Henninger Flats


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View from Henninger Flats
Phlox flowers on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Henninger Flats

  • Location: 2260 Pinecrest Drive, Altadena.  From the 210 Freeway, take the Altadena Drive exit and go north for 2.7 miles.  Turn right on Crescent and make another quick right onto Pinecrest Drive.  From the Inland Empire, take the 210 Freeway to Rosemead  Blvd.  Go north on Rosemead for 0.7 miles and turn right on Sierra Madre Villa Ave.  Go 0.3 miles and stay straight to go onto New York Drive.  Go 1.3 miles and turn right on Altadena Drive.  In 1.2 miles, turn right on Crescent.  Note: Weekend parking is not allowed on Pine Crest by the trail head, and week day parking is limited to 2 hours.   To avoid these restrictions, follow Pinecrest up to the intersection of Bowring, where you can park.
  • Agency: Henninger Flats Fire Station
  • Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness)
  • Best season:  November – June
  • USGS topo map: Mt. Wilson
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 7

This is one of the more popular and challenging hikes in the Angeles National Forest front country.  While the grade is steep and the terrain largely exposed, the views are great and navigation is simple.  The fire road goes close enough to the edge of the cliff to provide excitement without acrophobia.  With an early enough start, and extra water, this hike is doable during the summer.

From the gate at Pinecrest, head downhill into Eaton Canyon (this is also the access point for the popular waterfall.)  Across the way, you will see an intimidating looking path leading uphill.  Not to worry; this isn’t your route.  You head down to a bridge, where a path heads up Eaton Canyon.  Head across the bridge, and arrive at a split.

Remember when I told you that you didn’t have to go uphill?  I was messing with you.  Get ready to climb.  The Mt. Wilson Toll Road ascends steadily, winding up alongside the hill.  The good news is that the higher you climb, the better the views are, including downtown L.A. and the San Gabriel peaks above.  Even the toll road itself is interesting when viewed from the air, with its various twists and turns.

You pass by a junction with a single-track trail that descends back toward Eaton Canyon, and your route continues to switchback up toward Henninger Flats, which soon becomes visible.  Several benches allow you to rest and take in the scenic rewards.  Finally, at 2.7 miles, you arrive at the Henninger Flats campground.

Under the pine trees, you can rest at one of the picnic tables and enjoy the view, or check out some of the historic buildings here at the site.  Hardcore hikers can continue all the way up to Mt. Wilson, but most will probably happy with the accomplishment of having made it this far.

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7 thoughts on “Henninger Flats

  1. Hi David L

    Your article is most appreciated, this trail is superb for mtn biking -I decided yesterday to ride this trail every tues/wed/thur until I make it to Mt Wilson…got to Mt Fugi today, was stoked

    Do you know what the total mileage & elevation gain is to Mt Fuji?? -tried tofind it on Geo Ladders to no avail…

    Sincerely
    Susan Lee

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for reading. I wasn’t aware that there was a Mt. Fuji anywhere in L.A. – the only one I’ve heard of is the famous one. Good luck with your search, let me know if you find anything.

      1. When you get to the near where the trail to the restrooms splits off from the main road, look north. There’s a conical peak that vaguely resembles Mt. Fuji. In front of it is a sign that indicates the Mt. Fuji loop of camp sites. It’s probably 100-150 feet above the Henninger Flat to the peak. Didn’t know there was a bike trail to the top.

        Back around March, there was a large rock slide on the toll road, just past where the firebreak from Jones Peak intersects. Last time I hiked to Mt. Wilson (May 1), the road was still covered wit rocks. It might take some effort, but if you’re strong enough and agile enough to maintain your balance while rock-hopping and carrying your bike over your shoulder, it’s still passable by bike. It’s obviously easy to pass by foot, but impossible by motor vehicle. Or it may have been cleared entirely by now.

  2. Hey, my favorite tromping grounds! 😀

    Number one warning to make about the Pinecrest trailhead is that the gate at the top gets locked after dark, so don’t do this hike too late. Otherwise, it’s a 1-2 mile detour down canyon and back: One mile if you can find the “midway” access off of Altadena Drive (hard to find in the dark), two miles if you need to go all the way back to the nature center.

    Also, the Eaton Canyon falls are usually a worthy detour. A write-up of my last trip there is here. It’ll take some boulder hopping, but unless the water is high, it’s not too tough. Plus, from Pinecrest, it’s short enough that even if you get your shoes wet, you should be finished before you get any blisters.

    Last thing is that Pinecrest is also an access point for the Altadena Crest trail. If you live in the area and want to try something different, this one qualifies. It doesn’t have a real destination like going to Henninger or Eaton Canyon Falls, but it’s plenty hilly and will give you a good workout.

  3. You can also access this trail by parking at the Eaton Canyon parking lot which is on Altadena Drive just north of the intersection with New York Drive. You follow the Eaton Canyon trail until you come to a fork in the path. The fork is labelled indicating that the left fork goes to Eaton Canyon Falls and the right fork ascends to Henniger Flats.

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