- 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: 5.7 miles (ascent via fire road; descent via fire break; 7.6 miles via the fire road in both directions)
- Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain, steepness if descending via the fire break)
- Suggested time: 3 hours
- Best season: November – May
- Dogs: Allowed (must be on leash at Chantry Flats; exercise caution on warm days and watch out for snakes)
- Cell phone reception: None for most of the route; weak in some spots
- Restrooms: Vault toilets at the trail head
- Water: May be available at fountains at the trail head or for purchase at the Adams Pack Station
- Camping/backpacking: Overnight parking is not allowed at Chantry Flats; however if you have arranged for drop-off and pickup, you can remote-camp in the Angeles National Forest. The vista point at the end of this hike is one of several possible spots for camping.
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- Recommended gear: sun hat ; hiking poles
- More information: Article about the hike here; AllTrails report here;
- Rating: 6
The San Olene Fire Road heads northwest from Chantry Flats, climbing 1,300 feet and almost four miles to a vista point with excellent views (pending good visibility) of the entire L.A. area, from Orange County’s Saddleback to Catalina Island to the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the Hollywood Sign. Since the route is a fire road and there are several microwave towers at the view point, this hike isn’t as popular as some of the other treks originating from Chantry Flats but on cool, clear days it’s a very worthwhile trip. One advantage is that after the first half mile, which is shared with the Winter Creek Trail, you will see far fewer hikers than on the other routes.
From the upper parking area, walk uphill on the paved road for 0.4 mile, past the picnic area to a hairpin turn where the Winter Creek Trail heads toward Hoegees Camp and Mt. Wilson. The road, still paved, climbs above Big Santa Anita Canyon, yielding some impressive views between the trees. At 0.7 mile, you reach a heliport site where the road becomes dirt. A steep (800 feet in just over half a mile) fire break heads uphill from the back of the heliport. It cuts about 2 miles off the trip but unless you are in exceptional shape and don’t mind a brutal climb, consider ascending via the fire road and descending via the break.
Much of the next mile of the fire road is shaded by oaks and your view also includes the upper reaches of Big Santa Anita Canyon. As you traverse the north-facing slope, the sights and sounds of civilization are all but eliminated. Two miles from the heliport, the trail cuts across to a south-facing ridge and at 3.4 miles from the start, you reach the upper end of the fire break. Those in for a truly ambitious hike can continue up another fire break on the right, climbing 2.2 miles (1,400 feet) to the junction of the Mt. Wilson Toll Road and the Winter Creek Trail. For a more moderate hike, continue another half mile on the fire road, past the first tower the end of the dirt road, 3.8 miles from Chantry Flats.
Here you get an excellent view of the San Gabriel Valley, notably the Santa Anita racetrack. You will likely be able to pick out cars heading east and west on the 210 Freeway as well. Dead ahead is the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Monica Bay.
After enjoying the view, retrace your steps and descend either by the same fire road or the fire break. Despite the severe grade, the soft terrain on the fire break is fairly easy to navigate so going downhill it saves a lot of time.
Text and photography copyright 2018 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Thanks for posting this. It’s an alternative I haven’t tried, yet. Never knew that the road itself could make a trail–I always cut off at the Upper Winter Creek trail.
One correction–the Chantry Flats gate is supposed to be locked at 8pm, not 10pm. I don’t know how prompt they are about locking it, but that’s what the sign at the bottom of the road says.
Thanks for the heads up, I made the correction.