reach the ruins of Orchard Camp. The trail continues on the left side of the camp.
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The ruins of Orchard Camp are a great place for a snack and hydration before you tackle the second half of the climb.
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Here’s the trail sign at Orchard Camp. Hike to the left.
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This section is steep but beautiful.
Manzanita Ridge
Eventually you arrive at Manzanita Ridge, aka “The Bench”, which will look familiar if you have done the Mt Wilson Loop from Chantry Flat. In this case you’re making the left to continue up the Gabrielino Trail toward Mt Wilson.
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Keep hiking up the Gabrielino Trail. There are some cutoffs here, please take the switchback to avoid erosion.
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This section of trail ends and you make the hard right onto the Old Mt Wilson Toll Road.
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The road is easy to follow and has a steady uphill gradient.
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The views into Angeles National Forest on this stretch of the hike are great.
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Keep your eyes open for this small trail turnoff on the right. Hike up this smaller trail to the summit. You can also take the road up but it’s not as nice.
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After a stretch on this section of the trail, you reach the end of the trail at the parking lot.
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Head across the lot to visit the Cosmic Cafe, summit, bathrooms, and astronomical attractions. you can also cut across the parking lot to the right for some great views into downtown LA. If you want a more detailed description of the summit area, check out the guide to Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat.
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That’s the hike! After checking out the Mt Wilson summit area, just head back down the way you came on the Mt Wilson Trail and that’s it.

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

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