Mount Wilson Loop via Sturtevant and Winter Creek Trails

HARD 825 reviews

Mount Wilson Loop via Sturtevant and Winter Creek Trails is a 14.2 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Sierra Madre, California that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from January until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
14.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
4,291 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

bird watching

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

scramble

snow

An Adventure Pass is required for this trail. Standing prominently above Pasadena, Mount Wilson is a Southern California landmark. The 5,710 foot summit is home for an observatory responsible for the most detailed photos of Mars as well a vast array of antennae for local LA radio and television stations. While the summit is steeped in astronomical wonder and tremendous views of Los Angeles, the trails are the real beauty of this hike. There are several trails you can take to the top of Mount Wilson, but this challenging loop starts at the Chantry Flats trailhead above Arcadia, and includes a one mile detour to view the beautiful Sturtevant Falls before climbing 4,200' to the top of Mount Wilson. This is the first of six southern California summits in the 6-Pack of Peaks bundle. Done in sequence, they provide great training anyone preparing for bigger hikes such as Mt. Whitney or Half Dome. Each hike in the 6-Pack is progressively higher in altitude, and all have respectable distance and vertical elevation gain. Much of the hike is shaded, but there are also exposed parts, so bring sunscreen and plenty of water. This trail is a mixture of pine trees and high elevation desert plants. The trail itself is well maintained but it isn’t well sign posted for this particular loop so be aware of the possibility to get onto the wrong trail.

hiking
rocky
13 hours ago

Hard but really fun

muddy
6 days ago

Holy cow, when they say this Trail is heavily trafficked they mean it. the scenery and everything is great, awesome views, you get to see a waterfall, and play in the water. We brought our dogs and they absolutely loved it.
The only thing that sucked is there are so many people we were having to wait in line to cross water at some points. honestly we like the trail but will probably never go back because I don't want to hike with that many people again... or at least will just go deeper into the mountains.
On the bright side of things it is awesome that that many people are interested in getting outside and supporting the national parks.

7 days ago

Challenging but beautiful, hiked the loop today 3/10/19 starting at Chantry Flats up to the top of Mr Wilson then around the loop by the falls, soooo many falls, river fast flowing and full. No bugs and weather was good. The Peak was cold tho at 30 degrees. Couldn’t rest there too long. Dress in layers, and def wear comfy shoes the decline will kill your toes.

Took us 8 hours, lots of rest breaks on the incline. Total elevation gain of 4,521. Total of 14.6 miles
First of 6 pack of 6 peaks, SoCal #feelingaccomplished

3/10/19 Solid hike, definitely challenging after sturtevant camp until the halfway to Mt. Wilson sign. Creeks were filled and waterfalls in full force. No bugs, but found a few ticks on our dog post hike.

Some snow on top but none on the trail. Cosmic cafe still closed.

Views are incredible on the way up, flora is spectacular and changes as you climb, a few different hikes in one. It’s a journey hike not a destination hike.

hiking
snow
10 days ago

I hiked this trail from Chantey Flats at the end of February 2019. About six miles of snow at the top, tons of water and waterfalls at the lower elevation. Loved the dense forest and the sun coming up over the mountains!

hiking
14 days ago

Great winter hiking. Microspikes and hiking poles are recommended. Make sure you bring enough water (at least 48 oz), salty snacks, and lunch sandwiches because the Cafe at the top is closed from Dec to March. The trail is very moist and pretty especially this winter due to lots of rain/snow!
If you have been thinking about hiking this trail, stop thinking and just go for it! Try to get an early start no later than 7 am as the entire loop should take you about 10 hours with moderate speed and rest stops.

Great hike! We started on the Sturtevant side and I’m glad we did. It was much more scenic. As many have said, the top really is hard to navigate to find other end of trail. All in all great hike. Our first of the six pack!

hiking
snow
21 days ago

I did this trail on 2/22 right after some snowfall and it was beautiful. The fresh snow made the last couple of miles to the summit much more difficult than I had planned. Bring tent poles if you and micro spikes wouldn’t hurt either. Took me 10 hours round trip but I stopped quite a bit to admire the beauty you’ll encounter throughout the trails. Prepare to get wet though because you will have to cross the creek a couple of times. Bring dry socks.

hiking
blowdown
snow
21 days ago

hiking
22 days ago

Beautiful hike! Still a lot of snow toward the top (last 1.5 miles). I recommend poles and microspikes for that segment. Several stream crossings with lots of water rushing, but very manageable. One big tree down across the trail around mile 4.5 with lots of snow and ice. Just take your time and walk careful and you'll do great!

hiking
22 days ago

A great place for hiker!
It was more than 14 miles up and down, and we took about 7 hours including breaks.
Definitely need some water and snacks, and a pair of good shoes that you wore before.
Bring some clothes that keep you warm! I have done it during the summer and it was cloudy that day, still cold up there.
There were wild animals. We saw a few deers (I guess), and they were curious as we were.
FYI, No restroom before you get to the top.

hiking
muddy
snow
27 days ago

The trail was in very good condition considering the amount of rain we’ve had in the last few weeks. Stream crossings were deeper than usual but all were manageable. I’ve never used poles but the challenging stream crossings and packed snow on the upper switchbacks made me wish I had them.

hiking
snow
28 days ago

Done on February 15, 2019 as the first of the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge.

We did the Sturtevant Trail from Chantry Flats and descended using the Winter Creek Trail. Rain and snow were forecasted for this day, but we didn’t run into it until about a mile or two from the top. The fog rolled in about that time and we had no view when we got to the top - but there was plenty of snow! It rained the whole way down, which we didn’t mind.

Ascending from Chantry Flats we actually ran into a few patches of snow on the trail towards the top. We didn’t have microspikes, just hiking poles. We were fine, but for some it might feel more comfortable to have microspikes for those sections - there’s a pretty steep drop off on one side for most of the hike. Additionally, the hike down was somewhat steep and I thought our hiking poles were really useful to take some strain off.

We had a few sections where we had to cross the river/streams on the way up - in one section it was pretty much impassable without taking off your shoes and wading through. This was definitely due to all the rain we’ve been getting. It was a cool experience to see the river running so strongly, but be aware of these sections.

I loved this hike! You’re in the shade for almost the whole thing, so it really would be perfect for a summer day. There’s not much of a view until (presumably, since we couldn’t see anything with the fog) you get to the top, but the forest was really beautiful and the sound of the river was mesmerizing. We had no problems with bugs.

You don’t get much in the way of elevation gain until you’re about three miles from the top, and then you’ll definitely feel it. The hike itself is just a long one - I figured it to be about 15 miles once all was said and done. Bring plenty of water and snacks - and warm clothes for the top if you’re doing it during the winter! It’s cold up there!

The observatory and cafe, etc. are closed for the season, also.

Highly recommend microspikes and poles. Last mile before the peak is sketchy. Beautiful day.

hiking
muddy
over grown
rocky
snow
washed out
1 month ago

hiking
muddy
rocky
scramble
snow
washed out
1 month ago

I did this trail 02/07 and I took the lower falls trail to Sturtevant camp to the top of Mount Wilson. The lower falls trail had about 5 stream crossings due to the previous storms. I’d def bring an extra pair of socks for anyone trying to do it in the winter with all the snow still at the top. There was fresh snow about 2 miles from the top and not a lot of foot travel on that side. It was def icy and slippery in certain spots. I’d recommend trekking poles and maybe even microspikes for those hiking alone. It was so peaceful and beautiful at the top. Hardly any hikers on the trail and I took the full loop back down. The mt Wilson trail back down felt way safer with snow than the backside I came up. Both trails had multiple trees down and muddy areas. Keep an eye out for slushy wet snow...I slipped a couple times going up and back down. Overall it was a killer hike. Can’t wait to revisit it in the spring/summer

Did this trail right after this week's storms (2/6/19). Water is flowing and the falls are roaring, however, parts of the trail are littered with rocks and trees that require some scrambling. There was patchy snow that gradually became 4-5 inches of fresh powder when I started the switchbacks. Parts of the switchbacks were slippery and ended up sliding down a few times. Trekking poles will be your friend here. Plan for a longer climb since the snow slows you down. The climb took about 5 hours while the descent took only about 2.5 hours since I ran due to fading light.

General directions:

Park at Chantry Flats. You'll need an Adventure Pass which you can purchase from the nearby Pack station or from Big 5. Alternatively, you can use the 'America the Beautiful' annual pass, just don't forget to sign and display it properly. Near the restrooms, there's a gate that's closed to vehicles. This is the start of the trail. Head down the beautiful asphalt and follow the signs and you'll arrive at a stream crossing. Cross the bridge and head right.

Just before Sturtevant falls there's a fork on your left, one leads to the top of the falls, the other (Horse trail) bypasses it. Both will eventually merge into Sturtevant trail. Previously I took the right trail but lost the trail after call box 8. Apparently you have to cross the stream and head left once you see an arrow sign pointing to the other side, then cross back again after a 200 or so meters. The lower trail is the more scenic one but also has the narrowest section of the trail.

The trail will be pretty straight forward, however, right before Sturtevant camp, go left and cross those little dams to continue to Mt. Wilson. This part of the hike has a steady incline but lots of shade for taking breaks. Keep following the trail and you'll arrive at a couple of switch backs that takes you directly to the Observatory.

On the way back, follow the signs towards Cosmic Cafe (closed for the until sometime in March) and parking lots. There's an overlook there where you can see the LA basin as well. The trail should be on the right. After a few miles, Mt Wilson trail intersects Mt Wilson Toll Road. Take the left trail. Keep following it until you arrive at a bench, relax and take in the views, then head left. Follow the trail until you hit the Winter Creek Junction. Follow the trail for 3 miles towards Chantry Flat. This trail also allows you to skip the beautiful asphalt you descended when you started. At this point the trail is pretty easy with some incline in some sections. You'll end up right above the parking lot.

hiking
blowdown
1 month ago

My friends and I decided to do this hike on a day of torrential rain, which turned out to be a fairly crazy idea. The first 4 miles are beautiful, following a river past small cabins and up a nice incline, then three miles from the summit this trail jacks up and hits the legs hard. I'm not sure how much of the pain was due to the driving rain, wet boots, and a dabble of physical inadequacy, but this was a bloody tough one. For those attempting this in bad weather, there's a great museum at the top for cowering in and questioning your decision-making skills while rubbing your friend in order to thwart off hypothermia. Also, the gate up to the car park was locked upon our entry and exit, although on entry we were aided by a foul-mouthed mountain angel who opened the gate while shouting about "f***ing a******s never open the f***ing gate, go on in and enjoy your god damned hike".

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful trail. Arrived at 7 AM and lot of parking available. Started on the Sturtevant trail which is on the right of the parking lot when you're driving in. Initially it's downhill and paved road but don't take it for granted. After about half a mile, it'll be all up hill and some hills may kick-your-butt. Love it.
We took the Mt Wilson trail back and the relentless down hill challenged my calf good. One of our group members got a little knee problem going up hill so it took us more than we anticipated to complete the hike. We got down to the parking lot around 5:15 and it was getting dark.

Wanted to taste the coffee on top but Cosmic cafe is closed for the winter season.

Total including walking around the observatory area is about 15 miles, so yeah get ready for a long day. We will do it again this time hopefully will be quicker.

2 months ago

The front gate is closed, so just walk around it.

I completed this hike on 1/7/18. The extra walk made this an over 21 mile hike. We got to the summit at sunset and descended in the dark with headlamps. From the parking to the trailhead is about 3.5 miles of steep incline on asphalt, don’t let that ruin your day #OptOutside.

This trail is very well maintained. We saw deer, salamanders, and a mountain lion.

The second half of the loop had a few fallen down trees so just expect to hop over them. The wildlife is extra wild from the closure, so be prepared to see some animals and to know what to do when you come face to face.

Be aware of the change of temperature from the trailhead to the summit. There is snow on the summit.

We saw no other people up there so be careful and bring a buddy Incase of emergency. Have a plan.

The vertical climb gets pretty intense towards the end after Sturtavent Camp, especially with how bad that first 3.5 miles blows your legs out, but we did it, so you can do it. You got this!

My buddy’s Garmin GPS clocked us at 21.35 total miles and 5,482 feet in elevation gain for the day.

2019 Hike 2 of 52. Six Pack of Peaks 2019 1 of 6.

IG: @TheSoCalHiker94

2 months ago

Due to the partial government shutdown, the gate leading up to the parking lot is currently closed. You can still park at the bottom and walk up an extra 3-4 miles though. Wish I could have known this before driving an hour and a half!!!

hiking
3 months ago

Creds: AllTrails Pro. ‘Pro’ worth $30 a year to never worry about getting lost - lots of opportunity . 14.5 mi hike per ‘AllTrails’. I-Phone 8 - 15 mi. My friends Iphone6 - 16 mi. This was an 8 hr hike given the significant altitude gain 4,646’.

Parked and departed 1 Dec 2018 Saturday 8am at Chantry Flats. Have annual Adventure Pass for $29 from REI that provides access to all southern Ca National Parks.

Went counter clockwise. Trails well maintained. Creek and Sturtevant Falls flowing due to rain 2 days ago and trails not muddy. 90% shaded from beautiful canopy of Bay Laurels, Oaks, pine trees. Hot bowl of chili and coffee at Cosmic Cafe (now closed for season) at Mt Wilson half way point . Entire hike on beautiful trails . Beer garden at bottom end of hike at “Adams Packing Station” great way to celebrate accomplishment.

hiking
3 months ago

This was my first real day hike. Had to do it twice before summiting. It’s no joke. This hike will test your resolve.

hiking
3 months ago

Parking lot & turnouts full. Paid $20 for valet parking near store. Started hike off Sturtevant trail at 8:15 a.m. Took us 4 hours to reach summit (Observatory) and 3 hours to return/ loop around through Wilson trail (Upper Winter Creek). Return trailhead is off the cafe parking lot, however it is not marked.Tracker recorded 15.5 miles.Don't be deceived, it's a strenuous hike. Beautiful mountainous views.

hiking
4 months ago

About 90% of this hike is shaded which is very nice for comfort but limits the view points. I guess it was nice to change it up from the dessertous terrain of SoCal. It was also nice because I got a late start but didn’t get caught in the worst of the sun. Btw parking is rough if you get there late, I parked 0.8 miles from the trailhead.

Started out this hike with what felt like a million other people, I was not excited and kept weaving around them. Around mile 4 where it splits off to summit Wilson, just past sturtevant camp, everyone disappeared. Yay. But I was immediate joined by eight million mosquitos. Luckily I had some bug spray, if I do this hike again, I’ll bring a head net. As others have said, the summit left much to be desired. No log book, signage, etc plus people can drive there so it doesn’t give you the same sense of accomplishment.

Worth mentioning, when you get to the burned area just before the peak, there is load of poison oak? I’m terrible at IDing plants but someone told me it was poisonous and what it looked like, it was scary especially with my dog but I think we made it out unscathed.

Made it up in 4 hours and down in 2.5. Overall not a bad day but def not my fav hike in SoCal.

hiking
4 months ago

Very good and very challenging hike. Some steep cliffs with long drops; watch where you step! The ascent wasn’t too tough but the descent down the winter creek trail was brutal; bring poles if you have them. Was bothered by bugs at times but not overwhelming. Would hike again!

5 months ago

Awesome 15 miles hike!!!

5 months ago

15 miles! Great hike

5 months ago

Really pretty and challenging hike. As someone else has mentioned, reaching a parking lot at the top is not ideal. It’s just not the same kind of reward you get when you hike San Jacinto for example. If I were to do this hike again I think I would have someone pick me up at the top and drive me back to my car. Going up is always more fun than coming back down, at least for me.

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