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.
In this Guide:
Video & Turn by Turn Directions
How to Get to the Mt Hawkins Trailhead
Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.
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:
Once you're at the Visitor's Center, use this map to get to the Windy Gap trailhead parking lot.
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).
You need a parks pass or Adventure Pass to park at Crystal Lake.
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).
As a hiking guide, I test lots of hiking gear. On my picks page, I'll show you all of the gear that I actually use. I don't accept paid promotions or talk about the stuff that doesn't make the cut. It's just the gear that works best, so you don't have to waste your money.
There used to be an all-wood fire tower on South Mount Hawkins. It was originally erected on nearby Mt Islip in 1927, but then moved to South Mount Hawkins in 1937. The tower burned down in the 2002 Curve Fire. You'll be able to see the concrete base and ruins of it on the hike. The Angeles National Forest Fire Lookout Association tried to raise money to rebuild it, but the road to the tower was abandoned by the Forest Service and the plans were scrapped.
The 2002 Curve Fire destroyed much of the area that this hike goes through. You'll still see burnt trees and cleared hillsides, evidence of the destruction. The area has bounced back nicely though.
Mount Hawkins, South Mount Hawkins, and Middle Hawkins are allegedly named after Nellie Hawkins, popular waitress at the Squirrel Inn from 1901 to 1906 who, according to historian John Robinson, "charmed and attracted miners, hunters, and campers." She must have been quite something.
The Squirrel Inn, which is a great name, is no longer there, so don't go looking for squirrel pie after your hike. Today the Coldbrook Campground stands on the site where it was located.
There's an unofficial fourth Hawkins peak called Sadie Hawkins Peak. It's not an official peak or particularly exciting, but I'll show you where it is if you want to look.
From the summit of Mt Hawkins, head back to the Hawkins Ridge Trail junction.
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.
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).