Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
5,375.00 ft (1,638.30 m)
Trail type
20.60 mi (33.15 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Eaton Canyon to Mount Wilson is a challenging and rewarding out-and-back hike that spans approximately 20.6 miles, offering an elevation gain of over 5,000 feet total. This trail is nestled in the Angeles National Forest, just outside of Pasadena, California, and is known for its scenic beauty, rigorous ascent, and the historic Mount Wilson Observatory at the summit.

Starting Point: Eaton Canyon Nature Center
The journey begins at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, where hikers can explore the center's exhibits on local flora and fauna before embarking on the trail. The first mile is a relatively easy walk through Eaton Canyon, featuring a stream and shaded paths.
After leaving the canyon floor, the trail follows a winding dirt road and becomes significantly steeper. Hikers traverse through chaparral-covered landscapes, with the path providing occasional, yet minimal, shade from oak and pine trees. The hike becomes progressively more challenging as it ascends, with switchbacks increasing in both frequency and steepness.

Highlights and Scenery:
Waterfalls: Early on, the trail passes by the Eaton Canyon Waterfall, a popular spot for a brief rest and photos. *Note that a journey to the actual waterfall would add extra mileage to the route. 
Panoramic Views: As the trail climbs, breathtaking views of the San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles emerge. On clear days, the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island are visible in the distance.
Mount Wilson Observatory: The summit features the historic observatory, where hikers can explore exhibits on astronomy and enjoy views from one of the highest peaks in the San Gabriels.
Henninger Flats Campground: Located a few miles up the trail, this first-come, first-served campground is uniquely nestled on a hillside, offering hikers stunning overlooks of the city below.

Preparation: Given the trail's length and elevation gain, it's essential to come prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and appropriate hiking gear. Starting early is advisable to avoid the midday heat and ensure enough time to complete the hike. Hikers should carry ample water and prepare for the possibility of hot weather at lower elevations during the summer and early fall.
Weather: Weather conditions can change rapidly at higher elevations, so check the forecast and be prepared for cooler temperatures and possible winds at the summit.
Permits: No permits are required for day hikes, but parking at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center may be limited, especially on weekends.

Safety and Leave No Trace:
Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and respecting wildlife and plant life along the trail.
Be mindful of your fitness level and the trail's difficulty; it's a strenuous hike best suited for experienced hikers.

Return Trip:
After reaching Mount Wilson and exploring the observatory, hikers retrace their steps back down to the Eaton Canyon Nature Center. The descent offers a different perspective on the stunning landscapes encountered on the way up, providing a rewarding conclusion to a challenging hike.

Additional Information:
For more details on trail conditions, observatory visiting hours, and other relevant information, hikers can visit the Angeles National Forest official website or the Mount Wilson Observatory's website. This hike is a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty and historical significance of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Eaton Saddle Trailhead:
Red Box Picnic Area: 
Switzer Picnic Site: 
Angeles National Forest: 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Peak Bagging. Scenic Vistas. Nature Center.


Little shade for the first part. Can be crowded on weekends.

Trailhead Elevation

942.00 ft (287.12 m)

Highest point

5,667.00 ft (1,727.30 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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