The author McKenna Mobley posing for a photo at the top of San Gabriel Mountains during sunrise

San Gabriel Mountains (13 Best Hikes & Tips For Visiting)

The San Gabriel Mountains, located in Northern Los Angeles and Western San Bernardino, embody rolling peaks, the rushing San Gabriel River, and critical habitats for mountain animals.

The San Andreas Fault slices through the northern portion of the San Gabriel Mountains and helped shape the characteristic peaks we see today. Some of the best California hikes are here, as there are 124 named peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains and smaller day hiking trails.

As a California local, I have hiked almost half of the peaks in the San Gabriel Mountain range and am here to share my expertise with you. This guide includes the best hikes, how to get there, when to visit, and more!

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13 Best San Gabriel Mountain Hikes

Mount San Antonio

The author during a hike in Mt. Baldy’s Bear Canyon Trail
Going through “The Narrows” on Mt. Baldy’s Bear Canyon Trail

🥾 Difficult | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 10,064 feet | Miles: 8 

Mount San Antonio, also known as “Mt. Baldy,” is the highest peak in Los Angeles County. There are several ways to reach the summit but the Ski Hut/Baldy Bowl Trail is the most frequented.

The Ski Hut Trail starts at the Manker Flats trailhead at the top of Mt. Baldy Road. It climbs 4,000 feet of gain in 4 miles and will give you a calf-burning workout.

You can also summit Mt. Baldy via Register Ridge, a steep 3-mile trail to the summit that is deemed the hardest way to the top. Bear Canyon is another trail to the Baldy summit that starts in the Mount Baldy village and has 6,000 feet of gain in 6 miles.

Be on the lookout for bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bears, and bobcats that inhabit the area.

Cucamonga Peak

The author posing on top of a cliff in Cucamonga Peak
Me, posing on the top of Cucamonga’s summit

🥾 Moderate | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 8,862 feet | Miles: 12

Cucamonga Peak is located in the Cucamonga Wilderness area and is a good hike for those wanting to rack up more trail miles. Get to the Ice House Canyon Trailhead early because this hike will likely take 6-8 hours.

The Cucamonga Peak trail winds through low elevation switchbacks alongside waterfalls and pools. After the 3.6-mile saddle, the trail splits off to 5 different peaks, Cucamonga Peak being the highest.

The peak offers spectacular views of the Inland Empire below and you can even see as far as Los Angeles on a clear day. Camping on the summit is a fun outdoor adventure and the perfect way to catch a high-elevation sunrise as it crests the skyline.

👉 Need a hotel? This cozy cottage is the best place to stay near Mount Baldy.

Ontario Peak

A snow-capped on the Ontario Peak in California
A snow-capped Ontario Peak in the distance

🥾 Moderate | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 8,694 feet | Miles: 14

Ontario Peak is one of my favorite hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains. The early morning summit views of fluffy cloud layers covering the Inland Empire never disappoint.

Ontario Peak is a moderate hike in the San Gabriel Mountains and generates far fewer crowds than Mt. Baldy and Cucamonga Peak. After the Ice House Canyon saddle, make sure to keep right at the trail split. Otherwise, you may just end up on Timber Mountain.

Camp at Kelly Campground to make your Ontario Peak experience last as long as possible. You will want to bring a bear box if you do camp on the mountain to ensure your safety.

👉 My Favorite Gear: Bring plenty of water on longer hikes like Ontario Peak. This water bladder is my favorite water carrier for long days on the trail.

Pine Mountain

View from the Pine Mountain in California

🥾 Difficult | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 9,648 feet | Miles: 12

Hikers approach Pine Mountain one of two ways. The easier and hassle-free route from Blue Ridge Road in Wrightwood is the most popular way to hike this mountain.

More experienced hikers add on a Pine Mountain traverse after they have summited both Mt. Baldy and Dawson Peak. If you choose to hike the mountain from this side, be prepared for a long day out in the woods.

👉 Pro Tip: Start hiking early to avoid the summer heat.

Dawson Peak

The author at the Dawson's summit during sunset
Me, on the summit after the sunset

🥾 Moderate | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 9,575 | Miles: 10.4

Dawson Peak is the perfect mountain to hike if you want to be away from the San Gabriel Mountain crowds. The trail is accessible from Mt. Baldy and is shared by the Angeles National Forest and the San Bernardino National Forest.

The trail is also accessible from Wrightwood via the Acorn Trail and the North Backbone Trail. It is 10.4 miles from this side but not as steep as the Mt. Baldy side.

If you choose to hike from the Mt. Baldy side, park at the Manker Flats trailhead and hike to the summit of Mount San Antonio. After, you will follow a small use trail down the north side of Mt. Baldy to a deep saddle, then start the ascent up to Dawson Peak.

👉 My Favorite Gear: The descent from the Mt. Baldy summit to the Dawson Peak saddle is very steep. I recommend bringing these hiking poles to prevent yourself from falling.

Mount Baden-Powell

An American flag at the top of Mount Baden-Powell
Mount Baden-Powell reps an American flag year-round

🥾 Moderate | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 9,406 | Miles: 8.3

Mount Baden-Powell is the highest mountain in Wrightwood and is one of the highest peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains. Take the Angeles Crest Highway to the Vincent Gap Trailhead to start this wooded forest trail.

Trail runners can finish this moderate trek in as little as 2 hours but plan on a 4 or 5-hour hike for a more comfortable experience. There are views of Mt. Baldy and the surrounding San Gabriel Mountains behind the iconic American flag on Mount Baden-Powell’s summit.

After your mountain climb, check out downtown Wrightwood, a small mountain town area with cafes, a brewery, and two bars. 

Mount Harwood

The author climbing the Mount Harwood with sea of clouds on her background
Climbing high above the clouds

🥾 Difficult | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 9,556 | Miles: 11

Mount Harwood is located in the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. Many hikers combine Mount Harwood with a Mt. Baldy summit because the trails are the same almost the whole way.

The easiest way to hike Mount Harwood is via the Devil’s Backbone trail to Mt. Baldy. Before the final Baldy climb, the trail splits off to the right to the Mount Harwood summit.

The summit will greet you with old remnants of a radio tower. There are often Nelson’s bighorn sheep on Mount Harwood’s summit, making this hike a favorite among many trekkers.

Timber Mountain

A hiker climbing the Timber Mountain
En route to the Timber summit

🥾 Moderate | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation:8,307 feet | Miles: 9

Timber Mountain is the first of three summits on the Three T’s Trail in Southern California. It is the easiest mountain hike out of the three and is a pleasant afternoon hike.

Enjoy the cool mountain breeze and go for a dip in the lower elevation pools at the end of your hike on a summer day. Timber mountain is a peaceful hike in the San Gabriel Mountains with few crowds and abundant wildlife.

👉 My Favorite Gear: I only hike in Salomon hiking shoes. They are incredibly comfortable and are one of the most popular hiking shoes on the trails.

Telegraph Peak

A man with his dog near a waterfall at the beginning of the Telegraph Peak hike
The beginning of the Telegraph Peak hike is filled with waterfalls and streams

🥾 Difficult | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation: 8,989 feet | Miles: 11.4 out-and-back

Telegraph Peak is in the San Gabriel mountain range. It is most often visited by hikers doing the Three T’s Trail.

Starting at Ice House Canyon following the San Gabriel River, the Telegraph Peak trail first takes hikers to the Timber Mountain summit. After Timber, hikers descend to a saddle then climb back up to Telegraph Peak’s summit.

The views of the San Gabriel mountains are incredible from the top, with 360-degree views of the valley below.

If you want to complete the Three T’s Trail circuit, continue on the trail towards Thunder Mountain then down Mt. Baldy Road to Manker Flats.

👉 Pro Tip: The Ice House Canyon startpoint of the Three T’s is 3 miles down the road from the Manker Flats endpoint. Arrange transportation ahead of time or plan on walking on the road back to Ice House Canyon. 

Iron Mountain

Overlooking view of the San Gabriel River
Early morning view of the San Gabriel River

🥾 Difficult | 📍 Google Maps | Elevation: 8,009 | Miles: 12

Known as the hardest hike in Southern California, Iron Mountain gains a grueling 6,000 feet of elevation in only 6 miles. Many hikers consider summiting this mountain a great feat that must be celebrated. 

This hike will take first-timers up to 12 hours, so start around sunrise or before. Iron Mountain is guaranteed to be the hardest hike you will attempt in the San Gabriel Mountain range. 

Because this hike is only 8,009 feet in elevation, it is accessible year-round and does not receive as much snow as taller surrounding mountains. I do recommend checking out this hiking packing list before you go though, as you’ll need some gear. 

Potato Mountain

The author taking a selfie during her mountain bike stop in Potato Mountain
I rode my mountain bike up Potato Mountain

🥾 Easy | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Elevation:3,422 feet | Miles: 5.2

Potato Mountain is one of the most popular hiking trails in the San Gabriels. Located in the Claremont Wilderness, the trailhead can be accessed from either Padua Road in Claremont or Mt. Baldy Road on the Upland side.

There are many trails up to Potato Mountain’s summit. The favored way is a 2.5-mile trek via Mt. Baldy Road. Another trail starts at the same location but splits off to the left and climbs straight up 1,000 feet in less than 1 mile.

The summit can also be reached by the Claremont Loop. After 1-2 miles on the loop trail, keep a look out for the Potato Mountain fork in the trail.

Per its name, you will find actual potatoes at the summit to take photos with. This is the best part of the Potato Mountain hiking experience in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Rattlesnake Peak

Scenic view from the Rattlesnake Peak during sunset
A beautiful San Gabriel sunset

🥾 Moderate | 📍 Google Maps | Elevation:5,826 | Miles: 10.1 miles

Rattlesnake Peak is a shorter mountain in the Angeles National Forest with a hard-to-find trail that will keep you on alert.

Contrary to its name, the mountain is not crawling with rattlesnakes but instead offers great views of the neighboring San Gabriel Mountain peaks like Iron Mountain.

Rattlesnake Peak warms up quickly in the summer, so it is advisable to leave pets at home unless you have plenty of water for them.

👉 My Favorite Gear: Check out these compasses to help you stay on trail.

Strawberry Peak

The author holding a jar with the wildflowers she picked in Strawberry Peak
I collected mountain wildflowers on Strawberry Peak

🥾 Moderate | 📍 Google Maps | Elevation: 6,267 | Miles: 7.2

Strawberry Peak is a moderate climb in the San Gabriel Mountains. You won’t feel exhausted on this hike and there are beautiful mountain flowers to pick along the trail.

The trail is exposed for most of the hike, so make sure to wear a protective sun hat, especially in the summer months. 

Only 3.6 miles one-way, the Strawberry Peak summit is the perfect place to have a picnic in the San Gabriel range. 

👉 My Favorite Gear: This is my favorite hiking sunscreen. It has high amounts of Zinc to keep you protected and lasts for long hours in the sun.

San Gabriel Mountains Visiting Information

The author posing for a photo at the top of San Gabriel Mountains during sunrise

The San Gabriel Mountains are open year-round. You can hike at any time of the day, just make sure to bring a headlamp if you will be out after sunset. 

An Adventure Pass is required to park in national forest trailhead parking lots. These can be purchased online here

If you have any hiking questions, contact the U.S. Forest Service or the nearest ranger station to your specific mountain hike. Many stations are open from sunrise to sunset to answer visitor information and to issue hiking permits.

Tips for Visiting the San Gabriel Mountains

Sea of clouds over the San Gabriel Mountains

Get to Your Trailhead Early

Most trailheads fill up before 10 am during the summer so get to your hike early to snag a parking space. 

Crowded hiking trails will change your experience on the mountain to perhaps an unpleasant one, so start hiking early.

Find the Best Places to Cool Down

Flowers on a trail during a hike in San Gabriel Mountains

There are several places in the San Gabriels where watering holes and waterfalls exist. Mt. Wilson in the Angeles National Forest has a waterfall and swimming pool to cool down in after a long hike. 

Bring along a Grayl Water Filtration Bottle to fill up with purified water on the go.

You can also escape the heat of the Mojave Desert by swimming in the Colorado River as it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Gabriel national forests.

Leave Wildlife Wild

The Angeles National Forest is crawling with wildlife. You can find black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, mule deer, rabbits, and coyotes in the mountains and foothills of the San Gabriels.

While feeding or petting a wild animal may sound enticing, please always leave wildlife alone and only view them from a safe distance. 

When to Visit the San Gabriel Mountains

Sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains

The San Gabriels are fun to visit in all four seasons of the year. The most popular time to hike is in the summer, although when you visit California will depend on a few factors.

This Mojave Desert mountain range is fun to hike in the off-shoulder months as well because there are fewer crowds.

The higher elevation peaks like Mt. Baldy and Baden-Powell receive heavy snowfall in the winters. If you want to hike these peaks during this time, it is highly advised that you have the required winter mountaineering gear

FAQs About the San Gabriel Mountains

What type of mountains are the San Gabriel Mountains?

The San Gabriel Mountains are a range of peaks in the Angeles National Forest. They are a part of the Traverse Range of mountains in Southern California.

Are there bears in the San Gabriel Mountains?

There are black bears in the San Gabriel Mountains. It is not likely for a black bear to approach hikers but you still want to keep your distance from all wildlife just in case.

What is the mountain behind Los Angeles?

Mount Baldy is the mountain behind Los Angeles. It is the highest mountain in Los Angeles County at 10,064 feet.

How many peaks are in the San Gabriel Mountains?

There are 124 named peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains. 


Now that you have the complete list to hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains, you are ready to explore! For more information on other hiking trails in California, check out my hiking article on the best National Parks in California.

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