Hike to Conder Observatory (Mt. Piños) from the Nordic Ski Hut

Rate this Adventure Mount Piños Parking, Frazier Park, California, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    3.32 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    457 Feet

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Often empty, secluded, quiet, condors, coyotes, cougars, deer, rabbits, and black bears throughout the area. The drive may be the hardest part, but it's worth it, especially if you take your time.

Any drive up the I-405N or I-5N is going to result in some pain: Either you leave early enough to avoid traffic, or you are sitting in some slowness for a while. But once you turn onto Frazier Mountain Road from the interstate, you are in a completely different world. It could be 85° in Los Angeles, and it will be raining and/or snowing in the region. So dress in layers. Also, the drive can be made in winter, but it depends on road conditions.

As you meander along the valley roads, the small towns give way to ranches, youth camps, and logging roads, surrounded by pines, buckwheat, and sagebrush. It's not surprising to drive up in the morning with clear skies, and down in the afternoon with snow that severely reduces your visibility. Or vice versa.

Heading up the Mt. Piños road itself, you pass a myriad of campgrounds and vista points. Take advantage of them.

Park at the end of the pavement, in a large parking lot that is usually also occupied with porta-johns. There is also a hut for the Nordic Ski Club. I've never seen it open.

Two options: Pitch a camp and hike (or lay-about, I'm not your boss), or leave your stuff in the car and come back to pitch a camp. Depends on the risk you're willing to take with bears.

Once you've made your decision, start along the path above the parking lot. It goes out a few yards, then turns to your left. From there, just follow the widest path up. If it has been snowing and raining, with variable temperatures, prepare for some ice. There are no bad falls or precipices at this point. Or ever, really. The trail levels off, relatively speaking, and opens up even more. During the right time of year, especially after a wet winter, you can see wildflowers blooming along the paths. Speaking of paths, if you're so inclined, you can take these extra paths to hilltops and cliff-edges to get even more impressive vistas.

Keep going along the main path, and keep to the right. Eventually, you'll see the Conder Observatory (a dome and some antennas). Sit up there for a while and take in the view. You can continue to go further along the trail for even more incredible views, but make sure you get back to your car before dark. Temperatures can plummet and the winds generally pick up. Also, if you're cooking over a fire, it helps to get it started before it's too windy.

And please, remember to pack it out if you packed it in.

Pack List

  • US Forest Service Adventure Pass
  • Water - no place to refill up top
  • Wet wipes - no water
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Cooler
  • Snacks and real food
  • Tent for a wind-break (or to overnight)
  • Hiking boots or sturdy trail shoes
  • Moisturizer - for the drier skin
  • TRASH BAGS. No, seriously, trash bags.
  • Gloves/mittens
  • Tire and shoe chains in the winter
  • Firewood/kindling - if you're so inclined
  • Matches or other fire-starter.
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Charlie Jasper

Creator of Grubbing with Grizzly, a show on the YouTubes, slowly but surely, destined to make Californians rugged again.

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