Best Hikes in Angeles National Forest (CA)

Overview

Covering over 700,000 acres, Angeles National Forest is located just north of Los Angeles, CA. The land within the Forest is as diverse in appearance and terrain as it is in the opportunities it provides for enjoyment. Elevations range from 1,200 to 10,064 feet with Mt. San Antonio (also known as ‘Mt. Baldy’) being the highest peak. There are actually 3 of Southern California’s iconic Six-Pack of Peaks in Angeles National Forest that hikers can enjoy. The remaining 3 are in the nearby San Bernardino National Forest. The 6 peaks are meant to be done in order as a training method for some of California’s harder hikes such as Mt. Whitney or Half Dome. 

Much of the Forest is covered with dense chaparral which changes to pine and fir-covered slopes as you reach the majestic peaks of the higher elevations. Angeles National Forest contains 5 designated wilderness areas: Cucamonga, Magic Mountain, Pleasant View Ridge, San Gabriel, and Sheep Mountain Wilderness. This is one of the driest and most fire-prone forested areas in the country so be prepared and careful while traveling here. The best hiking trails in Angeles National Forest are located below. 

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Trailhead Traveler’s Best Hikes in Angeles National Forest

  • East Fork Trail to Bridge to Nowhere – 9.6 miles out and back
    • Fun hike that will take you along the east fork of the San Gabriel River before arriving at a mysterious bridge built in 1936 that has no roads leading to it. Route finding is a bit challenging with many day-use trails mixed in with the main trail, washed out sections of trail, and over a half dozen stream crossings (bring waterproof shoes even when the water is low).

 

  • Eaton Canyon Trail – 3.6 miles out and back
    • Starting from the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, this trail heads north to the beautiful 40’ Eaton Falls with a pool below that you can swim in. The trail is relatively easy and can get crowded on a nice summer day.

 

  • Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail – 5.3 miles out and back
    • Slow and steady climb with plenty of switchbacks up to the top of Echo Mountain. Echo-phones are set up at the best spots to hear your voice repeat back to you after bouncing through Castle Canyon.

 

  • Dawn Mine and Sunset Trail – 5.9 mile loop
    • Fairly easy and family-friendly trail near Echo Mountain (below). Taken counter-clockwise the trail takes you Sunset Ridge then down into the canyon by Dawn Mine.

 

  • Gabrielino Trail to Switzer Falls – 3.5 miles out and back
    • Beautiful trail in a shaded, forested area that is easy enough for the whole family to enjoy. The trail travels south to the top and base of the 50’ falls with the option to continue hiking to Bear Canyon Camp.

 

  • Icehouse Canyon Trail to Cucamonga Peak*** – 11.4 out and back
    • 2nd of Southern California’s Six-Pack of Peaks: Intense but ultra-rewarding trail to one of the best peaks in the area with expansive views from the top. Permits are required but can be found at the trailhead.

 

  • Mount Baden-Powell Trail – 8.1 out and back
    • Strenuous uphill hike that is part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). About 35 switchbacks try to make the ascent more manageable but be prepared for a workout; in total you’re going to ascend nearly 3000’ in elevation to the peak.

 

  • Mount San Antonio Trail*** – 9.5 mile loop
    • 3rd of Southern California’s Six-Pack of Peaks: Very intense loop that ascends nearly 4000’ to the top of Mt. San Antonio aka Mt. Baldy, an iconic peak in the area. Traveling counter-clockwise up Devil’s Backbone Trail will provide a gentler ascent than straight up Baldy Bowl Trail.

 

  • Mount Wilson Loop*** – 15.3 mile loop
    • 1st of Southern California’s Six-Pack of Peaks: There are a few different ways to get to the top of Mt. Wilson. The most popular would be starting at Chantry Flat and making a counter-clockwise loop going past Sturtevant Falls (trail below). You can also hike up a steep out and back on the Little Santa Anita Canyon side. This is a great trail for beginning hikers looking to increase their skill and endurance.

 

  • Sturtevant Falls Trail – 3.2 miles out and back
    • Crowded hike in Santa Anita Canyon but well worth it. The trail follows the canyon bottom until you get near the falls where you can rock scramble to the base. In the dry season, the falls might not be as impressive but still makes for a rewarding hike. The nearby Mt. Wilson Loop is a great option to continue hiking if you wish, see above.

 

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