Mt Wilson Trail Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||14.5 miles (23.3 km)|
|Hike Time||6 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||5,640 feet (1719m)|
|Highest Elevation||5,712 feet (1741m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Park Website||Angeles National Forest|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
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
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
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.
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: Women – Men
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.
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.
I’m a big fan of GPS watches (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar. 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.
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
Mt Wilson Trail Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Mt Wilson Trail Elevation Profiles
Mt Wilson Trail History
- Mt Wilson is named after General Patton’s grandfather, Benjamin Davis Wilson, a local big-wig in the 1800s and one-time mayor of LA. He owned the land around here and went to the summit in search of timber.
- The path he took to the summit followed the Native American Tongya’s path to the summit, which happens to be the same route as the Mt Wilson Trail.
- The first telescope at the summit observatory was brought up this trail in 1889.
- The Mt Wilson Trail became a favorite hike for tourists, leading to the development attractions along the route.
- First Water (see directions below) was a popular picnic spot and water refill station from the 1890s on.
- A short distance up from First Water was a small general store called Quarter-Way House, built in 1888, and burned down in 1945. (If anyone can find ruins, please send me a picture with the location).
- Orchard Camp, which you can see the ruins of on the hike, was a resort from the 1890s to the 1930s. In 1911 at the height of its popularity, 40,000 visitors signed the camp register. It was destroyed in the 1938 floods.
- Lizzie’s Trail Inn, at the trailhead, served as a place where hikers could eat and get supplies. Today it’s a museum.
- The electric streetcar line was extended to Sierra Madre in 1906, allowing lots of folks to hike the Mt Wilson Trail before cars were a thing.
- It remained popular until the 1950s, when it became so degraded that in 1953 a sign that said “unsafe to travel” was posted.
- In the 1960s volunteers started to restore the trail and continue to do so today, funded by donations to the Sierra Madre Community Foundation.
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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FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.
Turn by Turn Directions
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.