Chilao Campground is a hidden gem, and the perfect weekend getaway from the bustling city of Los Angeles. This campsite is located in the Angeles National Forest, about 26 miles north-east once you exit the 210 freeway in La Canada, just before Pasadena if you’re driving from the west. I heard this campsite was rebuilt just recently, after it got hit by the station fire in 2009.
I spent the night in Chilao with my husband on Halloween to serve as a trial-run for our future camping trips in National Parks. I looked for nearby sites, specifically in the Angeles National Forest, since I’ve never been there before. One of the first sites that showed up on Yelp was the review for Chilao Campground. I instantly fell in love with the photos, and the reviews for the place were great! Snapshots showed views of mountains far and wide, as well acres and acres of green pine trees. If you know me, you know how I love mountains so I knew we had to go for Chilao.
So Saturday morning we left our house at 4:00am and got to the campground at around 5:30am. We searched for the Manzanita Loop, campsite number 23. Based on my research, this was the best site in the area, and I was so excited that it was vacant when we got there! It had scenic views, mountains on the west side and trees on the east side. It also had this boulder which not only looks really cool, but it doubled up as our shade. We set up our tent facing the mountains and was surprised to see that the sun set right in front of our tent entrance! It was magical.
We looked for great hiking trails close to the area and found out that Mt. Hillyer was only a mile away, so we went for it. It was a lovely, moderate hike with a gradual incline. It was also nice to take breaks in between switchbacks to take a look at the view of mountains covered with pine trees.
After about 4 miles of hiking, we finally saw the huge boulders on top of Mt. Hillyer. We had fun exploring and climbing huge rocks, and we got a better view of the whole place from up there. Other than hikers, we also saw a lot of mountain climbers practicing here. I had also learned that this place used to be where banditos would hide their stolen horses in the past. I love trails with history!
After our tiring hike, we headed back to our campsite, had dinner by the campfire and watched the stars until we felt sleepy. Our see-through tent ceiling made it possible for us to see shooting stars just as we were about to retire. The best part of it all was waking up in the middle of the night to see the moon shining directly above us. It was an amazing experience, and I’m looking forward to more!
Have you tried other campsites in the Angeles National Forest? Let me know of ones I should check out next time!
P.S. If you’d like to see more, do check out my quick video edit for Chilao Campground!