Dan's Hiking Pages: Hikes in the San Gabriels and Beyond
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Hoegees Camp Loop
Big Santa Anita Canyon / Winter Creek / Via Chantry Flat
Angeles National Forest / Southern California

Trail Stats
Mileage 5.1
Trailhead 2200'
Roberts Camp 1800'
Hoegees 2560'
Upper Winter Creek
Trail high point
Total loss/gain 1080'
Gain/loss per mi. 424'
The headwaters of Winter Creek begin at Mt. Wilson and Mt. Harvard and flow east into Big Santa Anita Canyon. Lovely Winter Creek offers some of the most delightful hiking in the front range of the San Gabriels. Even on a warm summer day, the thick riparian forest of the canyon floor renders shade and relief from the pounding sun on the slopes above. The cool, sparkling water in Winter Creek dances playfully over check dams and down the canyon, providing relaxing background music for your stroll through this sylvan sanctuary.

This particular hike is a variation of some the possibilities that are described in popular hiking guides. Most of the hikes in Big Santa Anita Canyon are going be at least partially upside-down (that is, you hike down hill, than you hike up). I usually avoid upside-down hikes, but the rewards of traversing through this splendid canyon are well worth a little upside-down hiking.

This hike starts at Chantry Flat and heads down the paved road, following the first section of the Gabrielino Trail to Roberts Camp. Then it ascends Lower Winter Creek to Hoegees Campground. Next it climbs steadily up the south slope of Winter Creek, following Upper Winter Creek Trail. After some climbing, the trail gracefully descends back to Chantry Flat. One benefit of doing the loop hike in this direction is that you start the hike going downhill on a paved road in open sun, and than do the climbing in the welcoming shade of Winter Creek and north-facing slopes (rather than ending the hike by drugging up the sun-baked road).

Season: November - June

As a general rule in the San Gabriels, the front range is best hiked in the cooler months, and the back range is best in the warmer months. This front-range trail can actually be hiked all year long, but will be most enjoyable in the cooler weather. If you hike this trail in the hot season, it's best to go early in the morning or late in the day. See Seasons of the San Gabriels for a detailed description of minding the seasons.

Getting to the Trailhead:

From the Foothill Freeway (I-210) in Arcadia, take the Santa Anita Avenue exit and drive north to Chantry Flat, 4.6 miles. A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking. Due to popularity of hikes from Chantry Flat, the parking lot can fill up fast, particularly on weekends, so arrive early or be prepared to park along the road. Access Note: Chantry Flat is subject to periodic and extended closures. See Access Note below.
Google Maps Map to trailhead: Chantry Flat

Trail Description:

Start from the entrance of the lower parking lot at Chantry Flat. Walk past the locked gate and see a sign calling this route Gabrielino Trail. Hike down the paved road into Big Santa Anita Canyon. After 0.6 mile you reach Roberts Camp, the confluence of Winter Creek and Big Santa Anita. Take a few minutes to read about the history of the location. An option for this hike would be a trip to beautiful Sturdevant Falls, adding another 2.5 miles to your trip (see Sturtevant Falls hike description). But to continue on your loop, note that the trail sign points the way to Winter Creek Trail. Follow the trail upstream, west. In route you'll cross the creek about seven times as you enjoy a canopy of alder, oak, bay, spruce, sycamore, and willow. Watch out for poison oak and stinging nettle. Along the way you'll pass rustic cabins dating from the early 1900s. I counted 10 up to Hoegees.

After 1.5 miles from Roberts Camp (2.1 miles from the trailhead), you reach Hoegees Campground. This trail camp, popular with Boy Scouts, sits on a shady nook next to Winter Creek, featuring picnic tables, fire rings, wood stoves, and outhouses.

Big Santa Anita Canyon
Looking back northwest into Big Santa Anita Canyon toward Mt. Wilson.
Upper Winter Creek Trail continues from the upper end of the campground on the right. Immediately cross the creek and climb past the check dam up the slope, and after 1/8 mile (4 minutes) you reach the Lower Zion Trail Junction. Continue left, and in another few minutes, you'll cross the creek and come to the trail junction to Mt. Wilson, on the right. Continue straight and follow Upper Winter Creek Trail as it climbs southeast up the steep south slope of Winter Creek. Through the trees, you began to get glimpses of the ridges above and the canyons below. After about seven minutes the trail dips downhill for a few minutes, then back up, and after another ten minutes you start your decent, heading downhill all the way to Chantry Flat, 3 miles from Hoegees. Stay alert for poison oak. Sections of shade are a nice reprieve from the sections of open sun. The well-traveled, single-track Upper Winter Creek Trail ends at the paved San Olene service road. The sign reads 2.5 miles to Hoegees, 6.8 to Mt. Wilson. Go left on the road, and follow it down past the picnic area at the south end of the upper parking lot of Chantry Flat, about half mile. icon

Optional Routes:

First Water Trail
Here is an option to avoid much of the paved road to Roberts Camp (adding about a half mile with an extra 200 feet of elevation loss and gain): On the paved road descending from Chantry Flat, as you round the second U-bend (0.2 mile), notice the trail sign on the right. Leave the road and follow the narrow First Water Trail heading south then eastward descending into the canyon. After three switchbacks (about 15 minutes from the road) you reach a trail junction near the bottom of the canyon. Turn left (north) and follow the trail upstream 0.75 mile to Roberts Camp. Rejoin the main description above ascending Winter Creek Trail to Hoegees.

Santa Anita Ridge and San Olene Road
If you feel adventuresome and would like to add 3 or 4 miles and a wider variety of scenery to your hike, here's two options. Above Hoegees Camp and beyond the Mt. Zion Trail junction is a trail junction to Mt. Wilson. Rather than going straight (on Upper Winter Creek Trail to Chantry Flat), turn right (west) and follow the trail ascending toward Mt. Wilson. You'll pass through some of the richest and most dense forest in the front range, dominated by oak and bay with a sprinkling of spruce. Poison oak abounds, requiring long pants or plenty of vigilance to avoid it. You'll huff and puff as you zigzag the north-facing slope. In 1.5 miles you reach a signed junction (Mt. Wilson 3 Mi.; Mt. Wilson Trail Jct 3/4 mi.; these both point to the left, but someone crossed them out and pointed them to the right. The 3/4 refers to the old Mt. Wilson Trail ascending from Little Santa Anita Canyon and intersecting Manzanita Ridge). Turn left, following the less-followed path about 30 yards to a low point on the ridge (3920+'). You'll have striking views down into Little Santa Anita Canyon and across to Hastings Ridge and Jones Peak.

From this ridge you have two options. One is to return back down the trail and finish your hike on Upper Winter Creek Trail to Chantry Flat, 4.25 miles from where you stand (total hike distance: 8.1 miles). The other option is to turn left and follow the undulating ridge east and south toward the San Olene service road (1.3 miles) and then follow the road back to Chantry Flat (3.75 miles) (total hike distance 9.0 miles). This cross-country ridge route follows an old fire break and is steep with loose footing in places. You'll wade through thick brush at times, so long pants are in order. The roller-coaster path takes you over several knobs. You'll have some nice views of the back range, including Twin Peaks, Mt. Islip, Hawkins Ridge, and to the west, Monrovia Peak. At high point 4101 the ridge curves south and generally descends as you go up and over several more knobs, 3755, 3760+, and 3583. From here you have a clear view down to the San Olene communications equipment. The trail down from knob 3583 gets wider and shows signs of heavier use. Just past the San Olene water tank, a service road cuts back left (north). Follow this wide dirt road down 3.75 miles to Chantry Flat. The last 0.7 mile past the Chantry Flat Heliport (2477') is on paved road. icon

Hike Log
Hoegees Loop Hike

10:10 AM A: Trailhead (2200')
10:19/:30 B: Roberts Camp (1800')
11:13/:40 C: Hoegees Camp (2560')
11:44/:50 D: Lower Zion Trail jct
11:55/12:00 E: Mt. Wilson Trail jct
12:17 Highest point on trail (2880')
12:51 First view of Chantry Flat
1:10/:17 F: Upper Winter Creek trailhead
At San Olene Road
1:28 G: Chantry Flat
Locked gate at beginning of San Orlene Road
The Trail Junction Sign
at Roberts Camp:

(pointing north and south)
Gabrielino Tail
<-- Chantry .6
   Sturtevant Falls 1 1/4 -->
   Spruce Grove campgroud 3.1 -->
   Mt. Wilson 6.4 -->
(pointing east and west)
<-- First Water 3/4
   Hoegees Campground 1 1/2 -->
   Mt. Wilson 6 1/4 -->
   Chantry Flat 5 1/5 -->
Note: The 5 1/2 miles to Chantry seems to be in error. It should be 4 1/2. The sign states 1 1/2 to Hoegees and the signs at both ends of Upper Winter Creek Trail states 3 miles from Hoegees to Chantry.

View Topo Map
(364 K)

Trail Notes:
  • Access Note: Chanter Flat has been subject various closures over the years. The torrential rains of January 2005 caused major damage to the road to Chantry Flat forcing its closure (see photo). Bureaucratic incompetence between the three agencies that have jurisdiction over the road to Chantry delayed its reopening for well over a year. They even closed Chantry for the repair of picnic tables! Chantry Flat was finally reopened in summer 2006. The road continues to be subject to periodic and extended closures. See the Forest Service website for supposed updates, but realize that they are generally unreliable in providing timely information to the public. Best to call them at 626-574-5200 or the Sierra Madre Police Department at 626-355-1414.
         Read Tribune Editorials:
          - Chantry Flat road closure taking too long (2-7-05)
          - A taste of paradise (6-10-06)
  • Bugs: On June hikes in two different years, I experience tons of pesky bugs and mosquitoes, particularly along Winter Creek. On one of those hikes I had failed to bring repellent and the mosquitos ate me alive (since then, repellent is a permanent item in my "10 Essentials" bag that goes on every hike with me).
  • Creek Crossings: Because of the numerous creek crossing with no bridges, you'll want to avoid this route after a heavy rain.
  • Fire Permits: Even though there are fire rings and wood stoves at Hoegees Campground, be sure to check with the ranger as to permits needed any current fire restrictions that may be in effect.
  • Topo Map Error: The USGS map shows the lower Mt. Zion Trail meeting the Winter Creek Trail below (east) Hoegees Campground. However, the trails actually intersect above (west) the campground.
  • People Traffic: Hikes out of Chanter Flat are immensely popular, particularly on weekends. The paved section from Chanter to Roberts Camp is the heaviest (since many of those folks are heading to or from Sturtevant Falls). The crowds thin out on Winter Creek Trail to Hoegees (unless you encounter a troop of scouts) and foot traffic on Upper Winter Creek Trail can be reasonably sparse. On one hike I encountered a group of noisy teens on bikes who thought they were on a roller coaster at Magic Mountain rather than in a sylvan sanctuary.
  • Rainfall Record: Hoegees Camp has the distinction of holding California's Record Rainfall for a 24-hour period. It was 26.12 inches occurring January 22-23, 1943. See LosAngelesAlmanac.com.

Related links on Dan's Hiking Pages:

Trail Links:

  • Trails From Chantry Flat - by Tom Chester. Detailed mileage for the various trail sections for Chantry Flat and connecting trails.

  • Chantry Flat - by Tom Chester. A summery and history of past road closures.

  • Flora of Chantry Flat / Santa Anita Canyon - by Bob Muns presented by Tom Chester. List of 248 plants. Includes Latin name, common name, life form intro, flower period, and habitat.

  • Big Santa Anita - A good site with lots of information: trails, sites, history, cabins, photos, and links.

  • Adams' Pack Station - Since 1936, this yesteryear, family business has been the life-blood of 80 antique recreational cabins and Sturdevant Camp. Today, in addition to the pack service, they still operate a general store with food, refreshments, books, souvenirs, and Adventure Passes. Drop by and enjoy the rustic charm. The website provides lots of helpful and interesting information.

  • Canyon Cartography - For an old-school-crafted map of Big Santa Anita Canyon


  • Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County - by Jerry Schad (Wilderness Press: Berkley) - Area A-6, Trip 2: Hoegees Loop. Good trail description with historical background. His route is a little longer since it takes the First Water Trail rather then descending directly to Roberts Camp.

  • Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels - by John Robinson with Doug Christiansen (Wilderness Press: Berkley, 8th Edition, April 2005). Elements of this hike are described in hikes 41 through 44. Robinson's historical tidbits enhance the hiker's appreciation of the Big Santa Anita Canyon of yesteryear. Correction: He mistakenly places the mileage from the Foothill Freeway to Chantry Flat as 6 miles (it's actually 4.6 miles).

  • Los Angeles County: A Day Hiker's Guide - by John McKinney (The Trailmaster, 2006). "Winter Creek." Brief historical background and good trail description. Correction: He mistakenly places the distance at 6 miles (it's actually 5.1) and the evevation gain at 300' (it's actually at 1080'!).
Last Hiked: June 18, 2006 (Chantry to Roberts to Hoegees)
Last Hiked: June 27, 2003 (full loop)

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This page was last updated May 16, 2020.