Mt Zion Loop Hike From Chantry Flat

Mt Zion Loop Hike From Chantry Flat

In This Guide
  • Video & Turn by Turn Directions
  • How to Get to the Mt Zion Trailhead
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
Total Distance9 miles (14.5 km)
Hike Time4-5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)2,740 feet (835m)
Highest Elevation3,575 feet (1090m)
Fees & PermitsParking Permit
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park Website (?)Angeles National Forest
Park Phone747-322-6574
Stay In Touch - - -

The Mt Zion loop hike is a great option for those that have hiked from Chantry Flat before, maybe to Mt Wilson, but want something a little more off the beaten path. On this loop, I’ll take you on the Upper Gabrielino Trail, then on the historic Mt Zion Trail, built in 1896 and once the main trail into the area, then up to Mt Zion for panoramic views, and finally back to the start on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. And while there might be crowds on the nearby trails, this loop route on Angeles National Forest’s secondary trails offers peace and tranquility.

How to Get to the Trailhead

This hike starts at the popular Chantry Flat Picnic Area. There are popular waterfalls nearby and the parking can get crazy. Do yourself a favor and get here at sunrise. The gate to Chantry Flat opens at 6am but sometimes is open earlier. Use this trailhead address:
Chantry Flat Recreation Area, Chantry Flats Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

You need a parks pass or Adventure Pass to park here, even if you are parking in the street overflow.

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You’ve probably been to Chantry Flat before if you’re doing this hike. Come early and avoid the crowds. There are primitive toilets here.
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If the lot is full you can park on the street. Just not like this guy in the no-parking zone.

Gear for the Hike

This is longer hike in the backcountry, so you’re best served by using proper hiking gear. There are some stream hops and climbs, so proper footwear and trekking poles are handy. In the summer the bugs can be intense. This route is also generally snow-free (since it’s at a lower elevation).

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 August 2020.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 Zion Loop Trail Maps

I’ve purposely routed this hike on some of the lesser-used trails in the area to give you a different experience. The first section on the Upper Gabrielino Trail offers some views of Mt Zion and distance from the crowds of people at the falls. And coming back, you’ll take the Upper Winter Creek Trail, which winds along a ridge, high above the lower trail and campsites.

Click To View Map

Mt Zion Loop Hike From Chantry Flat 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 (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

Mt Zion Loop Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

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Hike down through the gate at the beginning of Chantry Flat.
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We’re heading to Sturtevant Camp in 4.3 miles, and then up to Mt Zion.
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Keep heading to the bottom of the paved road, passing the trail to Hermit Falls.
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At the bottom of the hill, head to the right and over the bridge.
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Once over the bridge, make the right through the big intersection. If you need to go to the bathroom, there’s one here.
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Head up the Gabrielino Trail from the intersection.
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Leave the crowds behind and hike up the Gabrielino.
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You’ll hike through the area with all the cabins.
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Make the hard left at the first junction (going straight heads to the falls).
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Okay, make the hard left to head on the Upper Gabrielino Trail.
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The trail climbs about 400 feet in a half mile and is manageable.
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As the trail winds around the ridge you’ll get some views of Mt Zion.
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The trail has some level sections and is easy to follow.
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At around 2.4 miles in you’ll rejoin the lower trail at the Falling Sign Junction. Go straight.
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Here’s a closeup of the sign at Falling Sign Junction, which should be familiar if you’ve done the hike to Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat.
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The Gabrielino Trail continues uphill through the shaded Angeles National Forest.
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Hike through the Cascade Picnic Area.
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If you’re wondering about these dams that you see all through this section of Angeles National Forest, here’s the deal. In 1954, the government laid out a program to protect the property and watershed (which served LA) here. They set up a series of check dams to ease flash flooding but also to help fight fires. In subsequent floods many of the dams blew out. That, combined with new schools of thought about fire and flood prevention, led to the abandonment of the project. Chris Kasten has an interesting article on the check dams here.
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Cross over the creek and keep heading up the trail.
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Hike through the Spruce Grove campsite.
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After Spurce Grove you’ll leave the Gabrielino Trail by heading to the left.
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Here’s a closeup of the sign at that junction. We’re heading up the Sturtevant to the Mt Zion trail in 1/8th of a mile.
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Just past the last junction, make the left before the Sturtevant Camp sign. You can also go straight through the camp and then join the trail later if you like.
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Head up the trail across the stream from Sturtevant Camp.
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And here’s the important trail junction for Mt Zion. Look for the trail to the right up to Mt Zion.
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Here’s the sign at the Upper Zion Trail junction. We’re going to Mt Zion summit and then onto (upper) Winter Creek.
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While not a majorly popular trail, it’s still often well maintained. There might be a downed tree or branch, but they are generally cleared rather quickly.

This path was the original trail from Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Camp, built by Wilbur Sturtevant in 1896, allegedly by following the path that a bear took over the mountain to get to the camp. In the fire and subsequent landslides of 1953, most of the trail was destroyed. It was rebuilt by volunteers and reopened in 1985.

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The trail climbs for a good portion, but it’s not a huge mountain grind. You’ve done most of the climbing already.
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When you get to the junction with the trail history display, make the left to head up the spur trail to the Mt Zion summit.
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The trail to the summit can get a little narrow and overgrown, but it’s there.
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When you reach the clearing, you’re at the summit! It’s not a high peak but it does have about 100 feet of prominence above the surrounding terrain.
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To the east you can see as far as Mt Waterman and Twin Peaks.
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And to the west you’ll see Mt Harvard and Mt Wilson

When you’re done at the summit, head back to the spur junction.

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At the spur, make the left and start heading back to the start on the loop at Chantry Flat.
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The trail winds downhill as you lose about 1000 feet in a mile.
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The views into Santa Anita Canyon are great.
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When you reach the junction by Hogees Camp, make the right.
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After a short uphill stretch you’ll reach the junction with the Upper Winter Creek Trail, which might look familiar if you’ve come down from Mt Wilson toward Chantry Flat in the past. Go straight onto the Upper Winter Creek Trail.
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Here’s the sign at the trail junction. We’re heading back to Chantry Flat, about 3 miles ahead.
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At the beginning of the Upper Winter Creek Trail, there is some uphill hiking.
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But soon the trail levels off (with some small ups and downs) and winds along the ridge above the canyon.
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Soon you’ll hear the screams and Bluetooth speakers at Chantry Flat, which will come into view from the trail when you reach the end.
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The Upper Winter Creek Trail ends at the road. Go straight downhill.
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And look for this little side trail downhill. You can follow the winding road or cut straight down the trail back to the picnic area and parking lot.
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When you reach the fence, hop over and head straight down to the parking lot to end the hike.

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