Mount Wilson via Little Santa Anita Canyon

The trail towards Mt. Wilson via Little Santa Anita Canyon has a lot to offer. The trail starts at a 970 elevation and can take you all the way up to Mt. Wilson, which stands at about 5,650 feet. The trail is in good condition and has several stops before the summit of Mt. Wilson is reached(if you choose to go all the way). The trail begins via Mt. Wilson Trail Drive. The first mile and a half of the trail has a moderate climb(where you can see a waterfall at a distance) up to First Water; there you have the option to take the trail to the right and relax down by a creek, or you can continue to the left to the next destination, which is Orchard Camp. Keep in mind that at First Water, you will have gained about 980 feet in elevation. A lot of people hike up to here and then just turn back. If you wish to proceed to Orchard camp, you will gain about another 1020 feet for a total of about 1990 feet in elevation gain so far. Orchard Camp used to be a resort back in the late 1800’s or so to about 1940, and now all that remains are just concrete slabs, but, it is a great resting spot to enjoy drinks or snacks. If you wish to add another 1540 feet of elevation gain to your hike, you can continue another 1.9 miles up to Manzanita Ridge. At this point, you will have gained about 3500 feet in elevation. Manzanita Ridge offers great views towards the San Gabriel Valley and there is a little bench that you can take a nice, well-needed break. From here, you have the option to continue an additional 2.25 miles to the summit of Mt. Wilson. You will gain an additional 1180 feet of elevation for a total of about 4680 in elevation gain. If you do plan to go all the way to the top, or just up to Manzanita Ridge, you should be in great physical condition.

Dusk View Towards the San Gabriel Valley.

There is an option to cut the 2.25 additional hike up to Mt. Wilson. When you head towards Mt. Wilson from Manzanita Ridge, you have the option to stay right and take the regular trail, or stay left and take a trail that has a very steep climb and you can stay on this path until the regular trail crosses paths and that will cut about .5 miles out of the hike, but, it is a very steep climb, and by this point you may be too tired to go this way and you may just want to stick with the regular trail. You will get to a toll road that will take you right and then you come to another road where you will have to go right to the radio towers and at that point, you will reach the top. From Mt. Wilson, you can see all the way out to Catalina and beyond and overall; it has excellent views. This trail does expose you to the Sun, especially in the beginning up to First Water, but it does also offer lots of shade in certain parts of the hike. Whether you decide to go to all the way up to Mt. Wilson, or the previous spots, this will be an enjoyable hike, and even up to First Water, you will get a nice workout. I would say the toughest part of the entire hike up to Mt. Wilson is the section between Orchard Camp and Manzanita Ridge.

View of the San Gabriel Valley near the top of Mt. Wilson.

Mt. Wilson Trail Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 4680 Feet
  • Round Trip – 14 Miles
  • Suggested Time – 6-7 hours
  • Difficulty – Strenuous
  • Best Season – Late Fall to Late Spring

View Towards the San Gabriel Valley from the Trail.

To reach the Mount Wilson Trailhead via Little Santa Anita Canyon, on the 210 East Foothill Freeway in Arcadia, exit on Santa Anita Avenue and drive north. Turn left on Sierra Madre Blvd. and drive 0.9 miles to Mountain Trail Avenue. Turn right (north) and drive 0.5 mile to where Mountain Trail Ave ends but turns left as Mira Monte Ave. Turn left here. Immediately on your right is Mount Wilson Trail Drive. Park in this area on the street, either on the lower end of Mount Wilson Trail Drive or on Mira Monte. The hike begins by walking up Mount Wilson Trail Drive.

If you plan to do this hike and have any additional questions, please feel free to leave a comment here and/or email me at


Posted on December 13, 2011, in Angeles National Forest, Hiking Trails, Outdoor Activities, Southern California Hikes, Southern California Peaks, Summit Hikes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Cobrapower,

    Try not to laugh. I just got into hiking and I have my eyes on Mt. Wilson. I feel like I can take on any peaks but living in the city has made me just plain scared of wild animals. Should I worry about mountain lions, bears etc…?

    • Hi Nicky,

      Thanks for reading!! From my experience, and I have hikes hundreds of peaks, I have not encountered a bear, or a mountain lion. I have encountered lots of Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, Snakes, Tarantulas, Deer.. but I doubt that you will run into a bear or mountain lion asi said; just keep in mind that if you start from Santa Anita Canyon, the elevation gain is about 4800 feet or so… it will be a strenuous climb.. I believe it is a 14 mile round trip as well.. the views are great as you ascend and from the top.. and the work out is awesome!! Also, though I don’t remember seeing some, always keep an eye out for poison oak! Have a great Trek!!!

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