This route is a nice alternative to the more widely used passages to Mt. Wilson up from Eaton Canyon (the Toll Road), up Little Santa Anita Canyon (the Mt. Wilson Trail) and up Big Santa Anita Canyon (from Chantry Flat).
Bailey Canyon is a beautiful and rugged little fissure extending into the San Gabriel foothills above Sierra Madre. It lies west of Little Santa Anita Canyon but there are routes that connect the two canyons and so one can craft a number of hiking routes from the Bailey Canyon Trailhead.
The Bailey Canyon Trailhead is also known as Grove Park. It lies at an elevation of 1100 feet within the city limits of Sierra Madre. From the 210 Freeway, exit at Santa Anita Ave. and go north. Turn left (west) on Grand View. Continue several blocks to Grove. Turn right (north) onto Grove and drive directly into the Bailey Canyon/Grove Park parking lot. There is a gate at the entrance to the park open “from dawn to dusk.” If you get there before the gate is open, there is parking along adjacent residential streets.
The Bailey Canyon Trail begins at the west end of the parking lot.
From the parking area, walk west and northwest through some trees and through a turnstile (yes, a turnstile). Proceed north on the closed asphalt road that skirts the west side of the Bailey Canyon debris dam. The asphalt turns into a dirt trail as you enter the canyon.
Early on you will pass a footbridge on your right (the footbridge leads to a short “nature trail”). Continue straight and in a few minutes you will come to a signed junction. A left fork goes up the creek to Bailey Canyon Falls. Take the right fork. You will be heading up the east slope of the canyon. The trail begins to switchback and in approximately 1 mile from the start you will reach MacCloud Saddle. In another 1.2 miles, you will pass an old cabin foundation in an area where the trail nearly meets the creek.
Continuing up the trail through the chaparral for another .8 miles brings you to Jones Saddle. Jones Peak (elev. 3,375’) is just .1 miles south of the saddle up a use trail.
From Jones Saddle, continue up the ridge directly north. In .2 miles you will come to a trail junction marked by a home-made wooden sign. To the right, a connector trail drops 700 feet into Little Santa Anita Canyon and onto the Mt. Wilson Trail. Your route is to the left, now following the ridge from Jones Saddle in a northwest direction. At this point your destination, Mt. Wilson (5,715 ft.), comes into view directly north. About .2 miles from the sign, you will come upon a bump marked on the USGS topo as 3,724 feet elevation. In another 1/2 mile, you arrive at a bump marked 4,163 feet on the topo. Although unnamed on the topo, this bump is locally known as Hastings Peak. The peak is decorated by an American flag atop a large flagpole. The flagpole has a summit register box attached to it.
View northwest along ridge connecting the top of Bailey Canyon/Jones Saddle with the Mt. Wilson Toll Rd. May 21, 2006
After the two bumps, the ridge gets really interesting. It drops dramatically for about ½ mile and then ascends very steeply to connect with the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. At this point, you are 5 miles from the start at an elevation of 4,300 feet. The Mt. Wilson Toll Road comes up from Eaton Canyon, which canyon starts to the west of the ridge you are on.
The Northwest Ridge Connecting the top of Bailey Canyon with the Mt. Wilson Toll Rd. as seen from the Toll Rd. May 21, 2006
Ascend the toll road and pass a major trail junction in about .75 miles. In another mile, you will come to a section of the Mt. Wilson Trail that angles diagonally to the right off of the toll road. This trail will take you to the southeast end of the paved summit in another .75 miles. Your other option is to continue on the toll road on a longer route to the northwest end of the summit.
The round trip for this route (taking the Mt. Wilson Trail to the summit at the end as opposed to the toll road) is approximately 15.6 miles with about 4,600 feet of elevation gain.
This route can be done with trail runners, unless you are doing it in the winter when there might be snow at the higher elevations. Past Bailey Canyon, there are no water sources along this route.
Two things about Bailey Canyon. Most of the trail is exposed to the sun so you might want to avoid it during the middle of hot summer days. Second, the canyon is deep and relatively narrow. Accordingly, it would be best to avoid it during or shortly after rains. In 1994, a father and son were killed when a debris flow roared down the canyon as they were hiking.
Because the trailhead is not within the Angeles National Forest, no Adventure Pass is required when parking your car.
USGS 7.5 Topo: Mount Wilson