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This Mt Wilson hike starts at Chantry Flat and gradually makes it way to the summit. Mt Wilson (5,710 feet) is the peak with all the radio towers that dominates the LA skyline. It's a fun hike and a good long hike for beginners.
14.5 miles (23.3 km)
4110 ft (1253 m)
Popular with hikers
Mt Wilson Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
Chantry Flat Parking Lot and Trail Head, Sierra Madre, CA, 91011, USA
The hike starts at the Chantry Flat recreation area, about 45 minutes east of downtown LA.
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.
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.
Interactive Map Mt Wilson Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Mt Wilson Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, please check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Mt Wilson Hike Directions What to Expect The summit is home to Mt Wilson Observatory, with a museum and casual restaurant. Mt Wilson is named after General Patton’s (from WW2) grandfather. There can be poison oak and mosquitos on the way up to Mt Wilson. Wear long pants and bring some natural insect repellant in case the bugs get bad. 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 and bathrooms, and great views of LA on the way down. 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. 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. Now you can get to the trailhead using public transportation. Turn by Turn Directions 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. There are basic bathrooms at Chantry Flat. The trail starts on the forest road at the entrance to the Chantry Flat parking lot. There’s no mention of the Mt Wilson trail on this sign. Don’t worry, this route will get you there. Hike down the paved road. Some inspiration for your hike. At about 0.6 miles, you get to the bottom. Hike across the bridge. There are bathrooms at this big trail junction. Take the Gabrielino trail towards Mt Wilson. This is the Gabrielino trail entrance. The Gabrielino Trail winds its way up Santa Anita Wash, past dams and private cabins. More hiking wisdom. At about 1.4 miles, hike to the left. Right after the turn, the Gabrielino Trail splits. Hike right to the lower Gabrielino Trail. The lower Gabrielino Trail follows the Santa Anita wash again, this time with great views along the cliff. At about 2 miles, the trail crosses a rock pile. Watch out for poison oak here. At about 2.2 miles, hike across the stream. At about 2.4 miles, you reach the Falling Sign Junction. Hike to the right at the Falling Sign Junction. At about 2.9 miles, you reach the Cascade Picnic Area. Hike to the right, up the hill. A little after 3.5 miles, you reach Spruce Grove Campground. 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. At about 3.8 miles, you reach the Sturtevant Trail junction. Hike to the left onto the Sturtevant Trail toward Mt Wilson. Shortly after the junction, the trail crosses a stream but is well marked. At about 4 miles, you reach the Upper Zion Trail Junction. Continue hiking straight toward Mt Wilson. This is the sign at the Upper Zion Trail Junction. Sturtevant Camp, also at the junction, is a cool little resort in the middle of the forest. Save it for your next visit and keep hiking on the Sturtevant Trail. After climbing a bit, the trail enters a rock field. Keep to the left to stay on the trail. Now you climb. This is the steepest mile or two. Switchbacks ease your pain as you climb toward Mt Wilson. Almost there! At about 5.3 miles you arrive at the sign. Keep hiking toward Mt. Wilson, the toughest part is behind you. The views start opening up as you approach the Mt Wilson summit. The Mt Wilson summit! You’ll arrive here at around 6.8 miles. 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. Check out the Mt Wilson Observatory. There is a visitors center in the big, 100 inch telescope building. After checking out the 100 inch telescope, head across the little bridge. Make the right after the bridge and head straight down the road to the other side of the Mt Wilson summit. The Astronomical Museum is on the road and worth a stop if that’s your thing. Ignore the turn for the Rim Trail and keep hiking down the road. After reaching the big parking lot, head to the left where it says additional parking for the tourist area. There are bathrooms here. There are water fill stations here. Fill your hydration system for the trip back down. Grab a bite at the Cosmic Cafe to fuel up for the rest of the hike. The PBJS sandwich did the trick for me. Enjoy the Mt Wilson summit views of LA as you have a bite. Head back to the big parking lot and check out the views. You can see all the way to Catalina on a clear day. 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. The Mt Wilson trail sign is at the midpoint of the parking lot. Enjoy a few hours of decent as the Mt Wilson Trail heads back down the mountain. As you hike down the Mt Wilson Trail, there are great views of LA. Don’t forget to look down too! Lots of critters around here. 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. 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. At about 8.9 miles, make the left onto the Mt Wilson Trail. Keep your eye out for mountain bikers coming from behind, especially as you head onto the narrower Mt Wilson Trail. Head straight down the Mt WIlson Trail, avoiding any side trails. Enjoy yourself as the the trail seems to descend for miles and miles. You earned it. 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. A trail post at the unmarked junction tells you the correct direction for the Winter Creek 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. At about 11.9 miles, the Winter Creek Trail splits. Make the left for the shorter and more scenic 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. As you descend along the creek, you’ll notice the dams that you saw when you started the hike earlier. The trail goes through the Hoegee Campground. Walk through the campground to find the trail. The scenery on this part of the trail is really nice. Soak it in, the hike is almost over. 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. 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. An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
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I’m Hiking Guy, aka Cris Hazzard. I like to get outdoors, walk, and then write about it. It wasn’t always like that though.
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