Distance (round-trip)

6 mi


3 hrs

Elevation Gain

1219 ft




A just over 6 mile out-and-back trail to two prominent peaks to the west of Mount Baden-Powell. With a stretch of spectacularly-designed trail, lots of shade, and phenomenal scenery with not a whole lot of elevation gain, this is a great way to introduce yourself to this area of the San Gabriels and plot out future trips. If you want to spend more time here, there are plenty of connecting trails to other nearby peaks and canyons.

Throop Peak (pronounced “Troop”) lies along a ridge just south of a large bend in the Angeles Crest Highway, to the west of Mount Baden-Powell. I wanted to explore more of this newly-opened area of the Angeles National Forest, but didn’t want to drive all the way out there for a single short trail, so decided to add nearby Mount Hawkins to the trip.

The parking area is very easy to find. Dawson’s Saddle is clearly marked with a large, visible sign on the road. If you happen to miss that, you’ll most likely see the cars parked on the north side. This is your cue to join them. Park, suit up, hang your Adventure Pass, then cross the street to the south side and walk a few hundred feet to the east, where you’ll see this:

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 1

Start climbing up these switchbacks, and you’re on your way. And don’t get scared! Unlike nearby Mount Baden-Powell, this trail makes very minimal use of the switchback. You’ll really only encounter them in this first 0.3 miles of trail – and only the very first one is exposed like this.

There has been a bit of confusion as to where, exactly, the trailhead is – there is a shed just as the Angeles Crest Highway makes an eastward turn that has a small parking area. There is a series of very steep switchbacks directly across the street from that parking area, but the easier and more official trailhead is just a few hundred feet to the east, near where the road turns south again and a much larger parking area on the north side of the road.

This is the Dawson Saddle Trail, built by Boy Scout volunteers in 1982, and I’ve really got to hand it to them – they built a fine stretch of trail. The elevation gain is almost unnoticeable, and after you get that first small barren switchback out of the way, the trail meanders through some beautiful stretches of pine forest. It’s one of the nicest trails I’ve hiked in a long time.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 4

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 6

The first 1.1 miles of the trail walk through this heavily shaded area, but then reaches a long, very gentle incline along Throop Peak’s north ridge. There are a few use-trails here that leave the established trail and meet up again later, but they seemed to add elevation and not save a whole lot of distance. Hopefully, you’ll be digging the Boy Scouts’ work as much as I did that you’ll just want to stick on the main trail anyway, using the clearings along the ridge to take in your first expansive views of the Devil’s Punchbowl and Antelope Valley to the northwest.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 9

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 12

The trail continues in a generally southern direction until about the 1.7 mile mark, where it makes a sharp turn toward the east. You’ll probably think you missed a turn somewhere, as it will seem like you’re now hiking away from the peak, but don’t worry – you’re still on the right track. The trail here hooks around to the ridge on the northeast side of Throop Peak, where it meets with the Pacific Crest Trail at about the 2 mile mark. Enjoy the views of the west side of Mount Baden-Powell, and the still fairly-thick pine groves.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 15

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 14

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 20

At the 2 mile mark, turn right to head south on the Pacific Crest Trail, moving away from Mount Baden-Powell. The trail to the summit of Throop Peak splits off less than a hundred feet on the PCT. It’s a small fork in the trail, which may be marked by a cairn. Veer to the right to head on the Throop Peak Use Trail.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 21

This trail is not nearly as well-kept as the Dawson Saddle Trail, and you’ll notice the path overgrown in several places. While this route may become faint in places, you’re usually able to see the trail amid the plants. Follow the ridge and make a few more switchbacks, and you’ll be approaching the summit in 0.3 miles. You’ll spot the tree-less summit in no time.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 23

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 26

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 27

When I hiked in, all of the plants near the summit were blooming, and the air was thick with buzzing bees and insects. But I guess they were too busy with their pollen-gathering to notice me, since nothing bothered me at all. I was able to sit down near the plaque honoring Amos Throop and soak in the views of neighboring Baden-Powell and Baldy, as well as see some of the lingering evidence of the devastating 2002 Curve Fire, which badly damaged the area. You’ll get a closer-view of the effects of wildfires in a bit.

When you’re done at the summit, head in a southwestern direction, down a steep but navigable ridge. You’ll see the longer ridge-line of the Hawkins Mountains right in front of you.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 28

Just keep heading to the southwest. The trail will go missing in a few hundred feet, but if you generally follow the ridge you’ll be ok. Keep looking south, and you’ll be able to make out the Pacific Crest Trail going east-to-west just below you. Keep on the ridge until it gets too steep or you get close enough to the PCT, then hop on.

Here, you’ll see some effects of the Curve Fire more up-close-and-personal. Countless trees are still charred and dead, but most of the grasses and small brush has bounced back.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 31

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 33

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 34

At about the 2.9 mile mark, the Pacific Crest Trail descends on the west side of the Hawkins Ridge, while the unmarked Hawkins Trail continues on the ridge top, heading south. Keep right to stay on the Hawkins Trail, which hops over a few more small bumps on the last 0.1 miles to the summit.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 41

From the small, rocky summit of Mount Hawkins, you’ll have outstanding views of the surrounding areas – including the canyons of the South and Iron Forks of the San Gabriel River, as well as Mount Baldy to the east and the Hawkins Ridge to the south, where Middle Hawkins, Sadie Hawkins and South Mount Hawkins – former site of an historic fire tower – can be seen.

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 47

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 50

… and if you’re extremely lucky, this little cairn-man will be pointing you directly at the summit of Mount Hawkins:

Throop Peak and Mount Hawkins 46

When you’re ready to head back, rejoin the Pacific Crest Trail and take it back around Throop Peak to the Dawson Saddle Trail, or, if you’re feeling like more off-trail climbing, head back to the top of Throop Peak and follow the northern ridge back to the Dawson Saddle Trail.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles" and "Discovering Griffith Park." Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.

Historical Interest


Views / Vista

Trail Map


Casey Schreiner Apr 27, 2018 10:04In reply to: [email protected]

CA-39 does NOT connect to the Angeles Crest Highway ... but, if you wanted to hit this peak, you could also reach it from the trailheads at Crystal Lake! You can follow the route we describe to South Mount Hawkins and then just keep on heading east on the PCT to Hawkins and Throop. It'll be a longer hike, definitely, but a shorter drive! :)

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[email protected] Apr 27, 2018 09:04

Hi Casey,

I live in Azusa by the 39 highway and am planning to do this hike Saturday morning. This hike sounds great! Do you know if I can get to the trailhead from the 39 or have to go around via Wrightwood?

Thank you and appreciate the help.

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David May 28, 2017 07:05

This is a great hike and I took my 8 year old son. I strongly recommend only beginning at the "more offical" eastern trail as suggested in the write up. As RJM60 stated there are very steep and eroded sections that are just not safe on the other trail which does connect to Dawson Saddle trail.

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RJM60 Aug 30, 2016 02:08

Finally got to do this hike this past Sunday 28 June 2016. Between getting a late start (around 2 pm) and just being slow uphill, I decided to only do Throop. When I arrived, I parked directly acroos from the trailhead. There were 9 other cars and I met 17 other hikers on the trails, which are all in great shape.

This time, I made it all the way to the peak. After resting a bit and having a sandwich, I decided to check out the use trail down the north ridge for trip down.

The trail was extremely easy to follow and showed signs of heavy use. It appeared to be maintained in some spots as there were some cut trees and rock borders. It joined the main trail exactly where I thought it would (just downhill of the left turn going up the main trail). I definately recommend going down this trail rather than up since there were some long runs of really loose dirt and because it's steep. I also recommend trekking poles. Thst said, if you're looking for a real challenge, you could try going up this route. It will cut about 1/4 mile off the trip (each way) but it is pretty steep thr entire way.

My downhill pace was double my uphill and I got backbto my car quickly. Only 1 car besides mine remained. I assumed it belonged to Garret and Tim who I passed on the way down. They were going to camp out on the peak (Throop) for the night to check out the backpacking geaf they werd putting together for longer trips.

It was a fun day. Dawson Saddle trail is popular once again now that the Crest Highway has reopened.

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Casey Schreiner Jun 27, 2016 17:06In reply to: RJM60 _

Good on ya! Summit fever affects us all ... but if you're feeling the effects of altitude it's always best to descend and try again another day. That peak isn't going anywhere soon! Good luck on your next attempt!

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RJM60 _ Jun 27, 2016 12:06In reply to: RJM60

Well I didn't try this hike until Wednesday, 6/1. I started on the "real trail" (the one with a sign) and got about 1.5 miles up the ridge when I started feeling ill. I rested a while then decided to turn around and try again another time. Weather was perfect but I wasn't up to the task. On the way down, I decided to try the "false trail" and met someone coming up. He didn't know it wasn't the real trail.

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heidi Jun 25, 2016 23:06

Did this hike today - still a bit smokey from recent fires, but overall very enjoyable. Accidentally started on the "wrong" trailhead (trust me - start on the eastern entrance - there is no post in front of it) - it was fairly ragged in places, completely washed out in a few places, made me nervous about stability (I obviously missed some prior comments!). The trail to Throop Peak is not marked - make sure you map out your route ahead of time. The "off-tail" route towards Hawkins - there were plenty of moments where I was left thinking "am I going the right way?" "did I tell people where I am going today?" But, the return on the actual PCT was very clear. Just wish this portion was a bit better maintained, but luckily I had the gpx file and was able to follow along.

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RJM60 May 30, 2016 01:05

Angeles Crest Highway opened today from Islip Saddle to Vincent Gap. Will do this hike Tueday.

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Casey Schreiner Nov 23, 2015 22:11In reply to: Ryan

The 2 is closed at Islip Saddle to 5 miles west of Big Pines. You can always check closures on the 2 at http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi

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Ryan Nov 23, 2015 22:11

Is it possible to get to Dawson's Saddle trailhead by car right now? Looks pretty close to the closed portion of the Angels Crest Hwy. and Google maps seems to think I need to walk a long ways.
Not gunna risk the long drive around Angeles. ANYONE KNOW THEN ANSWER?

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Should You Hike Here?

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