Hikes in Angeles National Forest
Located just north of the Greater Los Angeles Area and situated mostly within Los Angeles County, the Angeles National Forest is a vast area that blends the rugged nature of the Southern California wilderness with the convenience of nearby metropolitan areas. Established in 1908, the Angeles National Forest covers an area of 700,176 acres (1,094 mi²/2,833.5 km²), most of which is characterized by the rugged terrain of the San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona mountains.
With such an undulating landscape, the Angeles National Forest is a popular destination for a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts, particularly hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and OHV drivers. Due to the arid climate of the region, it is prone to wildfires that have historically devastated stretches of the park, most notably the Loop Fire of 1966, the Station Fire of 2009, and the Bobcat Fire of 2020. Even still, the Angeles National Forest remains a beautifully scenic stretch of Southern California that begs to be explored, making it the ideal jumping off point for your next hiking adventure.
10 Epic Hiking Routes in the Angeles National Forest
Featuring hundreds of miles of multi-use trails and a diverse landscape of green forests, stunning peaks, and undulating canyons, the Angeles National Forest is an amazing place to set out on your next hiking adventure. While some of the terrain here can seem a bit on the rugged side, easy access from metropolitan areas and a wide range of trail types means that this is the perfect place to explore, no matter your age or skill level. Whether you are an accomplished trekking enthusiast or are simply hoping to get outside for a few hours with the kids, check out the below list of trails that we’ve put together to start experiencing the natural beauty of the Angeles National Forest in Southern California:
- Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail: This hike can be a bit on the crowded side, but what it lacks in personal space it more than makes up for with gorgeous views from atop Echo Mountain.
- Mount San Antonio and Mount Baldy Notch Trail: If you are looking to push your physical limits while still experiencing some stunning views, this route will take you through some rugged terrain to scenic waterfall and mountain top viewpoints.
- Bridge to Nowhere via East Fork Trail: A great intermediate length trail with a scenic waterside setting, this hike will take you along the banks of the East Fork San Gabriel River for some beautiful canyon views.
- Eaton Canyon Trail: Featuring an interesting nature center and some cascading waterfalls, the Eaton Canyon Trail is the perfect Southern California hike that the entire family will be sure to love.
- Dawn Mine and Sunset Trail Loop: Beautiful canyon views and an historic mine await on this intermediate length hike just outside of Pasadena, California.
- Lewis Falls Trail: Quick and fairly easy, the Lewis Falls Trail is a lovely waterfall adventure that serves as the perfect outdoor escape when you can’t commit to a longer journey.
- Millard Canyon Falls Trail: Another relatively short waterfall hike, the Millard Canyon Falls Trail passes through a campsite and follows alongside the banks of Millard Creek for some beautiful views of the canyon and a cascading waterfall.
- Sturtevant Falls Trail: One of the most popular waterfall hikes within Angeles National Forest, this route will take you to a charming cascade that flows into a peaceful pool of water.
- Switzer Falls via Gabrielino Trail: Featuring a campsite and several sets of waterfalls, this is a nice trail if you are looking for a beautiful day hike or an easy-going multi-day adventure.
- Sturtevant, Mount Wilson, and Winter Creek Trail Loop: A bit on the longer side, this rugged hiking route will take you to the beautiful cascades of Sturtevant Falls, the historic Mount Wilson Observatory, and through the mountainous terrain of the Angeles National Forest.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Angeles National Forest?
A good portion of the hiking trails within Angeles National Forest are accessible year-round, although some - particularly at higher elevations in the mountains - are not suitable for use during the winter. If you are looking to experience as many trails as possible while on your next hiking adventure in the Angeles National Forest, then make sure to time your trip for the spring to autumn window to catch the best weather.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Angeles National Forest
With its close proximity to both the city and a vast expanse of wilderness, the Angeles National Forest is certainly filled with plenty of outdoor activities to occupy your time. As the area features hundreds of miles of recreational trails, hiking is definitely one of the more popular activities in the Angeles National Forest; however, other popular adventures include camping, cycling, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing, in addition to water sports like canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. If you would rather head outdoors during the winter months, alpine activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling can be available in some higher elevation areas close by.
Fantastic Adventure Tours Near the Angeles National Forest
There are countless hiking trails that can be found within Angeles National Forest that are just waiting to be explored, but the number of options can sometimes make planning a fun hiking trip a bit confusing or complicated, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. If you want to explore the beautifully scenic wilderness of the Golden State but don’t want to deal with all the fuss of planning a trip, why not check out these amazing adventure tours in California and leave all of the small details to the adventure travel professionals.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Angeles National Forest
How much does it cost to go to the Angeles National Forest?
As many areas within Angeles National Forest require maintenance, visitors will need to purchase a valid adventure pass, which costs $5 per day or $30 annually.
Can you hike in Angeles National Forest?
Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the Angeles National Forest, with over 500.0 mi of dedicated trails.
Does it snow in the Angeles National Forest?
Snowfall is common in the Angeles National Forest during the winter months, providing a wealth of opportunity for outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
Find other fantastic hiking regions in the California
Best Hikes in Angeles National Forest
Eaton Canyon Trail
Hiking the Eaton Canyon Trail is a fantastic family-friendly adventure in the Angeles National Forest that leads to a beautifully scenic waterfall. While out on the trail, you will make your way through the canyon and traverse several stream crossings, before arriving at the wonderful sight of the 40 ft tall Eaton Canyon Falls. Be sure to check out the free and informative exhibits at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, located just next to the trailhead.
Dawn Mine and Sunset Trail Loop
The Dawn Mine and Sunset Trail Loop is a popular adventure in the Angeles National Forest that is easily accessible from Pasadena and features beautifully scenic views. While out on the trail, you will work your way through the rugged terrain of the Millard Canyon, before visiting the historic Dawn Mine. Make sure to display your adventure pass on your dashboard prior to setting out on your hike.
Blue Ridge Trail
Hiking the Blue Ridge Trail is a great experience in Angeles National Forest that will take you uphill for gorgeous views of the mountainous California landscape. While out on the trail, you will work your way up through the forest to reach the top of a ridge, where you will enjoy sweeping views across the undulating landscape. Be cautious if hiking this route in cold/icy weather and make sure to bring microspikes and hiking poles for better traction.
Mount Wilson Observatory Walking Trail
The Mount Wilson Observatory Walking Trail is a quick and easy journey in the Angeles National Forest that offers beautiful views of the mountainous landscape. While out on the trail, you will navigate a paved pathway leading around the observatory at the summit of Mount Wilson, where you will be able to take in the majesty of Southern California. This is a fantastic little adventure to pair with an afternoon exploring the museum and historic telescopes of the observatory.
Mount Islip via Little Jimmy Campground Hike
The Mount Islip via Little Jimmy Campground Hike is a fun outdoor excursion in Angeles National Forest that will see you climb high into the mountains for stunning views. While out hiking the trail, you will gain elevation through a beautiful stretch of forest terrain, before passing by the campground and pushing on to the summit of Mount Islip for views that sweep across the mountainous Southern California landscape.
Spruce Grove Campground Trail
The Spruce Grove Campground Trail is a great intermediate-length hiking route in the Angeles National Forest that features scenic views and a charming waterfall. While out on the trail, you will make your way through the Santa Anita Canyon, before visiting Sturtevant Falls and continuing on to the Spruce Grove Trail Camp. An adventure pass is needed when hiking in the Angeles National Forest recreationally, so make sure to have one displayed on your dashboard.
Mount Baldy via Bentley’s Dream Hike
The Mount Baldy via Bentley’s Dream Hike is a fun adventure in the Angeles National Forest of California that explores the rugged terrain around the Mount Baldy Resort. While out on the trail, you will climb uphill through the mountainous landscape along Baldy Road to reach the Mount Baldy Notch, where you will have beautiful views of the surrounding area. Be sure to pop into the Top of the Notch restaurant at the top of the trail for a quick mid-hike snack.
Strawberry Peak Trail
The Strawberry Peak Trail is a challenging Southern California hiking route that will see you reach a summit vantage point with stunning views. While out on the trail, you will gain elevation across the mountainous landscape and push on to the summit of Strawberry Peak, where you will enjoy an incredible sightline across the peaks, valles, and woodlands of the Angeles National Forest. The road leading into the trailhead is closed seasonally, so make sure to check on its status prior to setting out on your hike.
Crystal Lake Trail
The Crystal Lake Trail is a lovely little hiking route in Angeles National Forest that loops around a charming body of water. While out on the trail, you will work your way through a beautiful woodland setting, while taking in the views of the surrounding mountain peaks across the small lake. Make sure to purchase and display your adventure pass prior to setting out on your hike.
Mount Disappointment and San Gabriel Peak Hike
The Mount Disappointment and San Gabriel Peak Hike is a great adventure in the Angeles National Forest that will take you up two different summits. While out on the trail, you will gain a fair amount of elevation through the forest, before pushing on to the top of Mount Disappointment and then San Gabriel Peak for beautiful views. Make sure to have your adventure pass visible in your vehicle before setting out on your hike.
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