Slide Mountain Lookout Hike

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Slide Mountain Lookout
  • Where to Park for the Slide Mountain Lookout Hike
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations
Total Distance (?)10.8 miles (17.4 km)
Hike Time4-5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)2,620 feet (799m)
Highest Elevation4,631 feet (1412m)
Fees & PermitsParking Pass
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Angeles National Forest
Park Phone747-322-6574
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
Stay SafeCopy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.

The Slide Mountain Lookout Trail isn’t near many other hikes and is a bit of a trek to get to, but it is well worth the effort. The hike is unique in a lot of ways. First, you’ll hike through the dramatic Piru Gorge, but you’ll do it on an abandoned highway, giving the stretch a surreal post-apocalyptic feel. Then you’ll sweat as you climb over 2000 feet on dirt trails toward the summit. Along the way, you’ll get spectacular views into the rugged backcountry of the Sespe Wilderness. At the top is a fire lookout, manned by volunteers and only accessible by hiking.

This is one of the only hikes where you start in Angeles National Forest and end in Los Padres National Forest.

Where is Slide Mountain Lookout?

This hike starts in the northwest section of Angeles National Forest, off I-5 when you head north out of the LA area. You’ll be sharing the trailhead with anglers who are visiting Piru Creek. Use this trailhead address:
Frenchmans Flat Campground, Castaic, CA 91384

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 1
The trailhead is easy to find because the road dead-ends into this gate.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 3
Make sure that you park in the actual parking spots, and not by the “no parking” signs that are closest to the gate.

Because there are toilets here, you need to display a parking pass. I use my National Parks pass, and you can also use an Adventure Pass.

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 4
There’s a toilet down below in the Frenchman Flat Campground, but there’s another one a short distance down the road that’s easier to get to.

Gear For the Hike

You can go with your standard hiking gear here, there are no curve balls. I found that I even had 5G cell reception for most of the hike. The hike is exposed and can get hot in the summer, bring 2-3L of water. You’ll also want to bring some insect repellant. The ideal time to visit in in the cooler and windier months when the insects and heat are not an issue.

Garmin Inreach Mini 2

Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.

Latest Prices: Amazon | REI

Lone Peak 6 Yellow

Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.

Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon 
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon 

Gregory Zulu 30

Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.

Women’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.

My May 2022 Top Gear Picks

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 keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Slide Mountain Trail Maps

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 2
The markings are minimal also the route, but there are these mile markers on the trail. Note that the mileage starts from the beginning of the trail / end of road portion.
Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.


How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

Elevation Profile

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Elevation
The first part along the road feels flat, and then you have a steady climb up to the top. The gradient isn’t too bad and you can usually get into a nice groove here.

3D Map

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike 3d Map
The first 1.5 miles is along the old (closed to traffic) US-99, through Piru Gorge. Then you climb up on the Slide Mountain Trail.

Hike Brief

Piru Canyon Postcard
The beginning of the hike follows old US-99 through the spectacular rock formations of Piru Gorge, beautiful enough that they used to make postcards of it, as you see in this one from the 1930s.

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 5
Start the hike by heading through the gate.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 6
After a minute on the road, there’s a toilet on the right.

Keep your ears open for the occasional utility vehicle driving on the road.

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 7
You’ll reach the bridge over Piru Creek. The righthand side of the bridge was built in 1932, and the lefthand side was built in 1951 when the bridge was widened to four lanes.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 8
It’s worth taking a look down into Piru Creek, which is usually clear enough to see to the bottom of. The waters in Pyramid Lake ensure that Piru Creek flows all year.

The creek is officially designated as the Piru Creek Wild & Scenic River, a protected area since 2009.

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 9
There’s also an angler sign-in just past the bridge.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 11
Keep your eyes open on the slopes up to the left, where you can catch a glimpse of the fire lookout in the distance. This is the only time that you can see it before you get to the top.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 10
As you continue, look for a concrete waterfall on the right. The trout below the fall are stocked, any trout caught above this are wild.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 12
Continue down the road as it winds to the left.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 14
It’s easy to see the San Gabriel Fault action in the cliffs surrounding you.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 13
When you get to this trout area sign (on your right), you’re almost at the trail turn off.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 15
Keep your eyes open for a white gate on the left.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 16
Hike through the gate and leave the road behind.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 17
Now you start the business end of the climb. It’s uphill but not too steep.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 18
Look back as you climb to see the walls of the Pyramid Lake Dam.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 19
The trail continues winding up. At this point it’s wide, but nothing like a standard Forest Service road.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 20
And as you ascend, you’ll start to be able to see into Pyramid Lake.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 21
At about 2.7 miles in there’s a clearing and the trail makes a hard left.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 22
And now is a proper singletrack trail.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 23
The trail winds back and forth, giving you a variety of views.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 24
And soon Slide Mountain comes into view.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 25
When you get to the saddle, make the right to continue.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 26
From the saddle to the peak, prepare for breathtaking views into Los Padres National Forest and the Sespe Wilderness. The area is dramatic, wild, and largely untouched by trails or human imprints. The big mountain off the right is Dome Mountain in Ventura County.

The Sespe Wilderness, created in 1992, includes the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, which is off-limits to humans. I’ve seen condor on this hike, keep your eyes open, and maybe you will too.

Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 27
The trail seems to be a little less steep than before as it follows the ridge.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 28
Once past the saddle the trail zigzags back and forth over the border into Los Padres NF.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 29
And as you wind around, you’ll start a section of wide switchbacks.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 30
And then you’ll come around to the east side again, with more great views.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 31
Then you’ll wind back over to the Los Padres NF / west side again.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 32
And soon the tower will come into view ahead.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 33
And here you are, the Slide Mountain Fire Lookout.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 35
There’s a visitor register.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 34
Most of the time you can climb up to the gangway around the tower. Be respectful, especially if there’s a volunteer here.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 37
The inside of tower is pretty cool.
Slide Mountain Lookout Hike Directions 36
And lastly, there’s a porta-potty that has the best views ever.

From here, just head back the way you came up.

This guide last updated on April 19, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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