A robust algorithm has been developed for the automatic picking of P‐wave arrival times. Owing to the properties of the local extrema scalogram (LES), this algorithm finds all significant quasi‐periodic peaks and valleys without selecting a specific frequency. Consequently, the P‐wave arrival times can be accurately derived from the peaks and valleys of the seismic signal. A comparison of the proposed algorithm with the common short‐term average/long‐term average (STA/LTA) method and the Akaike information criterion (AIC) method is conducted using real data. The results show that our method consistently outperforms both methods, especially when substantial noise is present.