Mount Hawkins Loop Hike

Mt Hawkins Loop Hike (Hawkins, Middle, and South Mount Hawkins)

In This Guide
  • Video & Turn by Turn Directions
  • How to Get to the Mt Hawkins Trailehad
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
Distance13 miles (20.9 km)
Hike Time5-7 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)3,750 feet (1143m)
Highest Elevation8,850 feet (2698m)
Fees & PermitsParking Permit
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park Website (?)Angeles National Forest
Park Phone747-322-6574
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This challenging and lightly-trodden loop hike offers three summits along the route: Mt Hawkins, Middle Hawkins, and South Mount Hawkins. The hike offers sweeping views of the peaks of Angeles National Forest, an interesting history, beautiful trails, a long descent down Hawkins Ridge, and three different peaks to bag from the Sierra Club’s 100 Peaks list. Escape the crowds on the nearby peaks and give the Mt Hawkins loop a try.

Many other guides take in only Hawkins Ridge and South Mt Hawkins. This guide is about 1.5 miles longer and also offers Mount Hawkins, which offers great views and is worth the extra mileage.

Getting to the Trailhead

The hike starts in the Crystal Lake campground area, at the Windy Gap Trailhead. The area can be confusing, with lots of roads and some inaccurate trailheads listed on Google Maps. Finding the big trailhead parking lot is not a big deal once you know where you are going. Here are the actual parking lot coordinates:

34°19’36.3″N 117°49’56.2″W
34.326736, -117.832283

If your automotive GPS can’t get to those coordinates easily, just navigate to the Crystal Lake Visitor’s Center and then follow the map below.

Crystal Lake Visitor’s Center, 9877 N Crystal Lake Rd, Azusa, CA 91702

Once you’re at the Visitor’s Center, use this map to get to the Windy Gap trailhead parking lot.

Mt Hawkins Hike Parking Map

Sometimes the gate to the campgrounds (just past the Visitor’s Center) is closed. If that’s the case, park in the big lot just east of the Visitor’s Center and walk up to the trailhead (about 10 mins).

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The parking lot across the street from the Windy Gap trailhead is massive.

You need a parks pass or Adventure Pass to park at Crystal Lake.

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There are bathrooms by the trailhead parking.
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The trailhead is right across the street from the big parking area.

Gear For the Hike

This is a tough backcountry hike and, I recommend being prepared for all conditions. Water is seasonal, and there’s no great sources right off the trail, so I recommend bringing everything that you will drink (probably around 2-3L).

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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 (or Amazon).

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 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 Hawkins Loop Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Mt Hawkins Loop Hike (Hawkins, Middle, and South Mount Hawkins) 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.

Elevation Profile

Mt Hawkins Hike Elevation Profile
The hike does the bulk of the climbing in the first half, hitting Mt Hawkins first. From there it’s a long downhill stretch with two small climbs to Middle Hawkins and South Mount Hawkins.

Hike Landmarks

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Trailhead05840
Windy Gap2.57588
Mount Hawkins4.58850
Middle Hawkins5.88505
South Mount Hawkins8.57783
Windy Gap Trailhead135840

3D Map

Mt Hawkins Hike 3d Map
From the trailhead we head clockwise and do the bulk of the climbing up to Mount Hawkins, then head back down along the ridge to bag the other peaks.

Hike Brief

South Mt Hawkins Fire Tower
You[‘ll see the ruins of this fire tower on South Mount Hawkins, which burned down in the Curve Fire. Photo Fire Lookouts: The Early Years (Volume 1)
Squirrel Inn 2
The Squirrel Inn in 1904. Is that forth blob from the right Nellie Hawkins? Could be! Photo: Azusa Herald – October 20, 1937

Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 5
We’re going to start on the Windy Gap Trail, which is right across the street from the parking lot.
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After you leave the campground area the trail is wooded and easy to follow as you hike uphill.
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Cross the road.
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The trail continues on the other side of the road and has another trail sign. Next stop, Windy Gap, 2.1 miles UP.
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As you climb you’ll be able to see down toward Crystal Lake. Or the marine layer as you see here.
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When you reach South Mount Hawkins Road, cross over to continue the trail. You’ll be coming back down this road (from the right) at the end of the hike.
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Here’s the trail across from the road, which again, is very well marked.
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Right after that last junction you’ll reach the junction of the Big Cienega Trail, which is a hard left. Just go straight to continue on the Windy Gap Trail.
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This section of trail has some long windy switchbacks and is steep, but easy to establish a rhythm on. As you can see, the trail is well maintained. As you climb you’ll start to get views of Mt Wilson behind you.
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After 2.5 miles you’ll reach Windy Gap. Make the hard right here.
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From Windy Gap we’ll be taking the PCT to Mount Hawkins. Head toward Hawkins Ridge Trail. Notice that all the PCT emblems are stolen, everywhere.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 16
This section of the PCT is really beautiful as you hike gently up a ridge. Lots of great views of the high peaks in Angeles National Forest.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 17
When you reach the junction of Hawkins Ridge Trail on your right, go straight to bag Mount Hawkins. We’ll be coming back here right after we bag the peak.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 18
Follow the PCT as it winds around the north side of Mount Hawkins (seen in the upper left of the photo here).
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 19
Look for the use trail cutting back to the right which goes to the Mount Hawkins summit.
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While not a main trail, the path to the summit is easy to follow.
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Here you are, the summit. In the distance are Mount Waterman and the Twin Peaks, Strawberry Peak, and Mt Wilson.
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Looking back you’ll see Mt Baden Powell and Mt Baldy.
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You’ll also get a nice view of Hawkins Ridge, Middle Hawkins and South Mount Hawkins, which will be the next stops on this loop hike.

From the summit of Mt Hawkins, head back to the Hawkins Ridge Trail junction.

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When you hike back to the Hawkins Ridge junction, beware of the side trail to Lily Spring, which is off to the right and is easily mistaken for the main trail.
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When you get to Hawkins Ridge Trail, head left onto it. It’s about 2 miles until you get to South Mount Hawkins.
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The Hawkins Ridge Trail is probably the most primitive of all the trails today, but it’s still very easy to follow.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 27
Okay, here’s the start of the climb to Middle Hawkins. To bag the summit, go on the steep trail that’s straight. When you’re done, head back to this junction and hike back on the main trail.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 28
The climb to Middle Hawkins is steep and might be painful after all the descending that you just did.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 29
Here you are, the summit of Middle Hawkins. Soak it in and head back down to the junction to continue on the ridge trail.

The OSM maps show the Hawkins Ridge Trail going straight down the ridge from Middle Hawkins summit, which is not the case (at least anymore). I recommend heading back down the way you came from Middle Hawkins and then continuing on the trail. The GPX file  and map in this guide correctly documents the trail, even though it doesn’t match the OSM trail.

Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 30
Once you’re back on the trail it follows the eastern slope of Hawkins Ridge.
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Expect spectacular views as the trail winds its way along the ridgeline. The bump in the distance is Sadie Hawkins. When you get close, just go off trail and climb up if you want to bag it.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 32
This part of the trail is one of my favorites, with sweeping views south and west.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 33
The trail heads through a meadow. You can see evidence of the 2002 Curve Fire here.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 34
After the meadow you’ll pop out to face South Mount Hawkins, the last peak of the hike.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 35
Avoid the old road up the hill and hike on the path to the left.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 36
When you get to the saddle, go straight and bear left. You’ll be coming back down to this junction on the way down.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 37
After bearing left at the junction, you’ll see a trail and a road. We’re taking the trail up, and the road back down.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 38
Heres the start of the last stretch of trail up to South Mount Hawkins.
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This last section of trail is small and primitive, but easy to follow.
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You’ll reach the old road and pop out at the summit. There’s a radio shack to the right, and the tower ruins to the left.
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Explore the old ruins of the fire tower while you enjoy the views.
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My favorite ruin is the old toilet with views of Mt Baldy in the distance.
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When you’re done at the summit, head down the fire road back to the saddle. The start of the road is in the back of the summit.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 44
When you get back to the saddle, head left onto the old road.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 45
This used to be the road to the fire tower, and was abandoned by the Forest Service after the fire tower burned down. So it’s not much of a road anymore.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 46
You’ve got a nice long cruise down the old road. Some people find this boring, but I’ve hiked much worse. The views are great and the long “cruisey” downhill will be welcomed by your legs.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 47
Some sections of the old road have washouts, but hikers before you have picked out paths through the debris.
Mt Hawkins Loop Hike Directions 48
When you get to the junction with the Windy Gap Traill that you passed through earlier, go left.
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Head back down the Windy Gap Trail that you were on at the beginning of the hike.
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And soon you arrive back at the trailhead where you started!

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