Sunset Ridge Trail, Altadena, CA

Sunset Ridge Loop (San Gabriel Mountains)


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Sunset Ridge Loop (San Gabriel Mountains)

    • Location: Angeles National Forest above Pasadena. From the 210 Freeway, take the Lincoln Ave. exit and head north for 1.9 miles. Turn right on W. Loma Alta Drive, go 0.6 miles and turn left on to Cheney Trail. Follow it 1.2 miles to a junction with Mt. Lowe Road (also known as the Sunset Ridge Fire Road). A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 per year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,450 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
    • Best season: October – May
    • Dogs: Allowed (watch out for poison oak)
    • Cell phone reception: Fair at the trail head; weak to none for most of the route
    • Water: None
    • Restrooms: None
    • Camping/backpacking: At Millard campground
    • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Yelp page here; video of a mountain bike ride down the Sunset Ridge Trail here
    • Rating: 6

Updated April 2018

City, mountain and canyon views meet local history on this hike in the foothills north of Altadena. While some veteran hikers might find this route a little tame, it makes for an enjoyable introduction to the area, providing a getaway and a good workout just beyond the edge of the suburbs.

Begin by following paved but closed-to-vehicles Mt. Lowe Rd. uphill for 0.4 mile. You pass a lower section of the Sunset Ridge Trail that heads down to the campground and the upper end of the Altadena Crest Trail. The upper portion of the Sunset Ridge Trail branches off to the left, taking you along the south wall of Millard Canyon. You will even see the waterfall far below you. After half a mile on the trail, the route to Dawn Mine branches off to the left. The Sunset Ridge Trail climbs a few switchbacks and continues along the south wall of the canyon. In the distance, look for seasonal Saucer Branch Falls.

Two miles from the start, you reach Sierra Saddle. A large flat area with a picnic table and views of downtown L.A. makes this a good rest spot (and a good turnaround spot for those short on time). The Sunset Ridge Trail continues steadily uphill, picking up another 500 feet of elevation gain in 0.8 mile to reach Mt. Lowe Road, 2.8 miles from the start. This spot was once a stop on the Mt. Lowe Railway known as Cape of Good Hope.

For hikers who don’t mind pavement, the quickest option is to follow the road back down to your starting point for a 5 mile loop. Besides its efficiency, this route also provides some impressive views which on clear days can include Catalina Island, the Santa Monica Mountains, the Puente Hills, downtown L.A. and more. Other options are to retrace your steps (5.6 miles round trip) or to continue on to Echo Mountain (1.6 miles round trip with an additional 500 feet of elevation gain, mostly on the return) or Inspiration Point (another 5-6 miles round trip with 1,000 – 1,750 feet of elevation gain, depending on the route).

Mt. Lowe Road, San Gabriel Mountains
Start of the hike on Mt. Lowe Road
Sunset Ridge Trail, Altadena, CA
Start of the Sunset Ridge Trail
Sunset Ridge Trail, Altadena, CA
Greenery on the Sunset Ridge Trail
Sunset Ridge Trail, Altadena, CA
Poppy on the Sunset Ridge Trail
Sierra Saddle, Sunset Ridge Trail
View from Sierra Saddle
Sunset Ridge Trail, Altadena, cA
View from Mt. Lowe Road and the top of the Sunset Ridge Trail
Mt. Lowe Road, Altadena, CA
Descending Mt. Lowe Road
Mt. Lowe Road, Altadena, CA
Dusk on Mt. Lowe Road

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.

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