Mount Wilson Trail

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, California

Distance14.2mi
Elevation Gain6,807ft
Trailhead Elevation1,040ft
Top4,937ft
Elevation Min/Max1040/4937ft
Elevation Start/End1040/1040ft

Mount Wilson Trail

Mount Wilson Trail is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Los Angeles County, California. It is within Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and Eaton Canyon Park. It is 14.2 miles long and begins at 1,040 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 11.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 6,807 feet. The KOST-FM (Los Angeles) (elevation 5,682 feet) tower is near the trailhead. The Henniger Flats camp site and the KUSC-FM (Los Angeles) (elevation 5,699 feet) tower can be seen along the trail. There are also benches and restrooms along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Altadena Crest Trail, Idlehour Trail, Firebreak, Henning Ridge Motorway, Kinneloa Fire Road and Winter Creek Trail.

Mount Wilson Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"Located in the Angeles National Forest, starting near Sierra Madre. Highlights: Incredible downhill singletrack. Hazards: Lots of hikers. Poison oak."

"The tale of the Old Mt. Wilson Trail begins with Benjamin Davis Wilson, who gazed up at the commanding peak located high above his San Gabriel Valley vineyard and figured those abundant stands of pine and cedar on the mountain’s shoulders would be an ideal source of timber. He built the first trail to “Wilson’s Peak” in 1864. As the communities located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains grew in population during the 1880s, the townspeople began hiking up Mt. Wilson for weekend recreation.

Eager to keep the hiking customer refreshed and satisfied, local entrepreneurs constructed trail resorts on the mountain. The trail struggled with a rival thoroughfare when the Mt. Wilson Toll Road Company opened a wide, well-graded route in 1891 for a charge of 25 cents per hiker. But by the dawn of the 20th century, the old trail made a big-time comeback when a hiking fervor known as the Great Hiking Era swept the Southland."

"This popular and historic hike begins near a former speakeasy on Mira Monte Avenue and weaves tough uphill climbing with scenic city views and quiet streamside stopping points. It can be easily turned into an all-day adventure by continuing another 3.5 miles to the Mount Wilson Observatory.

With its relatively easy street parking, this trail tends to be somewhat less congested than other nearby trails in Chantry Flats and Eaton Canyon, especially on weekends."

"There are numerous ways to reach the summit of Mount Wilson but this is perhaps the most unusual route—a trail that starts at the summit, then dives down into a series of canyons on the mountain’s cooler north face before making a climb back up to the top. Along the way, you’ll pass two trail camps and hike alongside some of the uppermost reaches of the West Fork San Gabriel River."

"Located in Altadena in the Angeles National Forest. Highlights: If you are training for some type of physical fitness race, this is a good spot for you. The trail is a grueling workout, but very rewarding when you get to the top. Take in the scenery of one of the most spectacular views in California atop the Mount Wilson Observatory.

Don't forget that you will have a very fast 9-mile descent. Hazards: For this long ride you should make sure that you have plenty of water. Be careful of hikers and equestrians. Hunting is legal at certain times of the year so do not be surprised if you see a deer carcass."

"The Mt. Wilson Toll Road is a classic hill climb and a benchmark for anyone wanting to test his or her fitness against a consistently steep grade. If you love to climb, this is your ride. If you don't you may find this ride hot, brutal, and not particularly scenic."

"Climbing from Pinecrest Drive in Altadena, you'll huff and puff up the dastardly steep Mt. Wilson toll Road to Henninger Flats, a shady oasis with restrooms and water. Stop here for a much needed break before climbing again on a more gradual but still taxing incline.

This trail goes downhill for a whopping twenty! Allot an entire day to this trip -- you'll likely need it. This ride is not for beginners. Stunning views of the Los Angeles Basin; even better high alpine vistas of San Gabriel Front Range, riparian habitats, waterfalls, and wildlife."

"Hike along the historic Mount Wilson Toll Road and climb to a peak with incredible views of the entire Southland."

"Mount Wilson (5,710 feet) is the most prominent peak in the San Gabriel Front Range overlooking Pasadena. The mountain was named for Benjamin David Wilson, who, in 1864, improved an old American Indian footpath into the first modern trail into the San Gabriels. Although his logging venture failed, the trail became popular in the 1880s for the newly emerging sport of recreational hiking. In the area’s great hiking era (1895– 1938), hundreds would disembark from the red Pacific Electric trollies in Sierra Madre each Saturday, intent on a weekend at the mountain resorts."

"This 18.6-mile adventure is surely one of Southern California's most demanding rides -- but it's equally rewarding. Though commonly undertaken as a point-to-point trip, the loop option is quite palatable given that the majority of its extra 11 miles are downhill. The only downside to this trip is that in order to ride the whole trail, you have to go on a weekend, since the access gate to Skyline Park is only open from 10AM to 4PM on Saturday and Sunday. Scenery includes mind-boggling Front Range views of the Los Angeles Basin, forests, and steams."

Mount Wilson Trail Reviews

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6/5/2018
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5/2/2010
Fantastic trail. Steady elevation gain and quite a workout. Reached the top in about 7 hours. There are some treacherous spots so be very careful. Because of the rains we've had, there is lots and lots of green around and there are many wild flowers. Planning on doing this again and shaving some time off... ;)
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3/16/2010
close enough to get to easily, but still far enough to feel like you r far from urbanization. not for the faint or those looking for a light walk, but not too difficult that u feel like your rock climbing. great hike, great workout and great getaway.
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1/16/2010
This was a great trail to ride for a workout. It does have nice views too. It goes past Henninger Flats which has bathrooms and campground. This is not the toughest climb around, but it is long, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who isn't in good shape.
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5/22/2009
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11/5/2008
Trail is clear except for the landslide just beyond the bridge. Also, minor landslide just before the flats so hike a bike is required. All in all, this trial is a wonderful workout and a good endurance training trail.
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8/21/2008
This is a great trail if you want a long, all day hike. Lately there has been damage (I'm not sure the trail is open at present) but an 18 mile trail like this, with lots of deer to see, and bears - hopefully not, is very good exercise. Much of it can ordinarily be biked, and if walking there are some interesting ridges one can veer off too, particularly one with a view of LA from directly above Pasadena - Spectacular. Portions of this trail can inspire great sunset photography - if you're on it pretty late. One note: I have seen some large bear dropping piles, so bear mace is a pretty good idea. I also saw a baby mountain lion hopping after some birds up at Henninger Flats.
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5/25/2008
Classic Los Angeles hike with the best view of the Los Anagels basin. A must for any Angelino.
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5/10/2008
Heads up for anyone who is wanting to take this trail. Due to massive landslide near the start of the trail, it has been closed and razor-wired by the authorities. Before you go do this trail, check with the local authorities. (May save 6 hours in a car for no reason)
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9/3/2007
This is a great short local trip. The trail was well maintained and provided lots of lush wooded forest you just don't see in other parts of the San Gabriels. The two campsites (Sprucegrove & Hogee)have multiple tables firepits and even bathroom facilities, although fires are totally prohibited. Seriously, don't even think about lighting a campfire, there are signs everywhere. The water levels in the stream are really low but there's plenty for your camping needs. There are lots of old cabins along the trail some of which are inhabited which made this trail a little too domesticated for my liking but I still had a good time. I liked the tall spruce and birch trees that almost totally blocked out the sun. It made me feel like I was in Costa Rica. This would be a great first time trip for the kids and I plan to bring my 14 year old daughter back in the fall. I gave this trip four stars because of the beautiful green scenery and the fact that this is the greenest part of the San Gabriels. However if your looking for remote wilderness this might not be your best bet. Watch out for the falling acorns!
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Trail Information

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument
Nearby City
Angeles National Forest
Parks
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Views, Waterfalls
Features
Angeles National Forest, Arroyo Seco Ranger District
Local Contacts
The Trail Map of the Angeles Front Country. The San Gabriel Mountains Recreation Topo Map.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018