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Orchard Camp via Mt Wilson Trail

MODERATE 106 reviews
#5 of 11 trails in

Orchard Camp via Mt Wilson Trail is a 6.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Sierra Madre, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 6.3 miles Elevation Gain: 2,053 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash


mountain biking

nature trips

bird watching




wild flowers


The first half of the trail to Mount Wilson, an old camp used by Mr Wilson himself. The trail was originally built by Benjamin Davis Wilson, who was the grandfather of General George S. Patton around 1852. The trail followed an old Indian trail and as legend has it, was used by the Spaniards to hunt for Grizzly Bears. Ben Wilson wanted to find better wood on the mountain, but was unable to locate any so the trail reverted to a popular tourist attraction for hikers. Hikers would set signal fires at the summit to let other know they had arrived safely. In 1864 Ben Wilson expanded the trail with the help of Mexican and Chinese laborers. Orchard Camp is the halfway point to Mount Wilson and while it's three room building not longer exists, a wall and stone steps remain to this day, making a great place to stop and have lunch before returning to the trail head for those not eager to make the 14 mile round trip all the way to the summit of Mount Wilson.

Made it half way then headed back down. Some of the trail was destroyed by small avalanches

1 month ago

Steep trail but great workout! Definitely doing this again! First part exposed, but the rest is under canopy with ferns, moss, etc. Amazing that there is still water in the creek at tye end of September! Would like this write-up to be updated, though. My Edmondo app on my phone, though the canopy may have messed up the distance rating a little, still said it was 8.1 miles from the trailhead, not 6.3 miles. Even the signs on the trail contradict each other, with one saying 7 miles and another saying 7.5 miles.

2 months ago

Great trail. Went up for the first time at 4:30 on an 85° day. Exposed for about the first half mile, then shaded the rest of the way as it cut through the backside of the mountain.

4 months ago

Leaving the trailhead at 3:30pm on a hot, but not blasting hot, Sunday afternoon, I never expected to make it all the way to Orchard Camp. I downed 1/3 of my water supply in the first half mile on this 84 degree day. But, then things took a turn for the better. As the trail turned up canyon, I found it was mostly shaded and much cooler not in direct sunlight. I was intrigued by the new Charlie's trail and, since both routes lead to the same places, starting with First Water, I decided to ascend on this route and descend on the traditional trail. I got to Orchard Camp in 2 hours, not attempting to break any records. I enjoyed the environs up there which I had completely to myself until a couple teenage hikers arrived from below as I was prepping to head down. I was surprised that no one had come from the top (from Mt. Wilson) while I was there. I started recording as I headed down. I had the trail all to myself until about the First Water area. As I bypassed the new trail on the way down I came up with a theory as to why it was created. The traditional trail seems to have dangerous drop-offs that the new trail avoids. I can see how this might have crossed the mind of many a trail runner or any party with young children. I'm curious if that is the reason for the new trail. I made the round trip to my car in 4 hours, feeling completely invigorated that I had done the whole thing. It was quiet in the neighborhood below around Lizzie's. The lower parts of the trail did have some hikers ascending that were apparently waiting for the day to cool off. Great hike!

6 months ago

Beware of two large bears on the trail! Approximately 1-1.5 miles from the trailhead. Bears spotted 5/19 around 12pm. Beware!!

This hike is incredible. I recommend this to anyone who wants to get a good sweat in and take in the beautiful scenery.

6 months ago

Good workout on a nice, green, mostly-shaded trail with the sound of stream below all along the way. Parking on side of the street in a residential area. A quick walk up a paved road next to Lizzie's cafe to the trailhead. It is a bit steep up to First Water (about 1.5 miles) and the path is at times narrow. Quite enjoyable on a weekday, when I went. I recalled why I had not been back until then, more than a year after my first visit: this is a (very) popular trail with both hikers and runners, and quite frankly a bit scary to me when I see a runner coming down at me and the path is wide enough only for one person. They are a brave bunch, the trail runners, I'd say, and in good shape. Overall, a great hike. Try it. (7.9 miles out and back, 2237 elevation gain).

7 months ago

Beautiful trail today, brimming with wildflowers and wild grasses. The trail is well maintained thanks to the folks who run the Mount Wilson Trail Race every year. Love the sound of all the water right now in Little Santa Anita Canyon.

8 months ago

The hike seems so long for some reason. I can’t imagine all the people I saw just trekking straight through to mt Wilson. The views were okay, it ends/looks how it begins. Lots of green and flowers!

This was a really nice hike and one I will be coming back to. There’s a good amount of sun and shade, it’s challenging but not too strenuous, and the path is well taken care of (as long as we all make sure to do the same). It’s been beautiful. :)

9 months ago

this is the high end of a moderate hike because it's almost all uphill but some great views and the water is really clean and there was quite a few people and we went on Thursday but overall I recommend this hike

10 months ago

Not sure why it is called ‘heavily trafficked’. Beautiful and well maintained trail.

Mon Jul 30 2018

I like challenges go all the way to the he towers.

Fri Jul 06 2018

I saw a baby bear there on July 2. It’s a good hike but start early as there’s little shade and the sun is very strong in mid afternoon

Mon Jun 11 2018

Great hike!

Sun Feb 18 2018

Didn't get to finish it because I came too late. But it's a decent hike, but a bit narrow in the trails at times. I would not personally bring my dog who is a but rambunctious. Plenty of street parking.

Mon Feb 12 2018

I love this trail and hike it repeatedly. Almost all uphill on the way and when you get around the front to the backside of the mountains you find tranquility. I recently did this hike with my dog during the week and started at 5:30 am. Owls hooting in the dark. The forest eventually was waking up with birds chirping. It was amazing. I would recommend. We got to orchard camp and had it to ourselves. It is a great run down.

Tue Dec 26 2017

This was a very challenging trail -- up the side of a mountain on a narrow path with steep ascent and deadly drop-off on one side. We made it to Orchard Camp but I'm sorry to report that the ~500 year old majestic oak tree in the camp had just fallen, on Christmas Day 2017, before we got there. We met a couple at the camp who had passed the tree (intact) early in the day, reached Wilson Peak, then on their return saw the tree was destroyed. Sad. Here's a picture of the fractured trunk: https://photos.app.goo.gl/2jdoIBm97ZGoYr8E2

Mon Nov 20 2017

It's a good hike uphill. Not very difficult.

Tue Sep 12 2017

go early morning or late afternoon to avoid heat. trail faces Eastern exposure with minimal shade. Can stop at the falls halfway up for rest and shade.

Tue Jul 18 2017

Left early in the morning (near sunrise) to avoid heat and crowds. Had my Aussie come along as the path is pretty dog friendly. Orchid Camp is a great resting place. Shade and places to explore.

Fri Jul 14 2017

A lot of 'calf burning' incline at start for about 2 miles and will slightly decline half way. I hiked during summer mid day so if you're physically fit and don't mind the heat, go for it!

Sun Feb 26 2017

Very scenic trail well maintained. There was lots of shade during the 2nd half and the climb is fairly good for about 2 miles.

Sun Feb 26 2017

This is a scenic but heavily trafficked hike that ascends on the west side of Little Santa Anita Canyon. I made it to Orchard Camp and would've gone further had it not been too late in the day. Next time I'm going to go all the way to Wilson.

Wed Jan 18 2017

Decent trail to Orchard Camp, half way point to Mt. Wilson (roughly both in elevation and length) not super scenic but nice and shaded. Parts of it are next to a "water fall". Went on 1/15/17/, a day and a half after ~3 weeks of on and off rain, and the trail is still in great condition, relatively dry, small bit of mud runoff, no problems. Decently tough hike, due to steady, gradual elevation.

Fri Nov 25 2016

Nice trail, Well Marked, Good Shape, CLEAN lots of Fun. JUST CROWDED, Trail runners, Hikers, Bikers, Casual Hikers to Die hard hikers. The Higher up you go it thins out a Little, The 1st 1.5 miles is Okay at best, definitely a workout, The second 1.5 is VERY nice, shady, water, wildlife, at that point you are half way to Mt Wilson, Next time I will go all the way! I can only imagine how much nicer it gets. This trail is a GREAT work out and people uses it as a Gym, its Close to home so its Okay. All is Good with the trail just gave it a three due to the Human activity

Wed Jul 27 2016

On Saturday July 23, 2016 at 5:30 am I started my hike around 7:am I arrived at ORCHID CAMP. it was very quiet and I was tired because of pain in my leg muscles I decided to rest and eat some boiled eggs I had with me. It took about 5 minutes and I saw a hiker and talked to him and he said is continuing his hiking. I looked at the path was uphill and I decided to go back, as soon as I got to the big fallen tree around 75 feet away there was a big BROWN BEAR looking at me, The bear started coming toward me I was scared did not know what to do but I decided to yell and scream at him. I was lucky because the way the area was located my voice was echoed and seemed I am very large and raised my walking stick. at one point I was thinking this is it and I am going to be eaten by the BROWN BEAR. because of my voice was echoed that saved me and the bear went to the upper path hid behind the bushes. I decided to come back and all the way I told all the other hikers about my encounter with the BROWN BEAR. On the way back I was making more noise than before because I was alone. My biggest lesson was do not ever go alone in the hike again and be prepared in case of it happens again.

12 days ago

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