|Hiking to Mount Wilson with my trusty hiking pole and Granite Rocx backpack|
Some general Advice about hiking the loops from Chantry Flats to Wilson:
There is a lot of confusing information online about hiking the loop from Chantry Flats to Mount Wilson. I’ll try to cover the basics in a single paragraph and give more details in the rest of the post. Including a stop at Cosmic Cafe on the top of Mount Wilson, this route is over 16 miles long and should be considered strenuous. The Cosmic Cafe has extremely limited hours and is only open on weekends in the spring, so be sure to check the hours. You will also need a forest adventure pass or purchase a 5$ parking pass from Adam’s Pack Station at Chantry Flats. Don’t get locked in the parking lot, they close the gate at 8 pm. Make sure you have the appropriate gear for the hike. The temperature can fluctuate up to 50 degrees colder at the top of the mountain, so a jacket and gloves is definitely recommended. Bring plenty of water and a headlamp. Most of the loop is in a canyon and you don’t want to get stranded without a light if the sun goes down. Make sure your boots are in good shape and wear a long pair of comfortable socks to avoid getting blisters. Make sure you have a comfortable backpack. This is one of those long day hikes where a camel-back type backpack is too small for your extra gear and an overnight backpack is overkill. This was my first hike with my new Granite Rocx daypack and it was a life saver. I have shoulder problems when I hike with a heavy load on my shoulders, so I had to find an ultra-light backpack with a bunch of extra compartments for all of my gear. This was seriously the first time I've hiked all year without any shoulder problems.
Chantry Flats Loop to Mount Wilson:
Landmarks on the loop: Chantry Flats, Upper Falls Trail, Cascade Picnic Area, Spruce Grove Campground, Sturtevant Trail, Mount Wilson Observatory, Cosmic Cafe, Mount Wilson Toll Road, Upper Winter Creek Trail, Chantry Flats.
The hike to Mount Wilson starts in the Chantry Flats parking area. From the parking lot, You head downhill on a winding paved road all the way to the canyon floor. Then head North on the Gabrielino Trail towards Sturtevant Falls. Make a left at the Fern Lodge Junction and continue North on the upper Falls trail, or hike to the falls and then scale the incline on the left of the falls to reach the trail. This shortcut has eroded quite a bit in the last few years, so I don’t recommend it. Continue North-West. You will pass the Cascade Picnic area, the Spruce Grove Camp and you will pass the spur trail that heads to Newcomb Pass. You will eventually reach the junction for the Sturtevant Trail to Mount Wilson. This is the trail you want. Make a right onto the Sturtevant Trail and head up to reach the summit of Mount Wilson. From this junction, it’s approximately 3 ½ miles of endless switchbacks up the mountain. Once you reach the summit, you will see the Mount Wilson observatory telescope. From here, follow the paved road to the Cosmic Cafe. There is a large bathroom facility and a fill station for water bottles at the observatory. To head back to Chantry Flats, the trail starts in the parking lot directly adjacent to the Cosmic Cafe. Its partially eroded and not obvious, even if you’re standing next to it. You hike down the steep trail until you reach the wider dirt road marked as The Mount Wilson Toll Road. This Road is no longer in service because of the landslides that block it. Head South on the road until you reach the junction for Upper Winter Creek Trail. Hike until you reach the trail junction for Hoegees Camp. Do not hike to Hoegees Camp, stay right instead at the junction to remain on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. This trail heads slightly uphill for the first half mile, but will lead you around the mountain and downhill for the remainder of the trail right into Chantry Flats. The loop is approximately 16 miles round-trip. It took us 8 hours to finish it, but we did stop for an hour at the top for lunch.
Notes on the trail:
I was not in shape for this hike. Not even close. I've only hiked once in the past 3 weeks, and this was a poor choice to get back into shape. The switchbacks absolutely murdered my legs and tender toes. Many websites incorrectly list the loop at 12 miles. In actuality, its over 16. The parking lot at Chantry Flats is insane on the weekends. People were parked on both sides of the road a mile away lining both sides of the road down the mountain.
The Spruce Grove Campground is the only place on the trail where we passed an outhouse. The campground was almost full, which is surprising for the start of April. The last 3.4 miles of the Sturtevant Trail to the observatory are a murderous, never-ending, unrelenting set of switchbacks and inclines. The trail spur to the Mount Wilson Toll Road at the Cosmic Cafe parking lot is damn near impossible to find. We had to ask another set of hikers to show us where it was. There is no way we would have found it on our own.
From the 210 Freeway in Arcadia, take the Santa Anita exit North and follow Santa Anita Avenue for 1.5 miles to the yellow gate. Continue 3 miles up the narrow winding road to Chantry Flats parking area. It can easily fill up on the weekends, so expect to see cars parked along both sides of the road. Don’t forget your Forest Adventure parking pass.