Mt. Wilson Trail to Orchard Camp, Sierra Madre
Alternate: Continue on to Mt. Wilson 7-8 miles round-trip, moderately strenuous
You get it all on this hike: a sunny climb up the face of the San Gabriels, views to the ocean on clear days and a back-side forest hike through ferns, shady glens and little waterfalls. You’re following the historic Mt. Wilson Trail, built by Benjamin “Don Benito” Wilson in 1864, and your final destination is the shady (often buggy) site of Orchard Camp, a trail resort that once drew as many as 40,000 people a year. Only the foundation remains, but if the gnats aren’t bad, it’s a serene spot for a picnic lunch before either heading back or, if you’re really ambitious, continuing up another three miles and 2,500 vertical feet to the summit of Mt. Wilson.
Driving Directions: Exit Baldwin from the 210 Freeway in Sierra Madre. Drive north on Baldwin; it jogs to the left at Foothill. At almost the very top of Baldwin, turn right on Mira Monte. You’ll see Mt. Wilson Trail on the left; park wherever you can.
Hiking Directions: This is a straight shot up the Mt. Wilson Trail. When the trail splits, a sign marks the low route to First Water; take the left split to stay on the main trail. Orchard Camp is 3.5 to 4.5 miles up the trail, depending on whether you believe the Forest Service signs (3.5 miles) or Trails of the Angeles (4.5 miles). To us it seems on the shorter end.