The loop hike to Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flat covers 13.5 miles and gains 4180ft. In this guide, I’ll cover the hike to Mt. Wilson using the Sturtevant Trail and include side trip options for Mt. Zion and Sturtevant Falls. I’ll also include information on the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory at the summit. Below you will find directions, maps, GPS tracks, photos, and a full hike description.
Directions And GPS Tracks:
- To hike Mt Wilson via Chantry Flat drive to Chantry Flat, Chantry Flat Road, CA, 91006. From the 210, you’ll exit Santa Anita Ave and head north. Santa Anita becomes Chantry Flat Rd, and eventually dead-ends at the parking lot. Make sure to arrive very early for this hike, as the parking lot fills up quickly. On weekends, the parking lot is usually full by 6:45 AM. There is parking along Chantry Flat Rd that may require you to hike an additional mile or two.
- Download GPX For Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flat
- Download GPX For Mt. Wilson, Sturtevant Falls, and Mt. Zion
- Distance: 13.5 miles (+.6 miles for Sturtevant Falls and +2 miles for Mt. Zion)
- Elevation Gain: 4180 ft
- Minimum Elevation: 1795 ft
- Maximum Elevation: 5710 ft
- Time: 5-8 hours
- Difficulty: (3/5)
- Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
- Permit Required: No, but an Adventure Pass is required to park at Chantry Flat
- Parking: Parking is very limited in the parking lot, make sure to arrive early.
- Season: Year Round
- Trail Condition: Single track, switchbacks, and fire road.
- Cell Phone Reception: Poor
Hike Map And Elevation Profile:
In the map below you’ll see the hiking track for Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flat in blue. The side tracks to Sturtevant Falls and Mt. Zion are shown in red. The elevation map and Google Earth map only show the main Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flat hiking track.
0.0 Miles- Once you’ve parked at Chantry Flat, make your way towards the restroom and you’ll see a trailhead with an asphalt road heading downhill. You’ll head downhill on this asphalt road for the first .5 miles of this hike.
0.6 Miles- Leaving the asphalt road behind you’ll cross over a stream using a bridge and reach the junction for the Sturtevant Trail. This is the beginning of the Mt. Wilson Loop. For this hiking guide, we will start on the right hand junction for a counterclockwise loop.
It’s amazing how quickly the landscapes can change in California. One of the major reasons this hike is so popular, is that it feels so far removed from the urban landscape of Los Angeles.
1.4 Miles- You’ll reach a junction for the Sturtevant Falls and the Gabrielino Trail. If you want to skip the falls, head left and take the Gabrielino Trail: Lower Trail (Top of the Falls). If you want to visit the falls, take a right. I will include a section below for information on the falls, but will not include the extra distance in this hike description.
Sturtevant Falls Option:
The hike to Sturtevant Falls is an additional .3 miles each way for an extra .6 miles on this hike. The route is very straightforward and easy to follow. There are a few creek crossings, so make sure to be mindful of your footing.
Whether you hiked and returned from Sturtevant Falls or skipped it, hike up the Gabrielino Trail: Lower Trail (Top of the Falls).
1.7 Miles- You’ll now be on a stretch of trails that looks down onto Sturtevant Falls. The rains have made this stretch narrow and worn down, so make sure to be mindful with your foot placement.
The next section of hiking along the Sturtevant Trail is one of my favorites on this hike. Shaded groves, creek crossings, and cool temperatures on summer days make this stretch of trail hard to leave behind.
3.4 Miles- You arrive at Spruce Grove Campground. There are usually quite a few groups camping here on the weekend, so make sure to keep your voice down if you’re passing through early.
3.6 Miles- Just after passing through Spruce Grove Campground, you’ll see a sign for Sturtevant Camp. Sturtevant Camp has cabins for rent that are open to the public. The trail crosses over just before reaching Sturtevant Camp, so keep an eye out for this junction and take a left hand turn.
Just outside of Sturtevant Camp, you’ll see a trail sign for Mt. Zion. If you want to bag an extra peak, take a left at the Mt. Zion Junction. Otherwise, take a right and continue hiking towards Mt. Wilson
Mt. Zion Option:
To reach the summit of Mt. Zion, you’ll need to add 1 mile each way for an additional 2 miles of hiking on this trip. The hike to the summit of Zion only adds a around 400 ft of elevation gain, making this a low effort addition. The views from the summit of Mt. Zion are not that great, but to to the ease in which they’re acquired, make this a worthwhile trip.
Whether you hiked and returned from Mt. Zion or skipped it, continue hiking the Sturtevant Trail towards Mt. Wilson. This next stretch of trail is where you’ll really start to gain in elevation. At this point you will have hiked 3.7 miles to an elevation of 3228. In the next 2.5 miles, you gain more than 2000ft. Most of these gains come by the way of switchbacks, ascending Mt. Wilson from the east.
5.5 Miles- With a little over 1 mile to go, you’ll get your first views of Southern California before the trail ducks back under a canopy of trees.
6.5 Miles- The Sturtevant Trail tops out on the east side of Mt Wilson. Take the short walkway out to Echo Rock for some incredible views of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Mt. Wilson Observatory
Now that you’ve made it to the top of Mt. Wilson, it’s time to explore the observatory. The first thing you’ll see is the 100 inch Hooker Telescope. The Hooker Telescope was the world’s largest from 1917 to 1949. The Hooker telescope was even used by the famous Edwin Hubble shortly after its completion. This telescope helped Hubble prove that our universe goes far beyond our own Milky Way galaxy, and that the galaxy is and has been expanding. The Hooker Telescope radically changed the scientific views of how we saw the universe. If that’s not enough, the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky discovered dark matter with the Hooker Telescope.
The Hooker Telescope has a visitor center. There is a stairway on it’s north side that allows visitors to walk up and see the telescope up close.
After visiting the Hooker Telescope, you’ll walk by the 60 inch telescope. First operated in 1908, at the time of it’s “first light”, it was the largest telescope in the world.
After visiting the 60 inch telescope, take some time to see the Astronomical Museum. The museum was built in 1936 and showcases the history of the Observatory. The museum also houses a 256 seat auditorium for lectures and other special events.
After visiting the Astronomical Museum, continue heading west towards the Cosmic Cafe and the large gravel parking lot.
7.0 Miles- You will pick up the backside of this loop trail from the parking lot. Look for a sign reading “Mt. Wilson Trail”.
7.8 Miles- The Mt. Wilson Trail continues on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. Take a left and continue hiking on the toll road.
8.1 Miles- The hiking on the toll road is short lived. Keep an eye out for the junction that continues on the Mt. Wilson Trail. This one is easy to miss.
8.4 Miles- The final major junction comes for the Winter Creek Trail. This one is impossible to miss as you’ll see a bench marking the trail. Take a left at the Winter Creek Junction.
The rest of this hike follows the Winter Creek Trail down a series of switchbacks, crosses over a few streams, passes a few canyons, and returns hikers to the bridge that began this loop up to Mt. Wilson. The only hard part that remains, is the uphill climb up the asphalt road to the parking lot.