Slide Mountain Lookout
- Location: Angeles National Forest, northwest of Valencia and Castaic. From I-5, take the Templin Highway exit. Head west (turn left if you’re coming from the south; right if from the north) and take a quick right on Golden State Highway. Drive 5 miles to the road’s end at Frenchman’s Flat Campground. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Santa Clarita and Mojave Rivers Ranger District
- Distance: 11 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,600 feet
- Suggested time: 5 hours
- Difficulty rating: R (distance, elevation gain)
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo maps: Black Mountain
- Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here; ANF Fire Lookout page here; video taken at the lookout here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 8
Slide Mountain (elevation 4,631) is one of the taller peaks in the western corner of the Angeles National Forest and is home to an active lookout tower which was constructed in 1969. The hike is an exercise in delayed gratification: it starts with a 1.6-mile walk on pavement followed by 2.3 miles of steady uphill, much of which is on exposed south-facing slopes. However, the views during the last mile and a half and from the summit are worth the effort. Navigation and terrain are easy, making this a great training hike for those who want to build their endurance. The mountain is conveniently located to the Santa Clarita Valley and is not too far from the San Fernando Valley or even downtown L.A.
Now the work begins. For the duration of the trip, the trail maintains a nearly steady pace of just over 600 feet of elevation gain per mile; it is never brutally steep but it also never lets up. The views get better and better as you climb, and depending on what time of day you are hiking, the ridges may block out the sun.
At 2.7 miles, the trail makes a hard left turn and becomes a single track. An unmarked memorial stands here, marking the approximate half way point (in distance) between Frenchman’s Flat and the peak, although the vast majority of the elevation gain still lies ahead. A beam placed on two rocks makes a makeshift bench for those who need to rest.
The trail continues its ascent, finally reaching a saddle at 3.9 miles. Here, you get excellent views to the west and south as well as the eastern vistas which have been with you during your climb. Slide Mountain’s round shape lies unmistakably before you; to the northwest is taller Dome Mountain, which serves as a Ventura/L.A. County benchmark.
On the opposite side of the saddle, the trail passes by some interesting sandstone outcrops before making a few switchbacks, passing through a pleasantly green (depending on the season) hillside. At 4.4 miles, the trail follows a north-facing slope with excellent views of Pyramid Lake. Though the only vegetation is chaparral and scrub oak, the ridge itself provides shade.
At about 5.2 miles, the metal structure of the lookout comes into view. One last switchback brings you to the summit where you can enjoy a 360-degree vista. If the weather is clear, the San Emigdio Mountains can be seen to the north; the Santa Monicas and Hollywood Hills lie to the south and Baldy and the San Gabriels are southeast. You also get a bird’s eye perspective on Pyramid Lake, I-5 and the paved road on which you hiked earlier–more than two thousand feet below.
Text and photography copyright 2015 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.