Mount Hillyer is an easy peak to climb near Horse Flats campground in the Angeles National Forest. It is near Mount Pacifico and Bare Mountain to the North, Roundtop Mountain to the west, Vetter Mountain to the South and Winston Peak and Waterman Mountain to the East. There is some confusion where the summit actually is. The Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section (HPS) Hillyer Webpage states that the true summit is the southernmost bump along the ridge at 6215 ft. Topo maps show the summit to be at 6164 ft about 1/3 of a mile north and slightly to the east. Whereas this is not the highpoint, it is definitely a more prominent peak that the other bump. Regardless, both locations are a worthy objective and while you are on the ridge, I suggest hiking to both. There was a Sierra Club summit register near the southernmost bump, but all I could find was scraps of the old log book all over the ground just north of the south bump, it looks like some animal used it as nesting material. I could not find the can.
Whereas this is peak is not very exciting and hardly stands out from the ridge, the area is beautiful and the views along the ridge make this a worthy objective. The most attractive feature of the area I feel is all of the boulders along the ascent route from Horse Flats Campground.
This area also has some interesting history, as this excerpt from www.explorehistoricalif.com explains:
Long before Newcombs Ranch became a favorite stopping spot for a bite to eat for modern travelers going up Angeles Crest, East Chilao provided a remote refuge for Vasquez (El Bandito). West Chilao and Horse Flat, with a long narrow valley, and a secret trail, provided grazing grounds for stolen San Fernando & San Gabriel Valley horses. Mount Hillyer , overlooking Horse Flat, provided a rock fortress from any lawmen that might wander up after the bandits. Horses were often stolen from the United States government in Yuma , Arizona , taken up to Chilao where they were re-branded then sold down in San Fernando Valley . One time, a pair of extra large mules were stolen and brought to camp, also, but were too easily recognizable because of their size, and wound up being shot instead, so there would be no chance of the thieves being discovered. Before horses were taken to the Valley to be sold, Vasquez and his men picked the best for their own private use.
Getting ThereNOTE: As of 11/19/2007 the gate was closed a short distance along Santa Clara Divide Road making the approach much longer. It would be best to hike up from Chilao Campground Area via. Silver Moccasin trail near the old Visitor Center.
From the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and I-210, drive north on Angeles Crest Highway for 26.5 miles, just past Newcomb Ranch Restaurant, to the intersection with Sulphur Springs Road (Three Points also called Santa Clara Divide Road). Turn left (north). See Google Map of this Intersection and to calculate direction.
If hiking from the Horse Flats Campground, drive just over 2 miles, past the Bandito Campsite turnoff, to the Horse Flats Campsite Road and turn left into the campsite. The trailhead is near campsite #10. Since the campsite was empty when we hiked we just parked in the campsite, otherwise you may need to park near the entrance.
If you are planning the shorter ascent of the northern ridge, drive 2.8 miles down the road to a parking area on the left side of the road (see photo). Park here on your left.
There are 2 main routes to Mount Hillyer:
Route 1: From Horse Flats Campground
From the campsite near site #10 hike west along the trail (see photo). The trail is well marked and leads up along a scenic ridge of quality, beige granite and beautiful views. The trail heads west until if connects with the main north-south summit ridge then turns to heads north. The highpoint is easy to miss and is encountered shortly after reaching the main ridge. The summit as marked on the topo maps leaves the well marked trail about 1/3 mile along the ridge and heads east to a gentle summit with nice views.
You can also hike to the Horse Flats Campground via the Silver Moccasin Trail starting near the closed Chilao visitor center, which adds about 1 mile each way. See Angeles National Forest website.
Route 2: Via North Ridge
For a shorter, albeit less interesting, hike you can start hiking along the ridge starting from the Sulphur Springs road. See Getting There above for picture of trailhead and driving instructions. From the trailhead, simply follow the well-marked trail south up the ridge to the summit. You will first encounter the summit at 6164 ft as shown on the Topo maps and will need to leave the trail and head east (left) a short distance to the gentle summit. Then continue along the ridge about 1/3 of a mile to reach the true highpoint at 6215 ft.
This hike makes for a nice loop if you combine route 1 with route 2. It requires about 1 mile of walking back along the road if you don't have a car shuttle.
Here is a GPS Track of the route in kmz format, this can be viewed in Google Earth and provides a very nice tool to plan your trip and see the route options. You can also get the GPS track in .gpx format and view Google Maps HERE.
Will's Horse Flats Climbing Page
bouldr.net Horse Flats Climbs
avbeat.com's description of the area:
Horse Flats is the premier granite bouldering area of the greater LA area and is about an hour drive from AV (Antelope Valley). It also offers a limited number of top-rope problems. Depending on the season, an additional half hour to one hour hike is required for the approach. The area provides rock quality from good to excellent and a genuine sense of solitude despite being only about an hour drive from AV and LA. This area is located in the pines near the bikers bar of Newcomb’s Ranch at an elevation of about 5000 feet, providing an alpine escape from the heat of the surrounding valleys. Most would consider the spring and fall the ideal time to visit, but hard-core climbers brave the coldest temperatures of winter when humidity is low and friction is optimal to send their projects.
CampingThere are many campsites in the area operated by Angeles National Forest.
Horse Flats and Bandito campsites very close but are closed for the winter November 15 through April 1, 2007, snow permitting opening on that date or as soon as possible thereafter.
The Chilao Recreation Area are also closed for winter the same dates as Horse Flats. This campsite includes many nice campgrounds, which are a short walk to Horse Flats and are located south of Newcomb Ranch Restaurant.
External LinksFor GPS Tracks and Google Map, check out the following website:
Dan Simpson has a very nice website with details of this hike, as usual.
Localhikes.com has a description for a Mount Hillyer Hike also.
Plant Guide for Mount Hillyer Trail.