Claremont Wilderness Park offers a taste of the great outdoors

Looking east in 2023, the five mile loop trail can be seen snaking its way through the green terrain from miles away. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

by Peter Weinberger |

It’s amazing how a smallish outdoor park can have such a large impact with the public near and far. Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, located on 1,620 acres in north Claremont along the bottom of the San Gabriel mountain range, has been exceeding expectations for hikers and bikers since opening in 1996.

Open 365 days a year, CHWP is a mix of tame trails yet steep terrain. The five-mile loop trail remains a destination hike for the public, all while connected to more challenging trails, including the trek to the 3,300 foot peak of Potato Mountain, which offers panoramic views of the valley below. On a clear day hikers can see downtown LA skyscrapers and the Pacific Ocean.

There are many reasons the city calls it a “wilderness park.” Being out in the wild comes with challenges and cautionary tales that any person using the park should clearly understand. The terrain is generally steep, and summer temperatures can rise well above 100 degrees. Don’t expect a juice bar along park trails, which are populated year-round by wild critters of all sizes who generally tolerate us humans in their kingdom.

The City of Claremont has the CHWP well covered on their website and strikes a balance from “enjoy the park” to “follow the rules and be careful out there.” It seems at least once a year a hiker will be lost or injured. And since bikers and hikers share the trails, especially on the loop, it’s critical to keep your eyes open for bikers barreling down the mountain.

At elevations above 2,000 feet there is a noticeable change of seasons. In the spring grass is a vibrant bright green, the weather is cooler, and it can be wet, especially in the mornings. Summer brings the heat and dawn is clearly the best time of day for use, but also the most crowded. Fall tends to be more dry and brown, and days become shorter because CHWP is a daylight use park. Winter will be cool to cold, especially at the higher elevations, but also can be a wonderful time to beat the crowds. If it’s raining, the best idea is to wait it out. And yes, as seen by the photos with this story, it can snow in the park, which is always a lovely surprise.


The five mile CHWP loop trail turns from brown to white during a cold winter storm in February 2023. This was the second time in five years the park was covered with a blanket of snow. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


The park’s hours wax and wane with the seasons’ daylight hours. The park will close due to poor weather, high winds, excessive heat, flooding and other elements causing red flag conditions. If the weather is unusually hot, cold, or wet, the best advice is to check the city’s website for possible closures before heading up.

Keep in mind the steep terrain and hot weather will impact your pet, and most importantly, it should on a leash given the proliferation of snakes, bees, bobcats, bears, coyotes, deer, and more. Pets are sometimes rescued by park rangers and carried down the mountain.


A sunset view of the top of 3,300 foot Potato Mountain in 2023. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


Portions of the loop trail at sunset show weather erosion, making biking down the mountain slick and uneven. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


Finally, the CHWP is meant to be shared. It’s a wonderful place to get outside and exercise. Common sense will go a long way in making sure everyone can enjoy the great outdoors.

More information is on the City of Claremont’s website at


Rules and precautions
Claremont Hills Wilderness Park is primarily wild, with few alterations. The terrain is steep and rugged with no sources of safe drinking water. Visitors are advised to wear proper clothing and shoes, to carry water, and to be aware of possible hazards including bears, rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, bees, and poison oak.

  • Park hours must be observed. No after-hours use is permitted. Visitors in violation may be subject to a citation.
  • No safe drinking water is available beyond the park entrance. Do not drink from streams.
  • The park is subject to closure due to weather or hazardous conditions.
  • Groups of 20 or more are required to obtain a permit prior to using the park.
  • The cutting, pruning or injury of native vegetation or digging of any ground surface within the park is not permitted.
  • Hunting, trapping, or harvesting of any living or dead thing is not permitted.
  • The possession or use of firearms, air guns, bows and arrows, slingshots, or other weapons is not permitted.
  • For your pet’s protection, dogs must be kept on a leash of less than six feet in length at all times.
  • In consideration of other visitors, please remove your dog’s waste products from the roads and trails.
  • Glass containers can start brush fires and are not permitted within the park.
  • Fires of any kind including smoking, camp stoves, flammable liquids, or fireworks are not permitted in the park.
  • Possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages is not permitted.
  • Except for emergency and maintenance vehicles, no motor vehicles are permitted in the park.
  • Please take all trash and litter out of the park when you leave.
  • Stay on designated trails (along the fire roads) at all times.
  • Practice trail etiquette. Bicyclists and hikers must yield to horses. Bicyclists yield to hikers.
  • Bicyclists must maintain safe speeds at all times.


The heavy storms of 2023 turned CHWP a lush, deep green. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


The Wilderness Park is open daily, but can be closed for a variety of weather advisories, park maintenance, or emergencies. The park may be subject to automatic closure during red flag conditions as a preemptive safety measure to protect life and property, with alerts monitored through the National Weather Service. Fire, heat, heavy rain, winter storm, flooding, thunderstorms, high winds, earthquake, road and trail maintenance, and requests by law enforcement, as well as any other disasters may also result in closure.


Thick brown smoke from the Bobcat Fire blanketed the park in September 2020. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


Parking prices range from $5 to $10 for four to six hours.

The City of Claremont offers six hours of free parking to all Claremont residents in the Thompson Creek Trail or south lot at Mt. Baldy Road and Mills Avenue.

Annual parking permits allow for a single vehicle to utilize the CHWP or Thompson Creek Trail parking lots for 365 days from date of purchase. Annual permits are available at Permits are also available during normal hours at Alexander Hughes Community Center, 1700 Danbury Rd., Claremont.


The first of two parking lots at the entrance to CHWP. Parking for non-Claremont residents ranges from $5 to $10 depending on the day of the week, with fees used for maintenance. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


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