Mt. Zion Loop in Big Santa Anita Canyon

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Spruce Grove Trail Camp
View from Mt. Zion

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Mt. Zion Loop in Big Santa Anita Canyon

  • Location:  Angeles National Forest north of Arcadia.  From Interstate 210, head north on Santa Anita Avenue (right if you are coming from the east, left if you are coming from the west).  After passing through a residential area, you reach a vehicle gate.   The road starts climbing up into the mountains, and arrives at the Chantry Flats parking lot after about 3 miles.  A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River District
  • Distance: 9.4  miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, trail condition, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: “Mt. Wilson”
  • Recommended gear: Hiking Poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: here; trip reports here.
  • Rating: 8

If you enjoyed the Winter Creek Loop and want a little more of a challenge, don’t miss this longer hike in Big Santa Anita Canyon.  It shares the first 0.6 and last 2 1/2 miles with the Winter Creek Loop, but also visits some lesser-traveled areas in the canyon and reaches the summit of Mt. Zion.  You can even take a short side-trip to Sturtevant Falls if you want.

From the Chantry Flats parking lot, head down the paved road.  At the junction at the bottom of the hill where trails branch off to Hermit Falls and Winter Creek, stay straight as if you were headed to Sturtevant Falls.  Soon you come to a split where the right trail heads to the waterfall, and the left fork is a horse-trail.  The middle trail is your route, which may be a little treacherous for some, involving some pretty close calls with the cliffs on the right.  (The horse trail will lead to the same spot, so you can take that route as an alternative).   If you are very careful, you can get an aerial view of Sturtevant Falls.

The trail continues its climb, following Big Santa Anita Canyon.  You meet the horse trail at Falling Sign Junction, and head right, soon arriving at the Cascade Picnic Area.   Less than half a mile later you come to the Spruce Grove Campground (3.5 miles from the start), a nice spot for lunch in the shade of some gigantic Douglas Fir trees.

Shortly after Spruce Grove, the Gabrielino Trail splits to the right and heads up to Newcomb Pass while your route heads left.  Take another quick left onto the Sturtevant Trail and a third left onto the Mt. Zion Trail.

The Mt. Zion trail ascends steadily without being too steep, and nice views of the canyon open up as you climb.  After a mile and a quarter, the trail starts to dip and a short spur heads left toward the summit (elevation 3,575 feet).   From the summit, on a clear day, you can get nice views of the canyon below.

After the summit, the trail switchbacks steeply down to Hoegees Camp, losing 1,000 feet in a mile and a half.  When you join the Winter Creek trail, head right and then take a left at the next junction, on the Upper Winter Creek trail.  From here, you follow the trail 2 1/2 miles back to the parking lot (take a left when you get to the fire road a quarter mile from the end).

If you want to make your trip even more challenging, you can continue to add more mileage by heading up to Newcomb Pass on the Gabrielino Trail or Mt. Wilson on the Sturtevant Trail.   Most hikers, however, will probably find this loop to be more than adequate a workout.


  1. i just did this trail and it was spectacular. not too dificult even though we did the upper falls tral on the return to the parking area. im lookin for more hikes like this that are open.

  2. Hi Tim,did Zion from Upper Winter Creek to Upper Falls(Reverse of your hike)Nice one!Try Ice house canyon trail,follows a canyon/creek drainage with some nice pool.Similar to chantry,leads to saddle that gives you 5 options:Return down the canyon,go left on the three T trail,head straight down the head of the west fork of the San Gabriel,or go right and hit the trails to Ontario Peak or Cucamonga Peak.Doing Ice House Trail to the saddle is similar in vert/miles to doing Mt Zion.You will love it.

  3. Long, Hard Hike, But Worth It. It Took Our Group Much, Much Longer to Complete the Loop. 8 Hours! No Time to Relax. No Time for Putting Our Feet in the Water. No Time to Stop at the Falls! Enjoyed the Workout but…. Too Much for Some of the Less Experienced People in My Group. Next Time We Will Go Up to Spruce Grove and Back at Max. I Want to Stay at Camp Sturtevant Overnight, Then Continue the Loop the Next Day. It Would Be Much More Enjoyable and We Would be Supporting the Last Camp Left. Camp Sturtevant is Hurting Real Bad for Funds to Stay Open. It May Very Well Be Closed in the Near Future.

  4. Great hike – enjoyed every minute of it, although I felt the summit of Mt. Zion was slightly anticlimactic.

    Hiking up the canyon was the perfect way to escape the 100 degree heat today!

    I’m not super-fit by any stretch of the imagination and managed the loop in 5 hours including a stop at the falls and a decent lunch stop on Mt. Zion.

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