Chilao – Charlton Loop

I returned for the second week in a row to the San Gabriel Mountains.  Why not when the weather is this perfect – clear, blue skies and temps in the low 60’s.  I followed a trail that connects the Chilao and Charlton campgrounds and then loops back around past a small observatory, totaling out at about 7 miles.


Chilao Campground is about 25 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway.  I stopped along the way to watch the morning Sun light up the clouds.

2     3     4   I began on a section of Silver Moccasin Trail.  At the trailhead is a memorial for firefighters lost in the line of duty.  From a high point I looked down on Chilao Campground, hidden by the trees.

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Photo 1 – I believe the peak in the middle of this photo is Mount Mooney, which I would pass by on the second half of the loop.  Photo 2 – Just to the right of Mount Mooney but further back, I spotted San Gabriel Peak, Mount Disappointment, Mount Lawlor, Strawberry Peak and Josephine Peak.

8     7     9   Many trees along the trail, burned in the 2009 fire, still have a lot of character.

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I dropped down into a ravine.  There is a junction about a mile in.  Follow the arrow sticker and go left.  Photo 2 – Mushroom with a wine glass shadow.

15     16     17   I crossed over a small wash and soon came to a single lane paved road.


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Although I don’t really like hiking on pavement very much, the road into Charlton Campground was really beautiful with a Wonderland sitting right below.

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Photo 1 – Melting Roots  Photos 3 and 4 – The paved road turned back to dirt before reaching the campground.  There is a ton of Poodle Dog Bush next to the main trail but it’s easy to avoid if you know what it looks like.

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29   I reached the bottom of Charlton Campground, marked by a small building and a white pipe gate.  I hoped to take the 1/2 mile long Wolf Tree Nature Trail which begins here, but found the entries choked with Poodle Dog Bush.

30   I made my way uphill along the paved road through campground and picnic areas.


33     32   Nearly at the top now.  I planned to eat lunch here but felt strong and decided to press on.

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When I reached the top of the road and made a right toward the highway, I saw the white dome of Stony Ridge Observatory.

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I exited Charlton.  My guidebook said to take the dirt road across the street, up and to the left.  This caused a minor problem as the road across the street starts as a paved road, not dirt.  There is also a fork in this road at the very beginning.  Don’t worry.  The two roads converge in a few yards.  The road soon changed to dirt, which is always a welcome development.  Cars use this road to get to the observatory.  It’s in decent shape, maybe a bit rough in some places.

40   At the crest of the road I reached a four-way junction.  To the left is the trail to the top of Mount Mooney.  Because someone had destroyed the “area closed” sign near the start of this spur trail, I had no idea I was not supposed to hike to the peak until after I had attempted to do so.

41     42     43   I probably should have known something was amiss because the trail was so rough with numerous trees lying across it’s path, as if they had been placed there on purpose.  It is a short 0.4 mile climb, but tough. When I neared the top of Mount Mooney the obstacles intensified, with dead brush and trees sticking up like spears.  Although I was right there I felt I had spent way too much time and energy on this trail.  I flipped around.

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Across from Mount Mooney is the slightly taller Devil Peak, shown in photo 1.


Incredible mountains stand across from here, on this day given a blue-ish appearance by the shadows from the clouds.

47     48   I returned to the road and took the “spur” road that leads to the observatory, marked by this gate.  The road was closed to vehicles, not hikers.


Now the views really began to open up.

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In about a 1/2 mile I reached a fork and took a right up to Stony Ridge Observatory.  It looks smaller up close.  Photo 4 – Tiles on the observatory walls.

54     55     56   After checking out the observatory I returned to the spur road and continued toward Devil Peak.  When I reached the end of the road and the beginning of the trail I noticed trees lying on top of the trail.  Although there was no trail closed sign, I wasn’t about to go through the same obstacle course I did when hiking up Mooney, as this trail seems steeper and looked to have a bit of scrambling.  I returned to the observatory, found a cinder block to sit on and ate lunch.


The Two Gods – I’m still trying to get my head around these mountains, but I’m pretty sure the big one on the left is Mount Waterman, and the peak on the right, or two peaks if you look closely, is Twin Peaks.  I think that’s correct.

58   Close-up on Twin Peaks, I think.

59   I returned to the main road and started on the last quarter of the loop.  I love those cotton ball clouds.

60     61   As I neared the end of the trail another hiker pointed out the location of an old mine hidden in the canyon below.

62   Although my guidebook showed a trail that runs behind the maintenance buildings that are across from the Chilao Campground entrance, I saw no such trail.  I walked up the highway the last quarter mile.


Wonderful day!  I’m going to keep coming back here until the weather turns nasty.

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