Mt. Islip via Windy Gap Loop – Angeles National Forest

There’s many different trails around this area, we opted to take a loop around to hit the top . I’m very fond of loop hikes and this was quite lovely with the fresh coat of snow on the ground.

Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Angeles National Forest
13.4 miles
2,250 feet

Mt. Islip is at 8,250 feet just north of Azusa, CA. This trail to Mt. Islip sits in the Angeles National Forest and offers views spanning from the Mojave Desert to the Islands (Santa Catalina and San Clemente), of course also the views of the Los Angeles Basin below; of course this is on a clear day and we have many clear days in Southern California. Mt. Islip was named after George Islip, an settler who called home to the area in the early 1800’s.

Before heading into the area, call the local Forest Service Office to check on current conditions and any additional information.

Trailheads to Reach Mt. Islip
There are two main routes to reach Mt. Islip. One from the south (Windy Gap Trail at Crystal Lake Recreation Area) and one from the north (Islip Saddle) of the mountain itself; both are very beautiful routes.

Windy Gap Trail
This is the route we opted to take. Windy Gap Trail is located at the back of the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. The campgrounds and cabins are available for a fee; the USFS Visitor center that offers printed maps of the area; the kitchen and store called the “Trading Post, snack bar and café” offers snacks and some great home cooked meals. If you are interested in staying here overnight check out the Crystal Lake Camp Grounds Website for more information. There is also information on the Angeles National Forest Crystal Lake Page. The area usually fills up completely on weekends, so be sure to get there early if you would like to take this way in.
You can also opt to take the Islip Ridge Trail which is near the parking lot for the lake itself, quite the climb of 2,200 feet.

Islip Saddle
Islip Saddle is definitely less popular to the non-hiker and therefor a good spot to start up the trail to Mt. Islip. Islip Saddle is on mile marker 64.1 on the Angeles Crest Highway, see more in Directions below.

The weather can change at any time in the mountains, be sure to prepare. This area is known to get very hot in the summertime; hike early to minimize impact of any heat illness.
Crystal Lake Recreation Area National Weather Service – Elevation 5,778 feet
Mount Islip Mountain Forecast – Elevation 8,248 feet

Adventure Pass

To park your vehicle in this area, you will need an Adventure Pass. Find the closest Forest Service location or go to a major sporting goods store. The fees are either daily ($5 per day) or annual ($30). To obtain an Adventure pass find the closest Forest Service location or go to a major sporting goods store. The fees are either daily ($5 per day) or annual ($30). If you’d like to know more about the pass, read on the USDA Forest Service Recreation Passes & permits Website.


There are no special permits required, but be sure to let at least two people know your plans before you head out on your journey preferably family.


Crystal Lake Recreation Area Trailhead
From I-210 take San Gabriel Canyon Road (SR 39) north towards Crystal Lake Campground. Parking is available near the Windy Gap Trail; make sure you park in the day-use area.
Islip Saddle Trailhead
From I-210 take Angeles Crest Highway (SR 2) until you hit Islip Saddle. Look for mile markers along the way, parking is available on the other side of the road at mile marker 64.1. The trail is actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail here.

Maps & Books
Photo Teaser Maps & Books I Recommend
Trail Map Angeles High Country Map
Day Hiking Los Angeles: City Parks / Santa Monica Mountains / San Gabriel Mountains
Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels
100 Classic Hikes in Southern California: San Bernardino National Forest, Angeles National Forest, Santa Lucia Mountains, Big Sur and the Sierras

*Note: These mileages are not based on what we hiked. I don’t have AWD and it had snowed the day before, so we had to park 3+ miles down the road

Point of Interest Mileage Elevation
Crystal Lake Recreation Area Visitor Center 0 miles 5,656 feet
Windy Gap Trailhead 0 miles 5,830 feet
Deer Flats Road Crossing 1.1 miles 6,100 feet
Big Cienaga Trail Fork 1.4 miles 6,600 feet
Windy Gap/Islip Ridge Trail 2.5 miles 7,588 feet
Mt. Islip Turnoff 3.4 miles 8,005 feet
Big Cienega Trail 4.2 miles 7,580 feet
Deer Flats Road Crossing 5.0 miles 6,100 feet
Windy Gap Trailhead 1.1 miles 5,830 feet

I was itching for a snow hike as we haven’t had a chance to do one this year. I looked at the weather and saw that it was going to snow a fresh coat of about 6-12 inches. This was perfect because it showed Sunday would be a perfect sunny day; we just had to pack right for any kind of situation. We woke up around 6:00am and headed out; took us a little over an hour and half to get there. Before heading up to the mountain we stopped at the local liquor store that offered Forest Adventure Passes, since my annual pass had expired earlier this year.

We were almost at Windy Gap when we heard a loud noise and a scream. The group we passed earlier was standing under a tree below us in the distance and luckily nothing happened, but please make sure if you know things are melting, don’t stand under the trees when you are taking a break. I believe they turned around and headed back down the trail after that happened, because we didn’t run into them the rest of the day.

When we hit Windy Gap there’s a nice view of the Los Angeles Basin and the Mojave Desert. There’s a fork split where you can head down to Islip Saddle off the 2 Hwy, Islip Ridge which will take you up to Mt. Islip, or to Mt. Hawkins to the east. We turned left onto Islip Ridge and I really enjoyed this part of the trail with the massive views and how the trees were wind blown with ice. We were just at Windy Gap, I wonder how that name came up. From Windy Gap the trail flattens out. At the turnoff we realized what time it was and decided not to summit Mt. Islip; snow was getting slushier and we had to get back home by 5:00pm. The trail up looked a bit steep an and we decided we’ll come back when we have a little more time and in the summer to summit it one of these days.

We stopped for a quick coffee to warm up just past the turnoff to the summit. So happy we brought the jetboil. There’s a jetboil coffee press that I am definitely going to have to get into my gear box.

We trekked on towards Big Cienega Trail; the ridge was the flattest section of the hike. The snow was melted on Big Cienega Trail, still some slushy parts, so I finally got to take the microspikes off. We reached the campground and there was an abundant amount of people around. Cars lined up down the road parked with families checking out the snow. All the snow was gone off the road, we finally reached our car around 3:30pm and headed back home.

Note to self: Pack car chains, especially if I knew it snowed the day before.

*Originally hiked on March 18, 2018

3 thoughts on “Mt. Islip via Windy Gap Loop – Angeles National Forest

    1. The snow is already melted. This is in Southern California; most of the time we have no snow in the mountains only for a certain time of year. There is some snow at higher elevations, but almost all gone. It was actually very cold and windy that day, but super beautiful.

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