Henninger Campground is a sprawling trail camp in a scenic and special pine forest on Henninger Flats in the San Gabriel Mountains. From Altadena, it is a 3-mile one-way hike up Mount Wilson Toll Road to Henninger Flats, where the charming campground is accompanied by a visitor information center and tree nursery operated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The campground has around thirty first-come first-serve sites available year-round at no charge. Henninger Flats sits on a landing above steep mountain slopes, offering campers a shaded perch with panoramic views over the east end of the San Gabriel Valley.
Located at 2,550 feet above sea level, you should only expect to find slightly cooler evening temperatures at Henninger Flats than in the cities below like Altadena, Pasadena, and Azusa. The charming campground, visitor center, and tree nursery attract a lot of day hikers, but campsites are usually easy to come by. Dogs are allowed on leashes in Henninger Campground. The maximum stay is 7 nights. Fire rings, grills, picnic tables, vault toilets, and drinking water are available. As an added bonus, firewood is also provided for free!
Campsites at Henninger Flats are spread out on three tiers (Lower Campground, Upper Campground, and Fuji Campground) with around ten sites on each tier. In addition to family sized sites, larger group sites have picnic tables that can seat a couple dozen people.
You will pass through the Lower Campground as you enter Henninger Flats on Mount Wilson Toll Road. To reach the Upper Campground a Fuji Campground, continue another 0.3 miles up the road to a junction with a half-mile long campground loop road. Turn right to hike a short distance to the Upper Campground. For Fuji Campground, hike less than a tenth of a mile farther up Mount Wilson Toll Road and turn right down the other end of the campground loop, which quickly reaches Fuji Campground. In addition to these wide dirt roads, more direct footpaths connect the tiers of Henninger Campground. There are 16 numbered campsites on map posted on the Los Angeles County Fire Department website, but foresters posted at Henninger Flats say that the number of sites is closer to thirty.
Free permits are required to camp at Henninger Flats and to have campfires. No permit is required to hike up Mount Wilson Toll Road to Henninger Flats (and it’s free too), so trek up to the visitor information center to get you camping and campfire permits. Check-in at the visitor information center before setting up camp and remember to bring a photo ID to obtain the permits. The Los Angeles County Fire Department website explains that:
A County of Los Angeles Fire Department Forester is on duty at Henninger Flats seven days a week including holidays. Our friendly staff will issue campfire permits, good only for Henninger Flats camp stoves.
Within the Henninger Flats Visitor Information Center you will find a relief map of the San Gabriel Mountains and information about the history of Henninger Flats, the tree nursery, and animals in the San Gabriel Mountains.
William Henninger was the first settler to build a home on the flats that bear his name in 1880. He constructed a water system for a garden that would eventually became an important nursery for reforestation efforts in California. A test forest of pines, cedars, and other conifers was developed on Henninger Flats to help early Angelinos determine which trees would grow best around Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Fire Department website for Henninger Flats explains:
In 1892, Henninger was visited by T. P. Lukens and R. J. Busch. With Henninger’s permission, Lukens and Busch started the first experimental reforestation in California at the Flats in 1892 by planting some selected conifers.
Trees that thrived on Henninger Flats were planted all over Los Angeles County and beyond. Henninger Flats continues as a nursery even today, where trees used for conservation purposes are available to the public for free from December through March. To learn more about the nursery, ask a forester stationed in the visitor information center for a tour.
Outside the info center is a fire lookout tower that was brought to Henninger Flats from Castro Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, where it was in service from 1915 to 1971. Take the ladder up into the tower and peer through the glass windows into the well-preserved lookout station.
Fire lookout towers are a great part of the history of the San Gabriel Mountains and other mountain ranges in the west, so it is fitting that the lookout tower is being preserved by the Los Angeles County Fire Department on Henninger Flats.
To learn more about the trek to Henninger Flats, check out this longer description of the hike up Mount Wilson Toll Road to Henninger Flats. For additional information on Henninger Campground, contact the Los Angeles County Fire Department foresters at Henninger Flats by calling 626.794.0675.
To get to the campground: Take the 210 Freeway to Pasadena to exit 29 for Altadena Drive. Head north on Altadena Drive for 2.7 miles and turn right on Crescent Drive. At the next intersection you will reach Pinecrest Drive. Turn right and find the start of Mount Wilson Toll Road on the right, a tenth of a mile up Pinecrest Drive. Parking is severely restricted on Pinecrest Drive, so you may need to park a block from the trailhead. Hike three miles up Mount Wilson Toll Road to reach Henninger Flats.
Campground address: Mount Wilson Toll Road, Altadena, CA 91001
Campground coordinates: 34.193481, -118.089901 (34° 11′ 36.53″N 118° 05′ 23.64″W)
Use the map below to view the campground and create your own directions:
|Henninger Flats via Mount Wilson Toll Road|
This 6-mile round trip hike ascends 1,325 feet to a trail camp, tree nursery, lookout tower, and visitor center on a landing in the San Gabriel Mountains operated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The hike can easily be extended to 8.7 miles by exploring a loop above Henninger Flats.
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