Mount Wilson Trail via Sturtevant Trail

HARD 436 reviews

Mount Wilson Trail via Sturtevant Trail is a 14.2 mile moderately 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

camping

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running

walking

bird watching

forest

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

scramble

snow

Adventure Pass required. The top of the hike is a parking lot, so if you have two cars you can easily make this a point to point one way hike. On weekends, there is a cafe at the summit. 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
muddy
snow
1 day 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
muddy
rocky
scramble
snow
washed out
12 days 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:I

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 as a rock near the fence with the USGS marker. 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
18 days 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".

1 month 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

hiking
2 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
2 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
3 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.

4 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.

hiking
4 months ago

Increíble el dolor de piernas que causa! Muy recomendable. Llevar suficiente agua y repelente de mosquitos. En la cima hay un café por si a caso necesitan comer o tomar algo. La recorrí el 23 de septiembre y no hubo mucha gente, se debe de comprar el gafete para parking (5 usd).

4 months ago

I hiked on 9/22/18. started at parking lot at 0645, made it to the summit at 1215( yeah, I'll never break any speed records) at my age just finishing is a big deal.
Trail is beautiful, mostly in shade through forest, just gorgeous. last few miles to the summit are a bit rough. but of the 4 six pack of peaks that I have done this year. the is easily the most beautiful.
if you go on the weekends, the Cosmic Cafe is open at the summit. Had a killer hot dog, coke and cookie all for 10 bucks. a life saver. got back down to car at 515. so a full day hiking. Fyi, all trails has it as 11 miles, the signage on the trail show it round trip at 14. both my pedometers showed it 18. So go figure. Anyway a great day and an awesome hike. places to camp along the way also.

5 months ago

like the rock canyons. nice hike

6 months ago

I hiked this very beautiful trail a few years ago, it was a very nice challenge. Bring lots of water if it's warm, there is a section that has no shade.

6 months ago

昨天走upper Winter creek不过瘾,今天一大早5点半开始这条。一路树荫,凉爽,可惜没有什么水,带的4升水,狗2升,自己2升,9点到天文台重新补水。下山Wilson 到sturtevant falls 这一段比较陡,伤膝盖,后悔早上匆忙没带手杖。总体感觉不错!推荐。

hiking
6 months ago

I completed the loop on Aug 4, I really liked the nicely wooded trail, for the majority of the trail I was cover by trees and nice shade that protected me from the sun and the terrible heat.
I definitely recommend a map for this hike, there are so many different trails going in all directions, that even when I was following the Alltrails app very closely I still managed to take the wrong turn and ended 20 minutes wondering around.
I think that the entire loop is too long, by the end I just wanted to be done with it, I think I would enjoy doing this hike one way up to the Observatory then drive back to Chantry flats.

hiking
7 months ago

Great for the seclusion. As others have mentioned the summit is not much to look at but overall it was fun. Reward yourself with some junk food if the vendor is open when you go.

hiking
7 months ago

Kind of a boring hike to be honest. You hike all that way to reach a parking lot filled with families that drove up there to eat at the cafe. Won’t be doing this hike again anytime soon. At least it was a six pack crossed off the list. There are much better hikes then this long, boring, mosquito filled, non-rewarding summit.

hiking
7 months ago

Did this yesterday as part of the 6pack peak challenge.

1st, like everyone says, definitely not 12.5 miles. My All Trails recording clocked in at 14.7 with 5100ft of elevation gain. Once you cross the bridge at the bottom of the canyon, we went right and loved the views along the creek all the way to Sturtevant Camp, so much so that I had to google the history behind all the cabins this morning.

The camp is a great spot to recharge for the remaining 3 miles to the top because they were brutal. Tons of switchbacks. lots of elevation gain. So glad I had my hiking poles with me.

Hung out for an hour up at the top, refilled our camelbaks and set out for the trek down. The first two miles were in direct sunlight through a burn area, so pack your sunscreen. But like everyone below, look out for the left turn onto Wilson Trail. Then another left. Lots of switchbacks down. Hard on the knees. Again, poles were super helpful.

Once you get back to the bridge, you then have to trek the .5 miles straight uphill in direct sun again to get back to the parking lot. That was “fun” after completing the 14 mile loop. But after all was said and done, it was a fun loop, great scenery with a little bit of history and I got to put my Adventure Pass to use.

Note: sunscreen, bug spray and lots of water were musts. I went through 3.5L through the whole thing. I even brought some Cliff Shot Blocks (with extra sodium) that saved my legs from cramping up.

7 months ago

Joined my co workers on the 6 peak challenge socal and this was our first one to climb. Ive done hiking before but this one was the hardest ive ever done but then again i wasnt on my fittest either but regardless of being fit or not its one tough cookie! Great experience and one for the books. I didnt get to make it to the top but proud to say i completed close to 11 miles total! Do recommend to take enough water to hydrate, early hike, sunblock, good hiking shoes/gear.

hiking
8 months ago

This trail is really fun. A mixture of nice bush and pine trees to high elevation desert plants. The trail itself is well maintained but it isn’t well sign posted for this particular loop. I had the map for the trail downloaded and had no issues but if I had no map I would’ve struggled in a few places. It took me about 4 hours to get up to the top of the trail and 2 hours to get down.

The top of the trail has an area for sitting that overlooks the area and a clean tap for filling up drink bottles.

hiking
8 months ago

Hiked this trail with a group of 6 on Friday, June 8. Arrived at parking lot 6:30am and it was nearly empty (weekday). We also came across very few people on the trail. Not the most scenic hike but definitely a tough workout. After Spruce Grove Campground, the going gets very tough due to steeper incline and includes mosquitos and other flys. Note the weather was not hot. I got bit about 6 times each leg and had the spray which helped somewhat. I think a face net would have helped as well.

CAUTION: The trail is not marked well in many areas as we came across a few junctions which did not have a sign. And then on the way down while taking Mt. Wilson Toll Rd, we ended up missing a left turn for “Mt Wilson trail” towards what should have become Winter creek trail. We didn’t realize this mistake until we were already 2.5 miles down Wilson Toll Rd near Henninger Flats. There’s a difference in “Wilson toll road” and “Wilson trail”. A friend of mine who ran this trail 3 weeks back also missed this turn initially until running back up. After going back and reviewing the photos on web, I believe the sign is also faded for the left turn to Wilson Trail/Winter Creek.

Realizing we had spent all our energy uphill and how far we were from winter creek, we reviewed the paper map (not very helpful if you get far off trail) and our phone map. After checking our phones (only Verizon worked and thank goodness), we decided to keep hiking down eventually leading us to the start of Eaton Canyon trailhead. We then had to Uber back to Chantry Flats. Phone clocked nearly 18-20 miles hiking.

The trail signs really should be more clear. This does not excuse us from being fully prepared as we should have been. Lesson learned for future adventures.

hiking
8 months ago

I hiked this trail on June 1st 2018. With little preparation and a few sandwiches me and my friend went up to mount wilson using the trail depicted here. It was a Friday and we got to Chantry Flats at 6:30 a.m. Since we did not have the nature pass we payed $5 to park in the packing station, of note it does cost $10 later in the day. The trail is closer to 18 miles, and the cosmic Cafe at the peak is only open on Sat and Sun. When it comes to the trail it was tough but doable, just come knowing that you will leave tired and it isn't a cake walk. Also there is an extreme amount of mosquitos, so be aware of that.

hiking
8 months ago

Woke up at 5:30am all chipper, figuring it would be a nice quick hike around Mount Zion Loop, and we'd be done for an early lunch. Well. We hiked up Sturtevant, not another soul on the trail, very cool! (Actually, COLD is more like it.) At the junction we decided to continue up Sturtevant to do the entire Mt. Wilson loop. We weren't ready for it but we figured, "We're here, let's go!" The only other times I've hiked 15+ miles in one go was Half Dome, and a sections of the Mauna Loa Summit trail. I wanna say this was pretty tough, but I think my view of it is harder than it really is since we went off-trail down Mt. Wilson Rd adding about 2.5 miles to our day. That sucked. Once you leave the summit and you head down Mt. Wilson Rd, make sure you turn left to go down Winter Creek Trail, and don't continue down Mt. Wilson Rd. The trail was not hard to follow, but there were definitely some ratty old difficult to read signs.

Anyway, overall a great trail I could see doing again for a good challenge or conditioning, or just for some peace and quiet in those woods.

hiking
8 months ago

Awesome hike--if you're ready for it. The first part of the hike is up the beautiful canyon, lots of water falls and rapids, great view of Sturtevant Falls from above. Above Sturtevant Camp, the climb is pretty strenuous--but all shaded through lovely oak forests. The route down again is mostly shaded, but more vistas. Switchbacks down the Winter Creek Trail get a little tiresome, but then we took the Upper Winter Creek Trail instead of back down to the canyon bottom -- a little longer, but much more level and nice views. And to avoid any conusion on the route, I found the guide hikingguy.com excellent.

hiking
8 months ago

Did this loop with lots of ladies for the 1st peak of 6 pack of peaks challenge. The trail is well maintained and shaded. Never a boring view. No scary Canyon drops to the side of trail but poison oaks everywhere. Switchbacks were fantastic and challenging. Though it was super foggy when we reached up the cafe really provided a nice place to take a break. Short staffed of course and you just need to be super patient and wait to get your turn to order.

9 months ago

Great hike! There are many ways to the summit, but I followed this map and enjoyed it. Ascended up Santa Anita trail (bugs were bad, for several miles. Wished I had brought spray. Was attracting them with my sweat and sunscreen). Trail is hard to follow and not clearly marked in many places. GPS helped keep me on track. At the summit, to find the Mt Wilson sign, you need to make a quick right BEFORE coming into the observatory yard and follow the fence/ steps to lookout. I missed it and wandered around the summit for 45 minutes before finding it.

9 months ago

Love this hike. I do agree that the signage could be a lot better. I had some images from a website that saved us a handful of times from getting lost. This hike always ends up being about 15-16 miles if you also do the waterfall. Also another mile gets added towards the end depending if you do the upper or lower section - don’t be fooled because that extra mile can be a killer. The last half mile up to the parking lot is also the worst. Big incline in direct heat after you just hiked mount Wilson. Bugs are an annoyance too.

BUT at the end you feel amazing and accomplished. It’s the first in the six pack of peaks so a feat for sure if you complete the full thing.

hiking
9 months ago

We started this trail from Chantry Flat Pack Station. We did it today, on a Thursday, and parking was no issue, nor was the trail busy. I will say this, with this being one of the six, Six-Pack a Peaks Challenge, you'd think part of that money would go to helping fund the trail (signs, ect), definitely not the case. It wasn't easy to navigate, and left you often wondering if you were headed the right way. With all of that said, it was a good hike. I'd rate it difficult, and it was a total of 16 miles (not 12.5 miles All Trails) to do the loop. We stayed left, once you cross the bridge. After coming back the other way, to complete the loop, I'd recommend staying right, after you cross the bridge. It's shorter to top, way less switchbacks, and not as steep; it's a more gradual climb, rather than the left turn route. We did not go to the falls; we were exhausted by that time,even for an extra .5 miles.
Our overall completed time was 6 hours 49 min, and maybe 30 minutes at the top. Oh and the cafe is only open Sat/Sun.

9 months ago

Did this hike from the Chantry flats area and my only advice is get there early or you will have a hard time with parking. We got there around 7am and the lot was already full. You can park on the side of the road but it gets backed up and you will have to walk up the hill to get to the trailhead.
My stat tracker on my phone logged 16 miles out and back so it’s a little longer than listed I think. A lot of people complain about bugs but I did this in March and it was still cool out so there were no bugs.
The hike going up is pretty easy till you get to the campground (with the swing). It starts to pick up a little after that and it seems like endless switchbacks till you eventually get to a T. You can go left or right and they both lead to the top but I took the option on the left.
It’s a beautiful hike and a pretty good workout so prepare. Took about 7 hours total.

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