Mount Wilson Observatory
San Gabriel Mountains, California
May 12, 2012


Mount Wilson is the famous peak overlooking north Los Angeles, home to many observatories and communications towers. The peak’s towers are visible from most points around the 210-freeway in Monrovia, Burbank, Glendale and the surrounding areas. It is another place I never visited in my years living in Southern California.

I had just finished my hike up and down Mount Lukens, and after cleaning up, I got myself onto state route CA-2 in Glendale, following it up into the mountains. The road gains steeply and steadily, winding in with the contours of the lower San Gabriel Mountains. Mount Lukens was immediately nearby at first, but in time I was being led away as the road generally pointed me north and eastward. The two-lane highway is very scenic and popular with bicyclists. I mostly crept along at 30 miles per hour in 3rd gear, and still it felt like I was going fast.

After about a half hour I had arrived to the Red Gap Junction (home to a Forest Service Ranger Station) and the side road (Mount Wilson Road) leading to Mount Wilson. I turned and started up this road, again bypassing various bicyclists and hikers out on the road itself. This road is narrower but still a fine road, and runs another 4 miles where it ends in a large clearing/parking area below a cafe. I rolled in and got an Adventure Pass, then poked around the immediate area at first, then started the short walk toward the observatories.

The walk is easy and fun, and designed to be self-guided with informative signs everywhere and a free (donations welcome) walk-in museum with interesting background about the peak itself, how it became an observatory complex, and how they got the big mirrors for the telescopes up here. I spent close to an hour on this “hike”.

The natural highest ground of Mount Wilson was graded flat and carted away a century ago, probably. During my walks I tried to find the highest ground and stepped on anything that seemed promising. A hill behind one of the solar observatories, behind a long shed-like building, seemed like the probable natural highpoint. The Sierra Club’s listings say the high ground out behind the café is the “accepted” summit, while the real summit is in with the fenced-off communications towers. I may not agree with that, but it’s not worth arguing. Mount Wilson is not really meant to be climbed. Besides, some higher peaks, like Occidental Peak and San Gabriel Peak, lie immediately west of Mount Wilson along the same ridge. Thus, Mount Wilson is really just the end of a ridge, conveniently jutting out above the L.A. basin.

Back at the café I had a hot dog and a coke, then walked a little more to get some views and photographs before started out again and driving the remaining 50+ miles along CA-2 to my folks in Wrightwood.

Photos (Click to enlarge)


Observatory Building

Different angle

As seen from the parking area

Mt. harvard

The Mt Wilson Observatory Road

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(c) 2012 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.