Sturtevant, Mount Wilson, and Winter Creek Trail Loop

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San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Sturtevant, Mount Wilson, and Winter Creek Trail Loop is a 22.5 kilometer heavily trafficked loop trail located near Sierra Madre, California that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 22.5 km Elevation Gain: 1,394 m Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

running

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

scramble

Note: Chantry Flat Road is closed at the Santa Anita Road Ave entrance until 5/15 due to COVID-19 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 to 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
bugs
1 day ago

hiking
2 days ago

Yesterday (May 23rd), I arrived at the parking lot at 6.20am, and was able to snag the very last spot, just in time as another 5 cars trickled in behind me. Literally no one realized this at the time, there is additional parking for $5 at the general store, in the dirt parking lot….it could take about 10 cars. I started walking clockwise, and mostly agreed with this decision throughout the day. The advantages of doing this - I didn’t see that many people on the way up the mountain, and arrived roughly at the same time as most people summited. It was then a (somewhat) quick dash down the other side without seeing too many people. It was the most beautiful of the 4 peaks I’ve climbed so far (other 3: Cucamonga Peak, Mt Baldy, San Gorgonio). Most of the day I was above the clouds. Just before the Sturtevant falls junction, I saw a baby bear eating trash out of a garbage can. Unfortunately, the wee-tiny little bear was surrounded by a wave of gawking humanity (at least 50 people surrounding it) taking selfies and screaming “OH MY GOD, HOW CUTE, OH MY GOD”. I snapped one quick photo and then legged it asap. Mama bear would be just around the corner and I didn’t want to end a statistic. The entire hike was so pleasant up…..until….. ….I got to the Sturtevant falls junction. Things became really really shitty for one simple reason - I was confronted with a steady trickle of at least 400 pleasure-seekers (I am not exaggerating) walking/stumbling/sweating/swearing their way to the falls. I witnessed loud boomboxes on every second group, people were throwing trash, beer cans, they had strollers, teenagers loudly complaining how hot and steep the hill was, people smoking. Really unhealthy (interpret that however you want) people with NO WATER BOTTLES, on a 75 degree day, staggering around blocking the path. 90% of them weren’t wearing masks, and I had to power-hike and weave through this sea of humanity, often coming within 2 feet of their putrid, Juul-sucking, chip eating, most-likely-COVID-infested faces. It was an undesirable, unexpected end to what was an beautiful hike until then. As I got to my car and drove down the hill (estimated 2 miles of windy, steep road), about 2/3 of the entire hill had parked cars. People were still walking up the road, I saw at least 100 people staggering and sweating up the hill. Only half had water. The police had blocked the road and were turning away dozens of cars at the entrance to the hill. People were simply parking on the residential streets, and still walking in….I was tempted to yell at them “turn back, it’s a 2 mile upward hike to even get to the starting point, and then another 2 miles of very steep hill to get to the waterfall!” But, I didn’t. Let them suffer, share on their social vanity networks how horrible an experience it was, and hope that they never come back and again ruin a beautiful mountain.

Super busy, today 05/22/2020, is the last day it’s open. A lot of people here today. I’ve never seen this trail so dirty. So many beer cans and trash. Sucks, it’s never been like this before.

hiking
bugs
4 days ago

Challenging trail for me as a beginner hiker. Going counterclockwise as recommended here I believe is more challenging than if you went the other way. I took the lower Gabrielino Trail from leaving the falls. Although more challenging, it was more scenic and you get to enjoy the hike. I stopped way too often for filming/video. Dying time for me was ascending to the top after Sturtevant Camp. If you are a novice like me, this is where you are going to lose time. I have done marathons and know how to psyche myself to push through and that’s what I did. Please bring a lot of water. I started with 73 ounces and refilled at the top my 40oz bottle and finished it for a total of 113 ounces, and still it wasn’t enough. Going up was very difficult for me but going down made up for it following the Winter Creek & Lower Winter Creek trail. The scenery wasn’t spectacular but you get to enjoy the fauna of the mountain if you are into that. Lots of pretty wildflowers to look at but poison oak was everywhere. This is supposed to be my 1st of 6 peak challenge, & if this was the easier of the 6, will need more training . The trail is super well maintained but going up wasn’t as marked compared with the descent. I deviated quite a bit apparently and ended up doing 17 miles for the day. Grueling hike for a beginner but grateful to have challenged my body. Not too many hikers in the trail, about 20 total and as a new solo hiker, glad to have seen them. We put up our masks when we were close and everyone was super nice. And oh, trail was amazingly clean - I only saw 1 plastic bottle tossed in a ditch and 2 small tosses along the trail that I picked up.

hiking
10 days ago

Love this hike! I went on 5/17 and there were hardly any people on the trail which was awesome. Ended up being closer to 15 miles for us. Done in roughly 8ish hours. Just fyi that the bathrooms at the top were closed so we had to do things ~ au naturale ~ Take some TP with you on your day-long journey just in case ;)... Otherwise, it was a beautiful time and a great respite from quarantining for over 2 months. Enjoy!

hiking
bugs
over grown
10 days ago

** IMPORTANT ADVICE - Start this hike EARLY (6:00AM), hike it COUNTERCLOCKWISE and knock out Sturtevant Falls before the crowds get there ** Trail was fine. Hiked 5/17 after the ANF re-opening, The gate to Chantry Flat Rd was open when I arrived at 5:30am, and the lot was not anywhere close to full when I got there, but my guess is that it would have filled by 7:00AM based on the amount of cars that were coming in. The Sturtevant side of the trail was far and away the better half. First off, Sturtevant Falls is absolutely worth the detour, I felt it was the highlight of the hike. Second off, you're in the shade on this part of the trail basically the entire time past the initial cement path, which is great. Third, the forested area of Sturtevant Trail has a beautiful coastal NorCal feel, with ferns and sparsely distributed towering trees. Honestly, if you're hiking to Mt. Wilson, and you don't care about doing the six pack of peaks exactly as instructed, just do Sturtevant Trail out-and-back with a side trip to Sturtevant Falls. It'll save you some time, and cut out the BS. The Winter Creek side was whatever, completely mundane. In and out of brushy ridge-lines, extremely hot when exposed, and just felt claustrophobic to me. It's funny that the peak of this trail, Mt. Wilson, is not even mentioned in the title of the trail. If your ideal peak view is a sweeping panoramic view of hazy Pasadena and possibly DTLA if smog permits, look no further, because just south of the upper trailhead of Winter Creek trail, you can take it all in. Not my thing, but might be yours. Other things to note: saw a deer. He bolted so fast when he realized i was there, that I thought he was an alarmed mountain lion. I hope he has not become a mountain lion's lunch. This whole hike had "rattlesnake territory" written all over it, I thought. Narrow, dry, hot trail with brush bordering the small footpath. Then, lo-and-behold on the Winter Creek side of the trail, i saw a juvenile pacific rattler. He wanted nothing to do with me, and skedaddled with great haste. The feeling was mutual. Also important, When I got back to my car at 1PM, I was a bit perplexed when I saw the lot was only half full. I leave, driving down the hill and I notice tons of cars parked along the side of the road, some with tickets, and hordes of people walking up. When I get to the bottom, I discover that police had blocked off the entrance to Chantry Road, and people were parking in the neighborhood and then walking up. I couldn't believe how many people were walking up that 3.3 mile awful road all the way from the bottom just to come here! This isn't Yosemite or anything, people, you don't have to put yourself through that.

hiking
bugs
10 days ago

WAY TOO CROWDED. This is one of my favorite hikes but I went on “opening day” and that was a huge mistake. Not only were there 4x the normal amount of people, but soooo many of them weren’t wearing masks or distancing at all. The trail is beautiful and has so much more water than usual but it’s not worth the crowding.

hiking
closed
22 days ago

Chantry Flat Road is closed at the Santa Anita Road Ave entrance until 5/15 due to COVID-19

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike. The elevation gain is brutal going up to the summit, but it’s well worth the pain! Definitely take the trip to the Falls. I knocked it out solo in about 6.5 hours.

hiking
2 months ago

Fantastic workout. Fitbit registered closer to 17.5 miles following this route. Make sure you stop by the falls it’s worth the detour. Following this route the first half is pretty easy up until about .5 miles from the switchbacks, from there to the halfway up point of the switchback route is a grind. After that honestly it isn’t bad. It’s still serious mileage but it isn’t bad. You can refill water at the cafe. When you get to the top just head towards the cafe, it gets confusing up there. Once at the cafe the parking lot is right below with the geomarker at the far end, opposite to the marker is the other half of the trail. Side note, there is tagging all over the upper falls, it’s pretty sad and pathetic. Who tags a waterfall? Anyways this loop is a lot of fun, bring layers cuz it gets cold and happy trekking!

Don’t follow our route We took the overgrown firebreak on the way down

hiking
rocky
scramble
washed out
3 months ago

Beautiful day today to HIKE this loop. We were in the clouds and above the clouds. Started hike at 6:30 am. We found parking spot but there were so many cars coming in. Arrive early for sure. Trail was cleared from the fallen trees, easy to follow. Some rocks scramble here and there. We got to stroll through the clouds hoovering over the forest..then had surprising sunshine on the summit.

hiking
3 months ago

Started this trail at 5:56am finished like at 1:45pm it was my first time today 2•21•2020 doing a hike this long with the elevation this high and oh boy I tell u it was pretty challenging Rock slide on they way back Down on the payment road be careful crawling around that I stepped on a loose rock and at shit lmfao Also a couple Of spots on the way down with loose dirt that can cause u to slip and fall Over all was a cool experience If you do all 14miles make sure to bring enough water / snacks

hiking
3 months ago

Great workout! If you can say a 14 mile hike is easy, this would be the one. Views are ok if looking at the smog of San Gabriel Valley is your cup of tea. The views elsewhere are quite limited until you get to the top. Then you do have a nice view towards the rest of the San Gabriels. I did the loop from the general store, past the falls and back down winter creek. If I do this trail again for sport, it will be an out and back using winter creek trail. Winter creek trail is signed better and has a better pitch. The sturtevant trail is very flat for the first few miles and then all the gain is at the end. It is also not signed quite as well, there are many spots where off shoot trails are as worn as the main trail. I only made the the wrong choice once but it ended with a 100 yards of bushwhacking. Except for the falls, there’s really no other reason to go that way. The trails were well maintained and my black dog appreciated the shade. All in all, I probably wouldn’t do this again purely because of the length and lack of scenery most of the way. There’s plenty of other SoCal trails that have the same gain in a shorter length and better views. Glad to say I did it, but probably won’t be back. Oh and the valley around the falls is rife with poison ivy.

hiking
3 months ago

Loved the hike. Amazing views, but by far my most difficult hike. The last 2-3 miles to the summit were killer. No real difficult parts other than the constant never ending elevation gain. There were a few trees down and a rockslide that I had to climb over on the way down, but nothing I thought was too sketchy. Just an FYI, if you want to see the Mount Wilson peak signage and/or the USGS seal, as soon as you get to the top, before you even get to the observatory, make a right along the wire fence. There are a few chairs there with the signage and an amazing view. Missed it at first and had to walk back from the museum. I’d hate to have hiked to the summit without the obligatory picture holding the sign.

hiking
3 months ago

I recommend doing this hike on a weekday because the parking situation is a nightmare on the weekend and holidays. I pulled up at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning and there were only 3 cars in the bottom lot next to the trail head. I encountered only 10 people the entire 15 miles of trail and only 5 of those 10 past Sturtevant Falls. Weather was cool and sunny in the 50's but at the top it was breezy and in the low 40's. I didn't see hardly any snow and absolutely none at all on the trail. I went counter clockwise with a stop at the falls and I recommend going that way..otherwise you will be walking up that giant hill at the end. Counter clockwise will drop you right at your car although there is a bit of uphill near the end on that route as well. You don't really need to bring a lot of water on this hike because you can refill at the top. The trail is super shaded. The trees cover you almost the whole time. At one point near the top it opens up for a sec and I was like ahhhh the sun!!! Warmth!! On the way back there are quite a few downed trees but there are paths around them. The only sketchy part of this hike is the big rock slide half way through the fire road on the way back. A little short on views because of the trees but still an EPIC hike!! #! of my 6 pack of peaks this year.

3 months ago

Hello, I Lost My Bear Spray in Mt. Wilson a few week ago. Eathier on the top by the cafe or coming down no more than 1 mile. Apreciate if somebody found it. :)

hiking
4 months ago

Just did this today. I'm not a particularly skilled or experienced hiker at all, but decided that I wanted to climb a mountain in the new year. This trail was hard, and for inexperienced climbers I would suggest something easier. It took a lot of stubbornness and the encouragement of my friend to get to the top. It was absolutely worth it, the view were stunning and all the people on the trail were incredibly kind. The switchbacks towards the summit feel absolutely endless but once the treeline clears up a bit, the sights make it all worth it

4 months ago

We did the loop clockwise yesterday, Jan 19, 2019. I did it counterclockwise last year and I think that way is a little better because the side trail to the falls (highly recommended) and the beautiful creek-side portion of the hike is less crowded early in the morning. Also, that direction avoids the uphill hike back to Chantry. In the 10 months since the last loop hike a windstorm topples number of trees & limbs over these trails, which have created minor obstacles. Don’t miss the Observatory museum (free). The Cosmic Cafe is currently in winter closure. One can descend the Toll Road from it’s topmost point at a gate, but an unmarked trail from the parking lot saves some time and intercepts the Toll Road in a half mile. Either way, be very alert for the trail to Chantry. which leaves the Toll Road in the left in about a mile. The junction is signed but could be overlooked.

hiking
4 months ago

Did the hike going through Sturtevant Falls, Camp, and down the Fire Road and high trail. On the ascent side, the steepest part of the hike is the part between Sturtevant Camp and the 1 1/4 mile mark at the Halfway point. On the descent, it's downhill till the Hogee Camp fork where it turns into a slight uphill climb. There are a a number of downed trees and branches, and the trail maintenance people have done a great job keeping the trail clear. But there is still some obstacles along the trail. There is some snow at the peak, but nothing that would be considered hazardous. Also the Cosmic Cafe is closed for the winter. Overall, it's a great time to do the hike. It's not hot at all and there are no bugs out. Parking is the hardest part, and it's best to get there at 6 am when the gates open. One of the other good things about this hike is that you can get food at the peak (when it's open) and food and drink at the end at Adam's Pack Station. The following link is a video of my complete hike. https://youtu.be/VG8MkWXlQks

hiking
4 months ago

Did this loop counter clockwise from chantry flats, most of the trail was nice and covered. Some bugs come out when the sun gets high, but really not bad. The trail also has a good number of small and large trees down over the trail, so you have to duck below or skirt around them. Snow is only present at the observatory and does not present a problem, can be summited in boots alone. Not as many views on the way up, but there are great views of other “six pack” peaks and the LA skyline from the top.

bugs
4 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful trail, There is food and beer at the chantry flats parking lot they open at 7am. A lot of the fallen trees on the trail were cleared off. Some snow at the top but most of it melted. The cosmic cafe at the top of Wilson is closed. The hiking guy.com and AllTrails were a big help with navigating the trail. Will do again!

hiking
blowdown
snow
4 months ago

Completed on 1/4, CCW: Beautiful trail, still some snow at the top mile of the trail but nothing that should really slow you down. Parking can be hectic, so get there early. Crowds thin out significantly after the falls and the Mt. Zion junctions. Just take care on the downhill portions that may be slick. Well shaded, but bring a light coat if you plan to take a lunch break at the top (cafe is closed for the season). Downed trees are starting to get cleared out in the lower portions of the trail, but still several areas you will need to climb over, under, or around trees. Bugs weren't too much of an issue, but pack plenty of water (3+ lts) and snacks. Trail is generally pretty well marked, with the exception of the small path to go away from the observatory area. Plan on 6-8 hours to complete, would suggest a headlamp if you're planning to be out there into the later afternoon as the forest can get pretty dark around dusk.

hiking
rocky
snow
4 months ago

Just did this trail yesterday. Snowfall on Christmas brought down a lot of older tree's at once for the last two miles up to the peak and down. Tree's are down on the trail which forces you off the trail and snow / ice still covering the last 1.5 miles up/down (3miles of trail total). So plan at least an extra hour for detours for the hike and bring a GPS to make sure you're still on the trail, but it's pretty easy to find from the footsteps of where the trail should be. Otherwise the rest of the trail is great and a good challenge for those seeking a more strenuous hike or doing the 6 pack of peaks. Also start early, the trail takes a good 6 hours even at a fast pace and sun sets at 4:45 right now. We got slowed down due to the diversions and downed tree's just barely made it back around sunset.

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