Shortcut Saddle to Vetter Mountain Road via Silver Moccasin Trail

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View from the Silver Moccasin Trail, Angeles National Forest, CA
Descending from Vetter Mountain Road (Mt. Wilson, Markham, San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Disappointment and Barley Flats)
Silver Moccasin Trail, Angeles National Forest, CA
Sun through pines on the Silver Moccasin Trail

Shortcut Saddle to Vetter Mountain Road via Silver Moccasin Trail

    • Location: Angeles Crest Highway, between Mt. Wilson and Chilao Flats.  From I-210, head northeast for 18.7 miles. Just past the intersection with Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, park in one of the large turnouts on either side of the road.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 5.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
    • Suggested time: 3 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance, steepness)
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo maps: Chilao
    • Recommended gear: Long pants and sleeves; hiking poles; sun hat
    • More information: Trip description (to the Vetter summit) here; Map My Hike report here
    • Rating: 7

This hike explores the headwaters of Big Tujunga Creek and provides good views of the major front country summits of the Angeles National Forest. If visibility is good you may also get a glimpse of Orange County’s Santa Ana range and even the distant Palomars of San Diego County. The area is showing signs of recovering from the Station Fire and the trail, while overgrown in spots, is in good condition. Poodle dog bush encroaches the trail in some spots, although it’s not as bad as in some Station Fire burn areas.

Silver Moccasin Trail, Angeles National Forest, CA
0:00 – Trail head on the Angeles Crest Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the highway, follow the trail northeast as it descends into an attractive woodland of pines and black oaks. You drop 450 feet into the upper reaches of Big Tujunga Canyon, crossing a tributary at 0.7 miles. The trail then runs alongside the canyon itself, heading east (ignore a use trail that crosses the stream). At 0.9 miles, you cross the stream and soon after begin a long, steep and largely exposed ascent. Over the next 1.8 miles you’ll gain 1,250 feet but as you climb, your efforts are rewarded with better and better views. Keep an eye out for thin wires holding a retaining in place (potential tripping hazards).

Big Tujunga Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
0:21 – Tributary of Big Tujunga Canyon (times are approximate)

After a steep group of switchbacks, the trail finally levels out and you’ll get a glimpse of your destination: a row of pines on a ridge. At 2.7 miles you reach Vetter Mountain Road where you can sit at a picnic table and enjoy a view to the west including Mt. Wilson, San Gabriel Peak, Strawberry Peak and more.

Big Tujunga Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
0:27 – Big Tujunga Canyon

This is a good turnaround point for a day hike (remember, you will have a significant ascent on the return so rest up). However if you have time and energy, you can continue to Vetter Mountain’s summit, a 3-mile round trip with 400 feet of elevation gain from this point. You can also continue down the Silver Moccasin Trail to the Charlton picnic area.

Angeles National Forest, CA
1:30 – Pines above Vetter Mountain Road (turnaround point)

Text and photography copyright 2016 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.


  1. Hi David – did this yesterday (went on to Vetter, which we’ve done before from the campground and found 2 guys cooking over a cookstove in the overlook “shelter”… they thot there was a rattler under the boards. I had to look – it was a gopher/marmot). Your description and recommendations are, as always, perfect. I did remove a faded pink plastic tape on a branch near the use trail – it’s deceptive. And perhaps would add a warning – about 1/2 mile (very approximate) from the top of the ridge, there are some exposed supporting wires where the dirt under them has eroded and one can easily trip – perhaps half a dozen of them… furthest south marked with yellow tape, but coming down you might not notice them until you’ve tripped.

    1. Thanks for reminding me about the wires, I’d meant to mention them but had forgotten by the time it came time to write up the hike. I added mention of them. Thanks also for pulling the pink tape down.

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