​We love this trail for it’s quiet seclusion and rugged landscape. In addition, you are rewarded with the opportunity to explore the ruins of an old stone cabin that was used by the fire lookout at the summit.

There are several route options for summiting Mt. Islip, but we enjoy doing it as a loop from Crystal Lake.

To begin your hike, park at the visitor's center, and walk north along the Windy Ridge trail through the campground for about a half mile until you reach the intersection with the Mt. Hawkins Truck Trail. Just after the junction the trail will split, and here you will want to take a left and head up the Big Cienega Trail for about 1.8 miles. At this point you will come across the Islip Ridge Trail, and make a right. This section of trail is quite beautiful as you make your way across a craggy ridge toward the peak. Keep your eyes peeled through this section of trail, as both of the times we did  this hike we encountered a heard of bighorn sheep in this area! After about a mile, head left at the junction that is marked for Mt. Islip. This will take you up a few switchbacks, and finally to the summit!

We always enjoy a great view after working hard to bag a peak, and Mt. Islip does not disappoint. To the north, you can see the Devil's Punchbowl, and out into the high desert, while looking south you can see Saddleback Mountain and the coast on a clear day. Plus you can explore the ruins of an old stone cabin and fire lookout that was used up until the 1930s.

When you are ready to head back, retrace your steps to the Islip Ridge Trail, however, this time take a left toward Windy Gap. At the Windy Gap Junction, head right down the Windy Gap Trail for about 1.4 miles until you reach the Big Cienega Trail. This will complete your loop, and from here you can retrace your steps back to your car by taking a right and heading down the last mile of the trail.

The Crystal Lake Cafe across from the visitor's center is a great place to refuel with a burger and beer after your trek.  

Pack List

  • Forest Adventure Pass
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Water/Snacks
  • Camera
  • Sun Protection
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RT Distance 8.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 2450 Feet
Activities Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Loop
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Wildlife

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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