A leg-busting ascent to the highest point in Los Angeles County, with a neighboring mountain thrown in for good measure. This is a classic hike through some incredible subalpine scenery, and is a MUST HIKE for anyone who lives in or is visiting Southern California.

The Mount San Antonio (or, Mount Baldy, if you’re feeling colloquial) trail is hands-down one of the best in Southern California. It’s the highest peak in the Angeles National Forest at 10,064 feet, and its tree-free summit provides incredible panoramic views of almost every single kind of SoCal terrain — from desert to city to mountains to ocean. There are two popular routes to the top – and they’ll both make you work for it. But once you get there and collapse high above the rest of civilization, it’s absolutely worth it.

I did this trail last summer, and was concerned it may be a bit chilly around this time of year, but when I arrived at Manker Flats, I had to take off my fleece and toss it in my backpack instead — these bigger mountains can make their own weather sometimes, so you should always be prepared to hike through a few different temperature zones.

The fire road leaving Manker Flats had very recently been repaved — so the first three-quarters of a mile were on fresh asphalt. Your feet may not be happy, but the views of the Baldy Bowl and the distant summit are more than enough to take your mind off the urban footing.

At that 0.5 mile mark, there’s a small spur trail that leads to the bottom of San Antonio Falls. If you can get there on the first few warm days of spring, you can get absolutely drenched by the 80 foot waterfall. Assuming, of course, we’ve had some snowfall over the winter. Even with our record-breaking bone dry winter of last year, though, the falls still had a bit of water left in ’em.

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The fire road becomes unpaved at this point and continues on a long and winding path up to Baldy Notch. It’s a pleasant, easy walk with plenty of views of the San Antonio valley, but compared to what comes later on in the trail, it’s a bit boring.

san antonio and harwood 002
In fact, if you choose to do so, you can skip parking at Manker Flats and instead pay a few bucks to park at the Mount Baldy Ski Lift, which will cart you up to Baldy Notch in just a few minutes and cut about 1300 feet of elevation gain and just under 3 miles off your legs. But it’s cheating. There, I said it.

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When you get to Baldy Notch at 3.3 miles, you can stop in the ski shack and grab a snack, take a break, and warm up if it’s chilly. When you’re ready to keep moving, head northwest toward another ski lift.

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Here, the trail gets a little tricky to follow. The “proper” route follows an unclear fire road to the left of the ski lift towers, which will take a few short switchbacks to climb to a ridge overlooking the Antelope Valley. I forgot this, and instead followed a snow fence that ascended right up a ski slope. If you think it’s fun going down a ski slope, I can assure you it most definitely is not fun to hike up one. It is, however, a short and direct route with some pretty impressive views of the San Bernardino Mountains to the east.

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Generally if you head in a north-northwesterly direction, you’ll find the Backbone trail with no problems. It’s only right near the lodge that the trails and roads are unclear. Soon, you’ll reach a ridge that has a noticeably steep drop-off to the north. You’ll be looking across a deep, flat wash valley to the gray beast of Dawson Peak.

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And directly to your west is the start of the Devil’s Backbone — one of the most exciting (and potentially dangerous) trails in the San Gabriels.

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Mount San Antonio 020


The first section of the Backbone literally straddles an east-west ridge between two steep valleys. It’s wide-enough at the start, but if you catch yourself looking down at the wrong time, it’s pretty easy to get a touch of the vertigo. This is a section of trail to treat with respect and take seriously. There’s a stretch after the first section that hugs a fairly steep cliffside where the trail thins considerably. It can be a little nerve-wracking for those with a fear of heights, but just take your time and stay calm. You’ll likely have more room than you thought you’d have, and soon you’ll be back on wider terrain.

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When the trail straightens out and heads directly toward the Baldy Bowl, you’ll see a steep, bare peak directly to your north. This is Mount Harwood. I took a cross-country talus scramble up to the top, just because it’s on the Hundred Peaks List and I hadn’t bagged it yet. It’ll give you a decent view of the approach of San Antonio, and is much less-visited than it’s bigger neighbor but it’s still worth a visit. Just mind your footing on the loose scree. This picture is from the summit, looking down at a fellow hiker who I’d just passed. It gives a nice scale to the scope of the surrounding landscape.

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From there, it’s a short, steep, slippery scramble back down to the Backbone Trail. Then it’s down into a windy saddle and a long, slow crawl up to the Baldy Summit.

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No matter which way you try to bag Baldy, it always seems like the last mile or so is the toughest part. You’re slogging up a barren, windswept landscape along trails that either relentlessly switchback, or shoot no-nonsense directly to the summit. From this route, the last mile has just over 500 feet of elevation gain — but because you’re up so high, and you’ve already climbed so much, it feels like twice that amount.

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But for all the work you put into this hike, when you finally reach the summit, the sense of accomplishment is unreal. There are small makeshift wind shelters left behind by previous hikers, and all you’ll want to do is lean up against one of them, take a deep breath, and soak in the unparalleled 360-degree views of the wilderness around you.

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When you’re done taking in the views and / or recuperating from the climb, you can either head back to the Devil’s Backbone the way you came (and probably take the ski-lift down — no shame in descending), or you can take in some more of what Baldy has to offer by heading south from the summit onto the Baldy Bowl Trail. If you feel like you’re heading west along the ridge for too long, you’re probably on the Baldy Trail — a much longer route that will take you to Mount Baldy Village — far away from where you probably parked.

The correct route is a single-track that takes you just outside the western edge of the Baldy Bowl, as the landscape goes from windswept-lunar to slightly-less-windswept, populated with some interesting, twisted pines.

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It’s worth it to go off trail once or twice for a dizzying view off the cliff of the Baldy Bowl. Otherwise, the trail will eventually switchback its way past an incredible torn tree, and deposit you directly in the center of the Baldy Bowl, among the hundreds of boulders that have slid down over the years.

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It’s another great place just to stand and marvel at the sheer size of the land — and know that you were just walking along that ridge 2000 feet above where you’re feet are now.

From there, the trail follows the contour of the Bowl past the Sierra Club San Antonio Ski Hut (where you can stay overnight for a small fee if you’re interested), and gradually makes its way back down to the Mount Baldy Fire Road, just east of San Antonio Falls.

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And from there, it’s just a short walk back to Manker Flats, where you’ll most likely give yourself a pat on the back, take off your shoes, and head for the nearest source of cooked food you can find. (I dig the Mount Baldy Lodge on the way out).
And congratulations. You just hiked the highest mountain in Los Angeles County.

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Modern Hiker
Since founding Modern Hiker in 2006, Casey's work on the site has appeared in regional and national publications, including the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, CNN, New York Magazine, High Country News, and others. He has broken several national news stories about outdoor vandalism and policies and his first book "Day Hiking Los Angeles" is available for pre-order.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on November 22, 2007


  • Randy Bauer says:

    After two years of trying to schedule, my wife and I finally bagged this peak June 25th! Wow. The beta here is accurate. This peak is a beast. We went up Baldy Bowl and down Devil’s Backbone. Started at 7am but would not recommend starting after 6am. Was quite hot and I went thru 3liters of water just on the ascent. Fortunately my wife had extra for the descent. I have summited twelve 14ers in Colorado and this hike is equivalent at least in regard to elevation gain. Up up up the entire way! I got 4500′ of gain on my gps. Probably encountered 100+ hikers on the trail. Saw several people turn around on the Bowl ridge. Can’t blame them. It’s brutal with summer temps. As stated, a must hike for SoCal hikers!

  • Tom Houpt says:

    This is one hell of a hike and no to be underestimated. I made the mistake of not eating a proper breakfast and not bringing enough food/water with me. The lodge at the top of the lift saved the hike for me.

    Just after the lodge, the trail is straight up hill, then it gets to a very skinny part with sheer cliffs on either side. The last bit of the hike, probably the last 1/4th of a mile, it is straight up again.

    I tried to take the loop but took the wrong trail down because it is very poorly marked. I popped out in the village and had to hitchhike back up to the parking lot where my car was. I would recommend taking the same way down as you came up to avoid this.

    This is a must do hike for the LA area, but be prepared for it

  • sugetha says:

    I am trying to hike to summit this labor day weekend.( may 31 )
    Is it too early? should I wait a couple of months?

  • Anthony says:

    I was determined to get on this trail, and did so without really considering time constraints. I kind of just ran up the thing with some water and a flashlight. I wouldn’t say I’d recommend this strategy as a normal course of action.

    Used my GoPro to capture it. Youtube link here:


  • TheRealPeterGallagher says:


    Hi I hiked Baldy yesterday (6/3/15) and got pretty lost. I think this is an important comment for anyone who is about to hike Baldy and follow the route described in this post.

    Two disclaimers about this post:

    1. I didn’t have my normal Tom Harrison map while hiking Baldy yesterday, instead had a low quality paper print out.
    2. I’m a fairly experienced hiker. I have a lot of backcountry experience (JMT, back country winter skiing, PCT, etc). I’m just saying this to emphasize that what happened to me while hiking Baldy could theoretically happen to anyone.
    3. All of the signs on the hike have apparently been stolen by hikers as souvenirs, which definitely contributed to us getting lost.
    4. Getting lost was definitely my fault and an accumulation of many errors, but still, could have happened to anyone (and according to some locals I spoke with last night does happen all the time).

    Okay essentially I hiked up the Devil’s backbone with my girlfriend yesterday (June 3rd 2015) and we had an easy time getting up to the top. The instructions on this site, as usual, were easy to follow, as were the paths (etc). It was getting down where we got lost.

    So instead of returning down the Devil’s Backbone I decided we should go down the Baldy Bowl Trail via the ski lodge. I read that some people accidentally hike along the ridge via the Mt Baldy Trail, but the description on Modern Hiker is definitely clear and we avoided taking that trail.

    However, as we hiked down the Baldy Bowl Trail, after around 3/4s of a mile there is a fork in the trail. I think there used to be a sign at the fork, but I’m guessing the sign has been removed. Instead, there is a large arrow thats been carved, and spray painted, into a tree that points to the right. Left, is probably the correct rail. I followed the arrow and went right and got very lost. The badly bowl has a ridge that splits it, and we were hiking down the western side heading south-ish. There is a trail (or parts of a trail) for a mile or so, lots of footprints, old water bottles, (and a pretty cool crashed plane) so I thought to myself “wow this trial is really bad, but there are some switchbacks, footprints, trash, so maybe this trail is just way less traveled”. At this point I should have realized we weren’t on the right trail, but I foolishly continued to go down it. After 2 hours we had lost any trail, just random footprints here and there. I realized we were lost, but was able to guess where we were, and decided to just follow a ravine down to the San Antonio River Canyon below, and from there hike out of the canyon to the road.

    After looking at my map today, I realized we ended up scrambling down all of Baldy down the “Good Canyon” river/ravine. All in all it took about 6 hours to get down, it was really painful, potentially dangerous, and at points I was pretty sure we were going to have to spend the night out there. Fortunately, we got back to the road about an hour after sunset and a friendly local gave us a ride back to our car. When we were relaxing at the car, we saw two other hikers getting dropped off, by a local, who also got lost that night, and two locals told me this happens all the time.

    Anyways, until the Forest Service puts in some metal, non removable signs, I’m not recommending any of my friends descend down the Baldy Bowl Trail (unless they also ascended that way).

    PS: This is is no way a criticism of this review, I really like this site and all your reviews.

    • Sounds like you got lured into a use-trail, probably one that heads toward an old mine in the area. Thanks for sharing your story and updated info – and glad you made it out OK!

    • Patrick Winters says:

      This exact same thing happened to me on March 26th of this year. I was by myself and it was extremely scary. Ran into another couple who had done it as well, (thankfully, so I wasn’t alone). They ended up getting ahead of me and getting out first, then sent SAR back for me. I was able to get out without SAR, but the fire department had to come guide me out after I yelled continuously up at some cabins. This is a great hike if you do it right. Make sure you have a GPS or know where you’re going. Not a fun place to get lost at all.

  • Jim says:

    I hiked to Mount San Antonio today for the first time via the ski hut trail i.e. Baldy Bowl. What a beautiful trail and invigorating ascent. The highest I’d climbed before was maybe 5,000 feet. We paced ourselves accordingly and summited in just over 3 hours. Breathtaking Views for sure. My next time up will be the most difficult ascent or the Devils Backbone trail. I brought a 3 liter hydration pack and all but finished it before arriving back at the car. Bring enough water, it makes things much easier. Nice site I dig all the info and photos!

  • Zoe Berman says:

    Hiked this one yesterday (along with everyone and their grandmother) and had a GREAT time. I will be the first to admit, however, that I am one lucky ducky. The trail got a lot of snow while we were all getting rain last weekend and it’s now quite gone yet. My friend and I hiked alongside dozens of people with spikes and crampons, but we were only equipped with good boots and trekking poles. We basically did Casey’s plan but backwards (though coming down from the ski lift, we missed the way to the falls and walked a bit down the road.)

    The hike up was tough, rewarding, and seriously fun. It was my first time hiking through snow (save for a fun patch in Lassen as a kid!) Made it to the summit in about 4 1/2 hours, just 10 minutes ahead of my buddy — girl power!! I was really excited about coming down the Backbone, so once we finally got our bearings and figured out which way to head, I was pretty gung-ho. We hit a couple of tough passes but made it across safely.

    Whether you’re coming up or down the notch-second ski lift section, the trail is pretty tough to find/navigate. That’s definitely my least favorite thing about National Forests vs Parks: lack of signage.

    This hike was killer, but I LOVED every minute of it! Plus, I feel like a superhuman today because, miraculously, I’m not even sore — a little tight in the calves, but otherwise good!

    • Zoe Berman says:

      Also ran into Tim Medvetz of Discovery Channel’s Everest: Beyond the Limit, which was cool. I’ve never seen the show, but my friend is a super fan, so he got a little starstruck.

  • Nick Falacci says:

    Just want to give a shout out to this site. Lots of good beta, especially for beginner to moderate hikers.

    Also want to give a shout out to the original Mt. Baldy trail. It’s a massive bear of a hike, but thoroughly worthwhile with some amazing sections. Once you do the “Hardscrabble” section (the steepest part) you arrive on the narrow shoulder of the South Ridge at ~9,000ft. This is called the Narrows and the this is the first place on the trail where you finally gain commanding views of the LA Basin and the other peaks in the area. Click on my website link and the top photo you’ll see is my partner coming across the Narrows. Not quite precipitous as Devil’s Backbone, but a bit more exposed. This section alone is worth the arduous hike.

    And when I say arduous, I mean 6 miles up with an elevation gain of almost 1000′ per mile! The first time I did this trail it took me 4:30 hours to get from my car in Baldy Village to the summit. Going down only took 2 hours!

    I would not do this trail in snowy and/or icy conditions unless you have plenty of solid MOUNTAINEERING experience. Experienced “winter hikers” have fallen off this route.

    My one major piece of advice to any hikers contemplating hiking any of the trails on Baldy in the winter is … be prepared to turn back if you encounter dangerous conditions you were not prepared for. It’s impossible to know the exact conditions of the trails unless you get the info straight from someone who has been on the mountain in the past 24 hours. In the winter, lots of snow falls on Baldy. And given what LA winters are like, there will be days of bright sun and temps into the high 70s at sea level. This creates a process where snow hardens at night, then thaws during the day when the sun is out and the temps are warmer. Then the melted snow freezes at night. One year this cycle kept repeating until nearly the whole upper part of Baldy was iced over. Many hikers were lost that year.

    Winter ascents can be easily done before the first winter storms arrive to dump snow on the mountain. This means Baldy can usually be hiked in the winter without crampons well into December. Once substantial snow arrives, you may have to wait until late April to May before conditions improve enough to have a snow/ice free hike.

    Just remember that even if conditions are great in December – January you still need to be aware of how short the days are and plan accordingly. Also remember to be ready for extreme variations in temperatures. You might start out feeling comfortable in shorts and t-shirt, but on the summit, you’ll want pants, fleece and a shell for the wind.

    (*Convertible hiking pants/shorts are perfect for Baldy, allowing you to switch from pants to shorts or back again in a few minutes. Do NOT wear cotton anything. You sweat on the hike and then when you get to the top it will be windy and chilly. Cotton gets wet and stays wet. Wear nylon polypro hiking clothes and you will remain comfortable the entire hike.)

    I also do not recommend that people use Baldy as a place use crampons and an ice-tool for the first time. It’s one thing to go with someone more experienced who can teach you how to use the equipment on the lower slopes and learn self-arrest and all that. But venturing out on the Narrows or the Backbone when covered with ice and snow can spell major trouble for a winter hiking novice.

    As I said earlier, just be prepared to turn back if conditions worsen or if you hit any area that requires more technical skills than you have. This is the mantra of safe mountaineering, but too often hikers become invested in the climb once high on the mountain and often decide to press on despite poor conditions.

    Fortunately, southern California weather is fairly mild almost all year and Mt. Baldy is usually accessible on almost any day of the week. Especially from April to December. Still, a safe hiker always makes sure to check weather forecasts before heading out. Cold fronts and low pressure systems can move into the LA area with some speed in the months from December to March. Lightning can be an issue as well.

    I first became familiar with Baldy when I needed to train for an ascent of the Grand Teton I did years ago. Then later when I wanted to be in shape for the Half-Dome hike in Yosemite. Baldy proved to be a perfect training area for harder hiking and higher climbs.

    Baldy is an extraordinary outdoor resource for a city like Los Angeles.

  • Phil says:

    Can this trail be Hiked now? February 2015? Will Devils back bone be covered in snow?

  • Angie says:

    Awesome site! I went up yesterday (1/23/15) for the first time. I wound up ascending via Devil’s Backbone and when I got to the last stretch to the summit (within a few hundred yards) the wind was so insane that I decided to turn around. I’m relatively new to hiking, so I’m not sure if I was just being a wimp or if the wind was particularly strong. I’d also be curious to know if I made some rookie mistake(s). Are the winds typically stronger on one side of the summit? Also, is there a time of day when the winds are stronger? I’m super bummed I didn’t reach the actual summit, but it was a beautiful hike and a good learning experience and now I have a goal for the spring.

  • Julia says:

    Is it possible to do the hike in march? What about camping around that time? What’s the weather like?

    • You can do the hike year round as long as you have the proper equipment for the conditions.

      It’s impossible to predict the weather several months in advance, but last year in April Mount Baldy started out with daytime highs in the 60s and by mid-month they were in the mid-80s.

      The average temperatures are a bit cooler than that, though – the average high in Mount Baldy Village (which is a lower elevation and warmer than the peak itself) is 48 and the low is 28.

  • Jaime says:

    I love your articles! Is hiking Baldy possible during early/mid December? I plan on doing Sandstone Peak and Baldy while visiting my sister in LA!

    • It is possible to hike Baldy in December, but there are so many variables that could affect that decision that it’s too early to predict its availability. If our killer drought continues, you may be able to hike to the summit without any issue (other than temperature and altitude). If we get rain, though, that trail will very likely be iced and snowed over and may require technical gear. Just be sure to check before you head up there!

  • Astro says:

    Casey: Killer site, pleasing and functional design and great content. I just moved to LA and look forward to spending time in the LA Forest. One question though, why not post a topo trail map with the route highlighted to make it easy to reference?

    • Thanks, Astro!

      Short version of a long story: there was nothing that could do that when I started the site, but I just found something that works great – I only have to go through every single hike write-up and update them, so it’s going to take a little while. In the meantime, you can download a GPX file, which will work in any GPS device or mapping software, or a KMZ which will work in Google Earth. That should at least give you a better idea of the region!

  • randy bauer says:

    great trip report. best beta i’ve found so far on this hike. i am an experienced hiker/climber, but due to an injury i have had difficulty stretching my mileage beyond 8-9miles. i have never hiked baldy, but plan to do so in november. my original intention was to ascend via the ski hut route and then come down devil’s backbone. i would like to know if i take the ski lift off the mountain, what would the total mileage be? i have seen different numbers on the route done this way. thanks in advance!

  • killahb says:

    Sorry if this was already answered but I tried to skim everything. I have never hiked Baldy and going this month (July). I am going with an experienced hiker up Baldy Bowl and Devils then down ski lift. I am in good shape but my concern is that I get Vertigo and have a hard time with heights. Besides Devils which I am a little nervous about how is the rest of the hike? Any info is appreciated. Is it steep where you feel if you stood up straight you could tumble backwards? thanks

    • Christopher says:

      Hi There! Notice your comment come in on email and thought I’d take a moment to respond. Like yourself I don’t do heights very well. Though my adrenalin junky side kicks in and I let that take over! Baldy is a difficult climb let me tell you. No matter which way you go. I’m in pretty good shape and had a difficult time with this climb. Probably the hardest I’ve done to date but boy it’s absolutely worth it.

      My first hike up was via Sky Hut Trail (easy to miss! Make sure you research before hand. This starting point is not to be confused with the actual sky lift area) both my wife and I stopped at just passed 9,000ft. This was my first time in higher altitudes and it’s the thin air that really kills you honestly. Baldy is steep. Once you’re up there 200 ft feels like 800ft. You’d think with only 1k to go we’d have just pushed through. Nope, I was done for the day. The main reason was I simply wasn’t prepared, didn’t sleep enough and didn’t eat enough before the hike. I really wasn’t prepared at all. The second time though I got a full 8 hours of sleep had a nice large breakfast and whooped Baldy’s backside. Bring at LEAST 3-4 liters of water. It’s heavy and sucks to carry but I sweat a lot. Is what it is. I didn’t bring enough the first time. Second bring some salty snacks. This is important! You can drink water all day but that doesn’t help if you can’t retain the water. Peanuts are great. Bring a zipper bag of them. I also suggest some carbs too. Don’t worry, you’ll burn it off. A couple IBUProfen half way up will also help with the altitude sickness. (Mountain climber suggest this to me online, work well enough)

      My suggestion if it’s your first time is to start at the actual sky lifts (we started from the parking lot and took the service road up) It took us 12 hours from start to finish. (Longer than we thought) Going up the service road is steep but it eases quite a bit once you get to the larger trail. Don’t be discourage by it. Then it’s ok views on the way up. Once you get to the restaurant the view is great! We then took trails that run under the ski lifts (we took the right side) up to the Devil’s backbone trail. That climb is a real kicker so be prepared. Once you’re on the back bone though it’s AWESOME and pretty mellow. No pictures or words will give you the feeling you get up there it’s absolutely beautiful and keeps you going. It can get windy up there so be forewarned. A little common sense and you’ll be ok. When you finally get to Devil’s Backbone just push through, it’s a difficult steep climb but once at the top absolutely worth it.

      There are some high drop of points and some tricky areas with thin pathways that will likely make your vertigo kick into overdrive. (If you’re like me) There are 3 places I can think of off the top of my head. Mostly towards the begning of the top of the mountain. All in all though I made it through. Take some hiking poles. If you don’t have any pick some up (Wal Mart as some cheap ones if your on a budget) They are a MUST. It’s what got me through those areas, especially not being a big fan of heights. Having both poles really helps you feel stabilized. When I’d get to an edge or a thin pathed out area, I’d put one pole to my side and another pole outwards close to the edge. I used that almost as if to steer me away (think like your pushing from a Dock) it really helped a lot. Generally the drop off is only on one side or the other for the most part.

      As for “if you stood up straight you could tumble backwards” there are a few areas yes. But you know, lots of people make this hike and most come out ok. Use your poles, they’ll help a great deal. A little fear is better than no fear. It keeps us safe :)

  • Rebecca says:

    driving back to Los Angeles after all that hiking doesn’t sound fun, are you familiar with any of the campsites there where it would be nice to rest? I suppose there are shorter, easier trails one could hike on the second day before coming home?

    • Rebecca, it’s maybe a little over an hour back to L.A. from this area – but if you want to crash there’s a camp site at Manker Flats right near the trailhead as well as lodging in Mount Baldy Village.

  • Nadim says:

    Did the loop starting via the Ski Hut trail today. Snow is pretty much gone now, but there’s still a few bits at the top that are available if you go soon. Trail gets a little confusing towards the end when arriving in Baldy Notch. Had to walk around a bit to find the road down.

    Advice: skip the road and take the lift if its open, whether its up or down. Absolutely boring and even tedious when ending the hike.

  • trail-rambler says:

    Yesterday I hiked Mt. Baldy via old Mt. Baldy trail. I used the GPS loop route map provided in this website and found it to be EXCELLENT. The old Mt Baldy trail is a real butt kicker. I followed the GPS map down via the Turkey Shoot ski run to the ski lodge in Baldy Notch. At this point the map continues down the meandering, wide and gentle sloping fireroad. I found this tedious walk unnecessary both to the hike and to my tired muscles. Next time I plan to take the chair lift from the ski lodge down … it’s not like cheating to me, I don’t call strolling on a fireroad “hiking”.

  • Anthony Geoffron says:

    Just did San Antonio this weekend. Still some snow, beautiful view.


  • Neil says:

    Walked up to the ski hut today (Christmas Eve 2012). I stood aside to let about 30 search and rescue team members who were on their way down with the 2 hikers who were injured on the devil’s backbone. The hikers were found yesterday and spent the night in the ski hut. Visibility was too limited for the choppers. My advice for what it’s worth is stay off the backbone if there’s snow or ice. If you insist on going that route, use crampons and/or snowshoes. If you fall at the wrong time on the backbone, you’ll be falling for a long time. The ski hut route is steeper but safer (right now you need crampons on that route as well, especially if you’re going to the summit).

  • Neil says:

    Saw a bobcat on the way up to the ski hut last Sunday afternoon It was about 15 feet north of the trail. It was stalking something and wasn’t bothered by me at all. We both stopped what we were doing and looked at each other for a while. Soon after I met a group coming down. They had a dog off the leash. I told them about the bobcat since I didn’t want the dog to try anything stupid. After I left them I could hear them discussing bobcats and how big they were. Half of the group thought that a bobcat was a mountain lion. They sounded nervous, and I’m guessing they had an interesting trip the rest of the way down.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Ha – I’ve been there. Once I was hiking in the Santa Monicas and a hiker told me he’d seen a mountain lion just recently, then showed me the paw prints. Needless to say, the rest of my hike there wasn’t really relaxing :)

  • Hiker_Bob says:

    @Shannon: Keep your eye on the weather reports this time of the year. The weather can change very quickly in this area. Just make sure you pack the appropriate outer-wear when you do this hike. If you’d like a “taste” of what it’s like to hike Baldy, try Icehouse Canyon. Don’t feel like a cheater by taking the Ski Lift. Doing this hike from the Baldy Notch Lodge via Devil’s Backbone Trail is still a butt-kicker if you haven’t hiked hi-altitude trails before. Click on my name for my website of the Devil’s Backbone Hike.

  • Shannon says:

    My Husband and I are planning to hike this trail within the next few weeks, hopefully before it gets too cold and snowy. We have never done this trail, is there any trails that are comperable we can do to be sure we are ready? We will be taking the ski lift up (cheaters!) if that makes any difference. We have done Pine Knot trail in Big Bear and Bridge to Nowhere with no problems, can we make it to the summit on our skill level?

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Shannon, Icehouse would be a good test run. If you haven’t spent much time hiking at that altitude you never know exactly how your body’s gonna react.

      It’s fine to take the lift up but it’s still gonna be tough. It’s a beautiful trail though. Be sure to check in with the rangers to see if the area’s gotten any snow or ice this week.

  • James A says:

    I did this hike for the 1st time on Saturday Aug. 25th. The view from the backbone sections is totally worth the slog up the ski slope that I went up by mistake instead of the switchback fire road. Great hike though that will definitely kick your butt. Incidentally the signs for the trail and backbone section featured in this post are not there right now. The sign posts are there but the signs are not. Just a heads up.

  • aj says:

    Hiked Mt Baldy up the ski hut trail and down devil’s backbone and the fire road a couple weeks ago. The weather was perfect, and the hike was gorgeous. We started at about 830, hit the summit at noon. The ski hut trail doesn’t mess around. Not the steepest trail I’ve ever been on, but pretty brutal (especially since I found out the hard way my legs were still trashed from my workout a few days before). I’m afraid of heights, and get pretty bad vertigo, and the devils backbone didn’t bother me at all. Not sure why anyone would be sketched out by it in dry conditions.
    We went midweek, and only saw about 15 people the whole hike. We even had the summit to ourselves for a while. If people are wondering about cell reception, I got 2-3 bars of ATT 3G signal on the SE side of the summit, but nothing at Manker Flats or Baldy Village, so if you need to contact someone do it before you get off the mountain.

  • Hiker_Bob says:

    @Alen: Depending on the snow cover and current weather conditions, mid May to mid June are great times to do this hike. There will still be patches of snow on the trail and the summit but usually not enough to cause problems but enough to make the hike interesting. You just have to be prepared for cool temps.

  • Marybeth says:

    Alen, personaly I think the trails to Baldy are far more beautiful mid-spring, when the foliage & wildflowers are blooming and after the Boy Scouts & Sierra Club have maintained the trails somewhat after the winter damages. Have you contacted the Baldy ranger station for one of their area trail maps, maybe they can email you a pdf. 909-982-2829 and I’m sure they have current updates on trail conditions. Also, if you’re conditioning for your upcoming summit, here are a few area trails: Sunset Peak has an El gain of 1300′ Moderate difficulty, Stoddard 1000′ Mod, Etiwanda Falls 950′ Mod, Potato Mtn 1100′ Mod, Baldy Notch 1642′ whereas Baldy summit is 3904′ Strenuous. When we were looking for Michelle two Decembers ago, it was the first week of Dec when we were having really hot days, but very cold nights. Similar to what we’re experiencing now. The ice slabs we encountered along Ski Hut trail (other crews took the loop route via Icehouse so I don’t know what those trails were like) were in the shady areas, slick as all get-out but in areas where they could be avoided with careful off-trail footing. But beyond the Hut, the summit is unpredictable. Maybe try just going to the Ski Hut (but know that this weekend will be very windy) EL gain 1810′ Mod difficulty & it will give you a feel for the route. The difficulty really increases after the Hut, particularly the last leg of the trail. Happy trails!

  • Marybeth says:

    Probably taking the Sierra Club’s Ski Hut trail would be the safest for wintertime, but no guarantees during this season on how it will be. The shady areas can still hold some mighty thick slabs of ice for a long time after its been warm weather. Personally, I avoid the mtn during winter & its hard, I know cuz I love being on that summit. There are alternate trails in the meantime…Stroddard Saddle, Sunset Peak, Potato Mtn….

  • Alen says:

    Does anyone know when it will be safest to start this hike? I have never done this hike before and after reading about Michelle Yu, I will not take any chances. Is there always slick ice up there, even in the spring or summer? My hope is that there is a time of year when slick ice will not be present. (I would like to do this hike as soon as it is safe, but I can wait for the hottest day in summer if I have too).

    For those who respond, when is the earliest month you hiked this trail before?

  • love426outdoor says:

    Just hiked to the summit of Baldy this weekend (Jan 7, 2012)! Great hike that doesn’t seem to get any easier the second time around … Started the trail from the ski lift parking lot which had some immediate steep inclines that then met with the main trail to the lodge. Chugged on up the ski trails, across devil’s backbone and to the summit. Scattered snow and ice on the trail but nothing that a good pair of boots can’t handle. The hardest part was hiking down with the chilling winds, come prepared! Ran into a group of young guys, unprepared in shirts and shorts, struggling to get down … But if you come prepared, you’ll be rewarded with a great challenging hike up Mt Baldy, courtesy of the dry and warm January weather so far!

  • Marybeth says:

    High Wind Advisory: Due to Mt Baldys location in the San Gabriel Mtn range, it experiences more volitle winds than some of the surrounding areas. You can check on the weather conditions at http://www.mtbaldyskilifts.com before heading on up. There is plenty of slick ice, and mixing that with the winds… a dangerous thing. Just a heads up fellow hikers. Have a great Christmas! TTFN

  • Hiker Bob says:

    Anyone want to join me for a conditioning hike from Manker Flats to the Baldy Ski Hut? I plan to be at the trailgate on Baldy Rd. around 9 AM Friday (11/18/11). Dress accordingly, the temps will be in the 50-60º range. No rain is predicted but it can get windy. I’m driving a black X-terra with a divers flag on the rear window.

    Click on my name for my Mt Baldy Hike website.

  • Marybeth says:

    Boy, am I glad to hear that. BTW check out Afoot & Afield Inland Empire (hiking guide) and/or Trails of the Angeles for even more trail info. Can get it at overstock.com or Alibris or REI for safer trails for the winter months.

  • Jebus says:

    Thanks for the info Marybeth. I think I will air on the side of caution and leave this one for next year. Plenty of others to do around town =)

  • Marybeth says:

    UPDATE: Jebus, I do see snow along the ridges of Baldy as I got further away during errands today. So, depending upon your skill level and familiarity with Baldy, I’d suggest packing in some clampons if you insist upon climbing it during this weather. Rain and snow is expected this weekend as well.

  • Marybeth says:

    Got to tell ya. I was on little old Potato Mtn yesterday (only 3422 ft elev., south west of Baldy) and took some pics of the snow on Baldy as well as on Cucamonga Peak. Well, by the late afternoon, & especially TODAY, I see ZERO snow on those peaks (viewing from the south sides). Although, the night temps are still REALLY low, I definately would consider icy patches on trail. But, at least from this angle, no snow left. I did hear that Mtn High (Wrightwood) is open for skiing, which makes one wonder what the north side of the mtn is like. Icehouse can get ICY with its little streams if you’re heading up that way. Backbone via the Notch? Well, its notorious for fatal winter slips… I won’t even attempt the Backbone during the late fall-winter. My friend fell to her death last Dec (Michelle Yu). FYI, take it for what it is. Unpredicatable. If you’re attempting from Bear Flats, oh, man…you will run into all sorts of conditions plus a VERY long, difficult journey. Some things are just worth waiting for. I know, I only summited 3x this season & due to a (wonderful) wedding in the family I didnt get to make my 4th…but… Good things come to those who wait…

  • Jebus says:

    Is it too late to do this hike now? I know snow has started to fall, but wasn’t sure how much it’s affecting the trails. Was looking forward to this for a while, then plans changed and wasn’t able to go in October.

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Eric, I just realized what trail you were on. You must have been on the Icehouse Canyon Trail.

    You can reach the Devil’s Backbone Trail via this route but you have to hike all the way to Icehouse Canyon Saddle then head north to Timber Mtn, continue on to Telegraph Peak, continue on to Thunder Mountain, then to Baldy Notch and the start of the Devil’s Backbone Trail. An easier and shorter way would to park at Manker Flats and take the San Antonio Falls road to the Ski Lift maintenance road and up to the Baldy Notch. See my previous (10/23) posting for this route.

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Eric: Click on the following URL for a TOPO Map I generated showing the trails around Baldy. I’ve made notations showing distances. Hope it helps


  • Eric says:

    Hmm a little confused. I started my hike at Mt. Baldy village passing Cedar Glenn. I stopped about 45 minutes after passing a Entering Cucamonga Forest sign. I’ve heard this trail meets up to Devil’s Backbone and would like to complete the entire Mt. Baldy hike from Mt. Baldy village. Does anyone know how many miles it is and how long this would take?

  • Marybeth says:

    Brian G: Sorry, I’ve been offline for about a week.
    Hey! I never meant to discourage your hiking/camping intentions! I’ve never heard of any animal interactions on Baldy, was only informing you as to what wildlife we have. Are from the area, where have you hiked before? Personally, I’m more cougar anxious when I hike Laguna trails, they have had human attacks on cyclists. Plus, I think the Baldy cougars are more active during the winter, when the Bighorn sheep are at lower El’s to forage, particularly near water sources.
    The couple I spoke with about the bears @ Icehouse last season, who actually got chased out of the cyn by a juvenile bear actually went back and camped overnight. (kudos to their courage factor) and they never had a problem, even though the power bars were not properly in a bear-proof container…. take what I said with a grain of salt… I was only 411-ing. ;)

  • Josh says:

    This is a great write up, I just recently did this hike last weekend and the posted it here


  • Brian G says:

    Thank you for the response. I think we will wait to stay over night until we are more experienced with the area. Will definitely pick up that book though.

  • Marybeth says:

    Brian G: Boy can I relate! When I first began hiking the baldy area & would encounter Bear Aware signage with ZERO info on what to DO if you encounter a bear drove me to the internet to find out what to DO. there is also a good book at REI Bear Aware A Falcon Guide for a plethera of info.
    ABSOLUTELY DO rent a bear food container for your trip & keep ALL food however small in the container.
    As a BTW, know that the summit gets gale force wind & they are unpredicable. Its totally flat & barren at the summit, zero shade, rocky ground for a bumpy sleep.
    They SAY if you encounter a bear & u see it standing up, its trying to see you better to see if you’re friend or foe due to their poor eyesight. Dont look it straight in the eye, but stand your ground. Often a bear will bluff-charge, kudos to you if you can do the recommended “stand your ground”. Of course, all bets are off with a mother & cub. they SAY back away, but on the summit who wants to do that? Do NOT roar at the bear, it’ll be interpreted as a challenge. Distrac t the bear by throwing some of your gear away from you, as soon as it investigates the gear, head out but DO NOT RUN, it incites the hunting gene (for lack of a better word, temporary brain misfunction) in the bear.Bear activity has been surprisingly frequent at usually lower EL’s this season. the Bighorn sheep are foraging at lowers ELs, I sighted a class IV and a class lll just under the ski lift at the lowest section a month & half ago when I was hikingh S. A. Falls rd heading towards the Notch.
    There were two juvenile bears that were quite a problem last summer in Icehouse Cyn but they have both been unfortunately euthanized.
    Do check with the ranger station to see if there are any reported probs on baldy this season. Bear spray is expensive, but I’d recommend it whenever in bear country.
    Check for fresh scat (I’ve been noticing a LOT of scat tracks on Sunset Ridge, Stoddard flats, Bear Cyn, Marshall Cyn, Evey Cyn…NONE on Baldy proper. Their scat is IMPRESSIVE & impossible to confuse with a large dog or any other animal. When you see bear scat, it will run a chill up the back. This is one LARGE animal to leave a pile like that, not only in quantity but the diameter is chilling. If the scat is fresh, re-evaluate whether to proceed with your plans, seriously. Note that dogs antagonize bears & will endanger the hiker by just having it around.
    Be mindful of cougar/mountain lion/puma they definately have been sighted on Baldy (where there are Bighorn sheep, there are cougars) partucularly as the weather cools. With the cougar, make yourself appear large.
    Anybody have other ideas or info?

  • Brian G says:

    Thank you for the timely responses everyone. I have another question. What is the proper bear precautions for overnight campers? Are the usual food percautions the only things need to be safe or are there other things that need to be done because o unusual bear activity or attacks in the area?

    What is the best campground for this hike?

    Anything would help.

    Thank for the help everyone.

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Brian G: I’m pretty sure you can’t have open campfires in other than designated camp grounds. Camp stoves, you’re supposed to get a free permit from the Forest Service. As far as overnight camping regulations, again check with the Forest Service

    For additional information, call:
    Mt. Baldy Visitor Center, (909) 982-2829 or San Gabriel River Ranger District Office
    (626) 335-1251 (weekdays 8 a.m. 4:30 p.m.)

  • Brian G says:

    Are you allowed to setup a tent and camp off the trail towards the top of the summit? We want to break it up into two days but do not know if it’s legal to camp at a non designated campground?

    Are allowed to have a campfire?

    Please let me know if we would be breaking any laws.

    Thank you.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Brian, I believe you are allowed to camp off the trail, but you are not allowed to have campfires in the Angeles National Forest except in designated fire rings. You should check with the rangers at 818-335-1251 to be sure.

  • Marybeth says:

    @Hiker Bob, I greatly appreciate the wealth of info you seem to have! Thanks for the 411 I think I will try that route this coming week.

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Marybeth: No, I’ve never hiked down this road/trail but I checked it with my TOPO map software and it looks to be about 4 miles from the Notch down to Stockton flats with approx 1,800′ elevation change. The map indicates there’s a campground named Big Horn about half a mile farther. I’m assuming it’s still there. Also, in the upper righthand corner of my map I posted, there’s a paved road that connects to Hwy 2 just east of Wrightwood.

  • Marybeth says:

    @Hiker Bob: Yes, it looks like it. Have you hiked it? Would it require a car shuttle or overnight stay? I’m limited on how much I can enlarge your map, so bits are hard to discern.
    Have you heard about the missing hiker in San Gorgino? I empathize with family members when I hear such things, offer a prayer or two to boot.

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Marybeth: If I read your posting correctly, I think you are referring to the truck road that heads down to Stockton Flat and Lytle Creek. Click on link below for a TOPO map of the area I think you’re talking about:


  • Marybeth says:

    Question: after passing the ski lifts on the Notch, taking the fire road east of the buildings you come upon an intersection. Where does the road heading down & north-east lead to? San Sevine? Lytle Creek??
    The Backbone was vista-rich as always this a.m., but windy.

  • Marybeth says:

    Zach, not to “impose” on your & Dales details, but if you descend via Ski Hut, you’re far away from the lifts and the lifts do not operate during the week in case you were planning a week day adventure. You can get a Pass at most sporting goods stores, or at any ranger station. Note that there have been cutbacks on the forest ranger hours, so your sporting goods store may be your best bet plus you can get it in advance there. The longest I’ve seen the loop take has been 10 hours, including a 15 minute break each half distance and 30 minutes enjoying & drinking-in the sprectacular sights at the summit. I hike SLOW because I’m old, and it’s only taken me 10 hrs. r.t. Keep in mind that cougars are crepuscular, hunting at dusk & dawn, and we have cougars/mountain lions/pumas on Baldy. There has NEVER been an attack on humans @ Baldy, but be mindful that they are out there as well as their choice of prey: the gentle & regal Bighorn Sheep.
    Starting out on S.A. Falls Rd at dusk has never been a problem, the problem could be in descending in the dark, where being “prey” wouldn’t be your only problem. Just a heads-up. Scroll up to Sept 1st comment on other “essentials” to consider taking with you. Enjoy your trip, it’s worth all the preparation.

  • ZackMorris says:

    Thanks for the response Dale!

    I’ll definitely take your advice and maybe bring along a little led headlamp or something of the like, they’re not too expensive. I might also have to “cheat” that time of year and maybe use the ski lift so I don’t get stuck in the dark. Definitely want to ascend on the Backbone, and descend on the Ski Hut it seems like. I can take the lifts on the way down correct? Also where does one get an Adventure Pass?

    Thanks for the reply once again!

  • Dale says:

    Don’t think it’s necessary to get a hotel. I live in the same area, left at 6 AM and got there and started hiking at 7 AM.

    I don’t know if this is a big deal, but it’s something that I’d take into consideration if I was planning a hike: You’ll have slightly shorter days than I did, so depending on how when you start and how long you plan on getting up and down the mountain, you might have to bring some night gear. I did the hike in about 10 hours and started just after sunrise, and returned an hour and a half before sunset.

    I think the description of the hike in this post is pretty apt. I printed this out along with a description from Dan’s hiking pages to help me and my hiking partner navigate the trails.

    Starting at Manker Flats, there are two trails that lead up to the summit. The first is to take the road from Manker to Baldy Notch (about 3 miles up from Manker, where the ski resort is) and then go up Devil’s Backbone (about 1.2 miles to the beginning of the Backbone from the Notch, 2 miles on the Backbone, and then a little over half a mile to the summit). If you plan on ascending or returning via the Devil’s Backbone, be wary of this route if there’s inclement weather. I went up in near perfect weather (it was a little windy) and was a still anxious at certain points of the Devil’s backbone.

    The other way up is via the Ski Hut trail which is a very rigorous and steep way up. At about .9 miles from the start of Manker (.3 miles past San Antonio Falls) there’s an unmarked trail leading up. You follow the trail up to the green Ski Hut, and then cross the stream to the large area full of rocks and boulders. Crossing laterally, you’ll return to the trail and then you’ll take that trail all the way up to the summit. This is a pretty strenuous way up (although Devil’s Backbone is no cakewalk either), but the views this way are amazing and much more lush and verdant than on the other trail.

    I recommend doing a loop so you can see most of the mountain which is what I did. Either do the Backbone and descend the Ski Hut trail, or vice versa.

  • ZackMorris says:

    Hi everyone,

    I am going to be in the LA Area the 2nd and 3rd weeks of October and want to bag Ol’ Baldy. My friends I am staying with live in Downtown LA, would I be better off getting a hotel the night prior to my hike and getting an early start that time of year, or can a reasonable drive be made from there.

    Also what trails would be best at that time of year, is snowfall common around that time? Want to soak up most of this hike as I can so any reccomendations will be helpful. Great site and write up!

  • Marybeth says:

    BTW, I think those bugs are band-winged grasshoppers, closest to the description at http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_types_of_grasshoppers

  • Marybeth says:

    Oh wow, you had quite the hike today and no rain to boot. Oh, so you did the loop, coming down past Ski Hut?
    LOL, those grasshopper-type that sound at first like a rattler or like electricity snapping, yup, they really like the rocky areas. They mellow in fall/winter.
    You should have had a nice view today, could you see Catalina Island? I bet the summit was intense…weather-wise….

  • Dale says:

    Thanks for the advice Marybeth. Went for the first time today, weather was perfect, but there were severe weather warnings that had me worried for a bit. Took ~ten hours. Started at Manker, up to Baldy Notch to Devil’s Backbone down the Ice Hut Trail. Plan on going the other way the next time I have a chance.

    BTW. Does anybody know the name of those clacking bugs that are everywhere? I went up Mount Hawkins last week and there were all over there too.

  • Marybeth says:

    If you’re appraching via Manker, shouldnt have much affect, I’ve hiked that section in the rain before. If you’re approaching from the Backbone, a slick trail could prove fatal.

  • Dale says:

    Anybody know how the rain will affect the trails if I’m planning on hiking Mt. Baldy on Tuesday (starting Tuesday morning)?

  • Marybeth says:

    Oops, someone out there also has a similar smile, got you confused, sorry.
    TO ALL OTHERS HIKING THIS LABOR DAY: Please, I have seen cigarette butts along the trail and here we are with another wildfire along the Cajon Pass today 9-2-11 just one week after a wildfire just south of this current fire. PLEASE be careful if you do decide to hike this weekend. Be watchful, keep tabs of where you have been so that you will know your escape route, should things go bad. And smokers, I’m sorry, it is irresponsible to be smoking out in the wilderness, particularly with vegetation dried out after out heat spell. Just way too much potential for disasterous results.
    Please keep emergency numbers in your phone (ie: Baldy Fire Dept) and be sure to tell family or neighbors where you will be hiking and when you expect to be back. Remember your water!!

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Marybeth: I’ve only done the Devil’s Backbone route from the Baldy Notch Lodge.

    As for the Bridge to Nowhere (BTN) I last hiked it this past April 29th with a couple that had never hiked it before. In the early Spring, this hike can be a bit dicey due to the water height and flow strength of the river, especially for the first few crossings. In fact, a 20 year old young man drowned about a month before when he lost his footing at the first crossing and must of hit his head because they found his body about 3 days later downstream.

    Late Spring, early Summer is the best time for this hike because it isn’t so hot. But late summer is fun too because the water level is down, making the crossings easy.

    This weekend they’ll probably be a ton of people doing this hike as well as Mt. Baldy.

  • Marybeth says:

    Hey, after visiting your site, I’ve seen you on Baldy before, about a year ago you took the south facing trail/Ski Hut. I’m up there a lot…
    And that hike to the bridge to nowhere, I hear it was really tretcherous a month or so ago; some of the river crossings were waist high, some areas of the trail were washed out and only inches wide & believe it or not, a couple wanted to join the group with an infant. The leader (from the Sierra Club) had to turn them away. When did you go, was it this year?

  • Marybeth says:

    Awesome! Thanks, Hiker Bob!

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Marybeth: Click on the following link for a TOPO generated map of Mt. Baldy and the surrounding area:


    Click on my name for my Mt Baldy Hike Website

  • Marybeth says:

    Thanks, and I always find your pointers well-put and very helpful.
    BTW, when I’m looking to the east from the beginning of the Backbone, I assume that’s Cajon Pass I see because last week as I was descending from the summit via Backbone, I saw that HUGE wildfire in Cajon Pass (looked too close to us for comfort!) It looked like all it needed was a shift in wind to climb the ridge just east of the ski runs. What ridge is that, is it Cucamonga? Then, as I look north, north/west is that Antelope Valley? Is there a decent map that will highlight the surrounding peaks? I sure would like to know what I’m looking at as far as scanning them for future hikes…

  • Marybeth says:

    Roberto, I personally have not seen signage prohibitng it, but your best bet would be to contact the ranger station there at Baldy Village. I think I remember that you’ve been on Bear Flats before, so you already know how very strenuous that route is. You have my high respect for mtn biking that trail should you discover that it is allowed.
    If it makes any difference, there were mtn bikers on the S.A. Fall Rd to the Notch yesterday, then they headed towards the Backbone, I headed the opposite direction due to the winds.
    Be safe, friend.

  • roberto says:

    Not sure if this is the right place to ask this, but are mountain bikers allowed on Bear Flats trail?


  • Marybeth says:

    Welcome, Northeastener! No snow for sure, no ice. BUT! The winds can be intense. I was up Thunder Mtn yesterday, just south/east of the Backbone, and a few times some of those gusts literally blew me sideways, NOT a good time to be on any narrow mtn ridge. You could take S.A. Falls road all the way to the notch, the climb is gradual, the road is wide & the views are fantastic. Once you take-in the views at the Top of the Notch Restaurant, you can then take a fire road east (or a semi-right) from the ski patrol building (rather than the more popular direct route, which is really steep) and take a VERY scenic route to the Backbone (if it is not windy) or to Thunder Mtn (if it is windy). Just watch for forest dept signage to direct you further. Wind-free, at this time, the Backbone is very do-able, very scenic. If you take this route, you won’t even have to summit, the vistas are pretty much the same as what you will be able to observe from the trail. p.s. Do pack a wind-breaker, gloves & something to cover your ears should the winds be active. It gets out-right cold even in our triple-degree heat & there’s no predicting the winds from below. Plenty of water is mandatory. Holiday weekend, expect plenty of trail traffic.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Great advice, Marybeth!

      @samantha – The fire road trail is definitely doable. Give that a go and see how you and your buddy are doing at elevation. You can either chill out at the Notch, take a short hike to Thunder Mountain, or give Baldy a try (but don’t underestimate how tough it can be). You will have a lot of company this weekend, too.

  • samantha says:

    Hi All,

    I’m visiting LA this weekend and would like to do this hike. My friend is not the most experienced hiker, but is in good shape, how strenous is this hike? Are there any spots that are truly precarious? Also, is there presently snow at the top/what type of weather conditions should I anticipate. I live in the Northeast so it’s quite different here. thanks!

    • c says:

      Hi Samantha,
      How did your friend do? I’ve only done around 5 miles max hiking, and I’m very nervous about trying this for the 1st time. I average hiking maybe 2-3 times a month, but only easy 3-mile trails.

  • Marybeth says:

    Very happy for you, exhilaratingm isnt it? did you approach via ski hut trail or continue along falls road? a couple of weeks ago, you would have had a nice view, but not of catalina unfortunately. i wonder if we crossed paths, i hike it frequently. what other trails in the area have you tried recently?

  • Samy Adams says:

    I just did the Mount San Antonio hike a couple of weeks ago. Really taxing the strength, but very satisfying! looking forward to some similar fun next week!

  • Damn, we are talking about nature here. guess she is just younger and stronger than you. Sorry you are so offended and hate a womans body, its nature get over it.
    But it was a hard hike under the circumstances, will be better next week, see you there.

  • Marybeth says:

    to d. frazell
    1) TMI
    2) you’re a jerk

  • Beautiful hike to Timber Mt, though my wife doesnt thinkshe can make Baldy, but we will put in some work it wasnt exactly a good time of onth for her, and mostly mental.

  • Great site, thank you, far better than any others i have been researching for Socal.We just decided to take hiking seriously, were tiring of Los Liones, though we live in Long Beach my wife had lived in WLA before. Uusally bikeride the San Gabriel River trail, but love rising up with a view and preparing for Kings canyon.

    We just did the Santa Anita trail and down Mt Zion via Winter Creek, absolutely beautiful, thought i was in the sierras. Never liked the local mountains because of fishing at Crystal Lake when young, not very interesting on that road. This is amazing, thank you for pointing it out. She was exhausted, but getting better quickly as a yoga and origianl tae boe girl, she wants even higher climbs. But may do it one or two more times in preparation, it was a wonderfully cool weekend with no flies, but bet that will change. And you are right, most hikers bail after the falls or first camp after the horse tail rejoins, hardly saw anyone going the full circuit but a Boy Scout troop that was camping. And parking was a b!@#$, got there late at 730 and had to park a mile down the road, and push a fourwheel drive back on road after the woman slid off trying to squeeze in parking.

    Interested in this climb, but she isnt crazy about devils backbone and vertigo, how is the western climb up and down alone? May do the eastern upto the backbone in getting in shape, and getting her used to the idea, but is the Bowl trail feasible up as well as down, or truly a leg tearer, which may be good. She found after climbing up the Merced to Little Yosemite valley a couple of years ago really helped her leg and core strength for Tae boe, and loves the workout with me, because i wont participate in her other interests.

    Really love the ease, photos and information of your site, keep it up. Is any hike worthwhile to the west of Santa Anta after the fire? Or needing years of regrowth to enjoy the wildlife.
    thank you, Donald Frazell

  • wizardofcairo says:

    Thanks for the info ( :

  • Marybeth says:

    Nope, it doesn’t pass the Notch, it takes you via the Bowl. I made the same mistake my first summit last season. I had arrived at the Sierra Club’s Ski Hut & thought, oh, why not go a bit further. A bit further then I wanted to go further, then next thing I knew, I was at the summit. No water. An angel gave me her water on my descent, guess I looked pretty thrashed. (because I was!) On the weekends that the Ski Hut is open, you can refill your water from there. They have a natural spring line hooked up to the sink, yes, it’s potable. But you will need to check online to see what dates the Hut will be open, it’s hosted by Sierra Club volunteers. (I’m one of them). Yes, the last leg of the ascent via the Bowl is as you described it; an ass-kicker as well. Also try keeping a pack of SHOT BLOKS in your pack, a gummy energy chew, high in potassium, it really helps with the leg cramps on that last leg. Also, as you’re in the higher EL’s, forcfully blow out several breaths to cleanse the bloodstream of any carbon dioxide build-up, aka respiratory acidosis, you’ll be breathing easier. 8-)

  • wizardofcairo says:

    Hi Marybeth, thanks for the reply. I am aware of the Ski Hut trail, but that doesn’t go Baldy Notch, does it?

    It took us about 4:30 hours to summit. I believe it was around 7.5 miles or the way we went. We stopped at the Notch for 30 or so minutes. The last 1/2 mile was an ass-kicker, 10-20 steps, 1 minute rest, repeat…..( :
    We didnt really bring enough liquids, so we were fighting a little bit of dehydration as well.

  • Marybeth says:

    I hear there was a plethera of hikers on the summit this weekend, more power to you for joining the crowd! After you pass the falls on S. A. Falls Rd, continue…I’m guessing .25 to .05 mile up the road. Look to the left and you will see a path heading up a very loose shale section. If you look across the canyon, to the right of the road as you are heading up the road (which is a dirt road once you pass the falls) and when you see a natural rock outline on the mountains that looks similar to an arrowhead, you are near the Ski Hut trailhead. Sometime stop by the ranger station at the village, if they are closed, they have a picture of the trailhead (among others) in the framed, glassed-in information sign at the entrance to their parking lot. It will also give you the difficulty rating for the various trails in the area. Lots of good info there. Please heed the advise on this website as far as hiking Devils Backbone in the winter though, should you decide to frequent the trails on Baldy. How long did it take you to summit?

  • wizardofcairo says:

    Hi, there is something I am confused about. So, I did this hike this weekend by going up the fire road from the parking lot to The Notch, then taking a ski trail to the Devil back bone. What I am confused about is this, how many ways can you get to the Notch from the San Antonio Falls Rd? I did not see any obvious trial that goes to the Notch aside from the fire road. Did I need to go the actual Water Falls, then continue from there?


  • Hiker Bob says:

    Tom: Per my TOPO sfw, Devil’s Backbone Trail from Baldy Notch is 3.07 miles and the Ski Hut Trail from the TH at the Maniker Flats ski-lift dirt road is about 3.25 miles

  • Tom says:

    Took my 16 year old son and two friends up Baldy from Manker Flats (via Ski Hut) and then back down through Devil’s Backbone through fire road. About 50 people on summit at noon. Great conditions. Anyone know the mileage of that route? Thanks ahead of time.

  • Marybeth says:

    Thanks for the 411, I pass on the lift option though, I’d rather soldier-on. :)
    BTW, have you noticed a lot more rattlers out this season? So far, I have NOT encountered one on or up Baldy proper, but I have on San Sevine, Stoddard, Sunset Peak, Claremont Wilderness, Cedar Glen, Bear Flats. They just seem to really be out there, as-in a bumper crop. But adults, clearly, with their wide girth. I started running into them (literally) late January…really puzzling, seems too early.

  • Hiker Bob says:

    For first time “Baldy Baggers”, I recommend riding the ski lift (open on weekends 7AM to sunset) up to Baldy Notch then take the Devil’s Backbone Trail to the summit and back again. Click on my name for my Baldy Hike Website that describes this route.

    For more advanced hikers, go up the Devil’s Backbone to the summit and hike down the Ski Hut trail to Maniker Flats. This would require leaving a car at the Maniker Flats Trailhead.

  • Marybeth says:

    M.H.: as far as the ski trails harder on ones legs…so, am I summarizing this correctly? Even though the road is a more graduated gain, the ski trails basically make up for it?

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Marybeth, there’s an elevation profile on this hike write-up. You can see for yourself – the fire roads are about the first 3 3/4 mile, and that next short stretch of steep area is the ski trail above Baldy Notch.

      Remember, this is the highest peak in L.A. County, so you’re going to get good elevation gain no matter which way you hike – but the fire road is technically easier – and if you are worried about your knees, you could always use the ski lift up and backtrack to the Notch after you summit to take it back down, too.

  • Marybeth says:

    To be perfectly honest…pass.
    With the 4,534 EL gain…nah, not on these knees.
    But very positive thoughts, dude!! More power to you that you are doing that in conjunction with Icehouse…are you like, military?

  • roberto says:

    or you can have a more challenging morning and summit through bear flats trail…

    these are the pics from my trip in May 21st… http://www.carspidey.com/socaltrails check them out… a bunch of snow… :D

  • Marybeth says:

    Yup, that’s the one. What is at the end of that road? I frequent the Hut twiuce a week, am looking for a more gradual EL gain. For example, hiking Icehouse to the saddle, vs the saddle via Cedar Glen. I find Cedar Glen far easier, the El gain is more gradual. So, is the boring road a more gradual El gain to the Notch, then can I get to the summit via the notch? Obviously by my ?’s, I’ve always summitted via Manker/Ski Hut

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Yes – the fire road is a longer and more gradual elevation gain. You can still summit via the Devil’s Backbone (basically the reverse of the route I describe in this post) – just know that going up those ski trails might be a bit of work for your legs :)

  • Karo says:

    Thank you “Marybeth”

  • Marybeth says:

    Those who have continued on the unpaved San Antonio Falls Rd, pass the trailhead to the Ski Hut, what is up there? Is there another trail?

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Marybeth, are you talking about the fire road? That winds its way up to Baldy Notch – its a looong and kind of boring route, which is why I usually head up the Ski Hut trail and then take the lift back down to Manker Flats.

  • Marybeth says:

    i’ve been hiking the ski hut trail for weeks now, no snow…very do-able. have fun, bet there will be plenty of trail traffic that weekend. leave EARLY & bring insect repell.

  • Karo says:

    Hi – was there any snow on the top? We want to get there next Sat July 2nd and do the SkiHut trail…

  • Nick says:

    Trail is in very good condition right now. Ascended via Devil’s Backbone and descended Ski Hut out of Manker Flats. Was able ascend in 3.5 hours and descend in 2. It presents a lot of varying terrain and doesn’t get boring. Not recommended for casual hikers.

  • Marybeth says:

    Very glad it worked out for you. Say, does anyone know what happened on Baldy this morning? (Sat June 11) On my way down & out from Icehouse multiple ambulances, fire, & rescue were heading up, lights & siren. It made me sad to know someone was in serious trouble….

  • roberto says:

    @Marybeth – i did end up going on the 21st…

    Our plan from the beginning is to start hiking at the trail that starts by the Visitor Center, get to the top, come down the devil’s backbone into the 3 t’s and then down icehouse canyon… :D did not happen… about less than half a mile from the top, one of my friends gave up… lol… we had to camp there and after we rested and ate we summit Mt. Baldy… there was a bunch of packed snow up there… i’ll post a link to some pictures later this week…

    it took us about 6 to 7 hours to get up there… with all our reststops and eveything…

    the next morning, it took us less than 2 hours to come down :D…

  • Marybeth says:

    So, Roberto & Mike…how did it work out for you hiking Baldy on the 21st? Were you able to camp & hike?

  • Marybeth says:

    check this out: LAST CHANCE For Amgen Race Parking Reservations
    Only a few Parking Passes are left.
    If you plan on attending the Amgen Race at Mt Baldy this Saturday you should be aware that parking will be at an absolute premium and controlled by the CHP.
    We are offering Parking Reservation passes in the Ski Area parking lot right at the Finish Line!
    These passes will guarantee that you’ll get through the CHP road closures.
    You’ll also be right there to witness what is antipated to be one of the most exciting race finishes ever in cycling.
    Get your Parking Passes now at http://www.mtbaldy.com
    The Amgen Tour of California is the biggest event ever at Mt Baldy and will attract thousands of visitors. Stage 7 of this 8 stage race will start in Claremont and end in the Mt Baldy Ski Area parking lot.
    This is considered to be “the” stage of the entire series. The winner of this stage is expected to win the Tour.
    This to your opportunity to be involved in one of the biggest sporting events in Southern California and actually be right at the Finish Line!
    Make your friends jealous and tell to look for you on TV!
    The special parking passes include unlimited use of the ski lift for the driver to and from the Top of the Notch Restaurant. Additional passes for passengers to use ski lift are also available.
    Get your passes NOW while they are still available by going to http://www.mtbaldy.com

  • Corey Porter says:

    There’s no parking at Manker Flats on Saturday. (From the Claremont CofC: “There will be no parking at the finish area or in Manker Flats. You will be immediately towed from these areas”.) The park will still be open, but I imagine that it will be filled with people camping to watch the end of the race.

    This probably isn’t a great (or even a good) weekend to visit Baldy. (Unless you’re in to cycle racing, in which case it’s pretty well the best possible weekend.)

  • roberto says:

    I called last week and they told me i shouldn’t have a problem camping…

    what i am reading on the PDF is that there will not be any parking at Manker Flats… which means, we would have to park somewhere around the Baldy Villate/Visitor Center and then hike up to the manker flats trail head…

  • Marybeth says:

    In fact, come to think of it, you boyz may even have trouble camping…all the bikers support staff will have to be at strategic locations….I’d call the ranger station to see if Manker will even be open.

  • Marybeth says:

    Mt Baldy Rd will definately be closed Saturday. I was just up there this a.m., signs are already out & no parking anywhere along the road on Saturday as well. So if you camp @ Manker Fri night, just know that you still won’t be able to leave the mtn Saturday when you feel like it. You know, when you’re all tired & burned out after the big hike. I guess you could recoup at the Lodge near Manker while you wait for the road to open, crowds to leave, but I suspect they will be packed out as well. Just a heads up, boyz.
    BTW, yup they got another dusting & overnight temps are C-O-L-D.

  • Corey Porter says:

    There are going to be a lot of road closures (and even more people) in/around Baldy this weekend. Specifics here: http://www.claremontchamber.org/files/506.pdf

  • roberto says:

    @hiker bob… thanks for that info… i might end up camping there too if i am able… :D

  • roberto says:

    Mike… why are you asking?

    I am going out there this weekend… leaving saturday from Manker Flats and probably i’ll be camping around the Notch… then Sunday i’ll come down through the 3 T’s and back to Manker Flats through Icehouse Canyon…

  • Mike says:

    Oh man…and what is this Amgen Tour of California bike tour ending at Mt. Baldy on Saturday. Will there be road closures preventing us from hiking it?

  • Mike says:

    I assume conditions are fine to hike to the top without crampons now? Did they get any snow in the rains this past week?

  • Hiker Bob says:

    @Roberto, My recommendation is to camp at Kelly’s Camp, just south of Icehouse Canyon Saddle. Then hike down the Icehouse Canyon Trail. Click on the following link for my website about IceHouse Canyon:


    On my webpage’s topo map, Kelly’s Camp is just under the U in the “C U C A M O N G A W I L D E R N E S S” label.

  • roberto says:

    Also, do you guys know of camping spots in this area? fires allowed?

  • roberto says:

    @Aaron… that map is really helpful…

    I am thinking of doing this, but starting at the Visitor Center and then go around to visit the 3 T’s on my way back…

    has anyone done this?

    Aaron, could you include a bigger map to show this trail? and could you mark the trail to follow?

  • Corey Porter says:

    We did this hike yesterday. Amazing views up at the top and well worth the climb. There are a few spots on the Baldy Bowl Trail where downed trees have covered the trail and can make finding your way somewhat non-trivial. Fortunately for us there were a few locals out for late afternoon hikes who very kindly pointed out the tricky parts to us so we didn’t have to spend too much time with the map and compass. However I’d point this part of the trail out as potentially tricky.

    Also, I can’t remember a hike I’ve been on lately where there were more or happier hikers on the trail. Everybody we met out there seemed to be having a great time. What a fun hike!

  • Marybeth says:

    no potable water on trail. (giardia) conditions good at least to the ski hut. WINDY & no view this weekend. the summit is windy even on non-windy days, its epic when weather forcasts predict actual wind. tends to create its own weather conditions at that elev.

  • roberto says:

    I was wondering the same thing as Esther… i am planning on going to that area on the 21st and wanted to know what to expect…

  • Esther says:

    Planning to do this hike on Saturday. Any idea what conditions look like now? And is there water on the trail? Thanks in advance!

  • Luis says:

    Does anyone know how the weather has been up there lately? I assume theres snow at the hiehgt elevations, but is it hikeable at this time of year?

    Thanks all for providing the number for the ranger station. Is there a reliable website that can track the current conditions? Thanks

  • Hiker_Bob says:

    I’ve done the Devil’s Backbone route from Baldy Notch several times. I plan to do the Ski Hut route this year. Click on the link below for my Website on the Devil’s Backbone Trail:


  • Marybeth says:

    Well, a lot closer than all the way down before being able to call for help. Ski Hut is approx midway when summiting from the south facing side of the mtn. :)
    channel 5 covered michelle being missing, then when her body was found on the 5th day.

  • helix66 says:

    @RKA Trails, thanks for that info. Really sad to hear that, I don’t understand why nothing was in the la times or kcal9/2.

    I think only Tmobile supports wifi calling ability, I guess if the wifi is working you could email. Isn’t it pretty far from any of the critical areas?

  • Marybeth says:

    The road closure is north of the village and they were repairing it yesterday. I was told it was pass-able. If not, there’s always Bear Flats route, but folks have been needing rescue from that area as well lately. There is, though, plenty of snow & still lots & lots of cloud cover, making for slippery hiking. Crampons a DEFINATE! You can also try contacting their volunteer fire dept during regular biz hrs for updates. 909.982.1213 Keep these numbers in your phone in case of emergency while on Blady. The Ski Hut now has wi-fi, perhaps your phone will work while near the Hut. Please, please be extra careful, I don’t state that lightly. Merry Christmas folks!

  • John says:

    Thanks Marybeth! It looks like the Mt. Baldy Rd. is closed due to the storm, for anyone thinking about heading out there this weekend…if you’re still determined to hike in the area you might use the Bear Canyon approach. I am told crampons will be a necessity. Again, be safe and happy holidays!

  • Marybeth says:

    909.982.2829 baldy ranger station

  • John says:

    Hi all! Does anyone know the contact information of the proper Ranger Station dealing with Mt. Baldy? I’d like to give them a call and get trail / weather information about a possible hike this Christmas weekend…whether I’ll need my spikes or not…whether to even attempt it after the storm we had. Thanks, and be safe!

  • Marybeth says:

    I certainly hope many others heed the warnings. I’m saddened to hear about even more deaths. My son & I were among others searching for Michelle Yu, her body was found 12/8/10, she had slipped on the ice and fell 2100 feet to Fish Fork area. Michelle was a wonderful woman, very very experienced. She was conditioning for a hike in Argentina in a few weeks. She had also worked her way to become a Ski Hut Host, she would have excelled at that as well. Please hear us: experienced hikers with 20+ years experience are losing their lives on Baldy. BE CAREFUL , FRIENDS. There are still patches of ice/mini glacier-type UNDER the recent snow.

  • RKA Trails says:

    @helix66, I read another version of the story a couple of days after Denise’s post. I don’t recall the Website where I found it, but it was a Mt. Baldy site. Anyway, it was apparently from his girlfriend. She said that they were both very experienced hikers and they had done many strenuous hikes in many places. As they were walking along the Backbone, she says, he just collapsed without warning. From her description of the incident it sounds like he had cardiac arrest and just died on the spot. The same thing happened to my niece’s brother-in-law; he had just graduated from high school and was out with a friend when, with nor prior warning, he suffered full cardiac arrest.

  • helix66 says:

    @Denise, I tried looking for a news story about that incident but nothing turned up. The recent tragedy is so sad. I can’t imagine doing that hike with any snow on the trail.

  • Josh says:

    Thanks for the great write up. Wish I would of read it before we attempted the hike last saturday. There was a ton of snow and ice on the ground and it really was a difficult and dangerous hike in these conditions. You can read our review here.


  • Denise says:

    Hello to all you fellow hikers~

    Just wanted to add that yesterday 1/4 of a mile ahead of us prior to reaching the notch a hiker lost his footing and yes, died @ approx. 9:30 a.m. For those that are inquiring about this hike please keep in mind there is patches of snow that can create a deathly situation if one is not extremely careful with their footing. I have seen hikers with spikes and I have also witnessed deathly accidents….devil’s Backbone should not be taken lightly!

    I just wanted to add this comment as many of us hikers that were present yesterday and witnessed this unfortunate slip …..were beyond devastated! His girlf looked on in sheer hopelessness as he plummeted down the mountain :(((



  • Jim says:

    Climbed Baldy via devils backbone (and the ski run) with no problem (3hrs). But, we missed the ski hut trail and ended up doing what you said not to, going down the bear canyon trail. This dropped us off at bear flats several muiles below our car so we bushwacked up a trailess hill and scrambled / slid down the steep hill to get to the road. It was pretty hairy as it was all steep talus & scree with a couple of class 3 downclimbs thrown in. Not smart & not fun. The bear flats trail is torture as it is steep, rocky, hot, and drops you down well below manker flats. Luckily, we were able to hitch a ride the 4 miles back to our from a local.

  • Marybeth says:

    If you can do this hike during the week, oh-so very much better! Weekends, the trails are very occupied. Expect it to be windy & cold at the summit & along D-backbone. I didn’t mind the biting cold, except for the ears, definately had to cover them, but otherwise was in short sleeves & quite comfortable.

  • jeanne. says:

    I did this hike today with my husband . It was amazing ! The trail was in great shape all the way to the top and I wasn’t as tough as I thought it was going to be except for the last push to the summit. The wind was absolutely howling! Standing on the top of the mountain was incredible. Having lived in this area my whole life it was definitely something I have wanted to accomplish for a long time. I am so glad we did that hike today and I will definitely do it again but not tomorrow .

  • Ashir says:

    Looking for trail conditions. Doing this hike again on Saturday. Wanted to know if the recent rains and temps had led to any solid, packed ice on the Backbone so I can be prepared. I’m hikin’ it anyway!

  • Marybeth says:

    Sprinkling of snow today, it melted quickly. But note that some snow is predicted for tonight and tomorrow. On 10-02-10 it was only slightly chilly, even though I was sleeping inside at the Hut, with windows cracked, I only needed a fleece sheet. But it’s much chilly-er there today. I would recheck closer to your anticipated hike date, our weather is (finally) changing…enjoy your hike, it’s FABULOUS!

  • Ashir says:

    Planning on doing this hike on October 9, 2010. Any information on the condition of the Devil’s Backbone? The abnormal heat of the past few weeks makes me think snow and ice are not going to be present, but I thought I would confirm. Thanks!

  • Marybeth says:

    FYI: Ski Hut elevation: 8,210 Mt. Baldy elevation: 10,064
    Total elevation gain from S.A. Falls Rd to Ski Hut: 2,040
    Total elevation gain from SD.A. Falls Rd to Mt. Baldy: 3,904
    Marybeth (yesterday was my 3rd summit to Baldy. Yahoo for us over 60 years old!!)

  • Cool pics! I currently live in Salt Lake but am planning a trip to the L.A. area this fall. Looks like a good hike to try.

  • Marybeth says:

    I turned 60 years old two days ago, am a cancer survivor & just hiked to Mt Baldy Ski Shack this morning! It was GLORIOUS! The air was brisk, which invigorated me when I needed it most. My knees are complaining, but it was well worth every ounce of energy! And such pleasant folks along the way. (both ways). Does anyone know the elevation there at Ski Shack?

  • helix66 says:

    I finally got to this trail yesterday but backwards I guess and I started way too late; (1:45pm) from San Antonio falls road. I ended up by the Mt Baldy ski area around 8p. The views are amazing, the devil’s backbone was really a trip, I was worried I had made a wrong turn or missed a turn off! I saw a big horn sheep just on the steep North side of the DB section, just awesome! The descent was a bit of a killer on my knees, I guess I’m still not in shape; it felt a lot longer than the 11.25 miles, but stunning!
    Thanks for the pix here and inspiration to do this hike!

  • Keith Hunt says:

    Great review, good job.

    I wanted to let everybody know that, for a limited time, the Mt Baldy Chamber of Commerce is giving away FREE scenic ride lift tickets here:

    These tickets are ideal for any hikers that want to start and finish at the Top of the Notch Restaurant.

    Keith Hunt
    Mt Baldy Chamber of Commerce.

  • matt hedley says:

    Nice pic below of me on the SUPER RISKY Devils backbone trail during full winter conditions. WE DID NOT DIE it was amazing. And yeah we got great snow on the way down in poor visibility. If you think this trail is really all that unsafe in you might want to reconsider your your label “hiker” and start calling yourself modern “walker”. Just a suggestion.


  • I did this hike on May 30th, starting the ascent on the Baldy Bowl Trail, summiting, then coming down Devil’s Backbone.

    There was snow & ice for the last 1000 or so vertical feet on Mt. Baldy, but I got through it with tennis shoes & without crampons or poles. A little hairy though.

    Devil’s Backbone was almost completely without ice or snow, and generally “safe”. Still a little nervewracking though.

  • helix66 says:

    I know that a gps isn’t a replacement for a map, but wondering if that accuterra app would have been helpful in Nadja’s case? I’m considering going for mapcandy and just have them all but I wanted to test it before.

    Is Icehouse open/accessible (snow or road closures)?
    I’ve been wanting to do Baden-Powell again but I think the 2 is closed, probably snow too.

  • RKA Trails says:

    Audrey, thanks for the tip on the more detailed map. I do feel more comfortable with a detailed map, but will also look at the simpler version for a different perspective. Hope to do the hike fairly soon, probably May. I did Mt Wilson this past Saturday via the Mt. Wilson Trail in Sierra Madre, it is a great preconditioning hike.

  • Mike says:

    So apparently I was hasty and found out Strawberry Peak is part of the forest closure area. Where is a website where we can keep up to date on when certain areas reopen?

    I wanted to look for a good alternate to Mt. Baldy in terms of mileage and challenge. Any other LA mountains worthwhile to look at which provide around 10 miles?

  • Mike says:

    How does Strawberry Peaks compare? There should be no risk of snow ruining our fun right?

  • Audrey says:

    It just depends on the amount of snow that was received last night. Its still quite dangerous without it – even to the ski hut. Park at Manker Flats. You’ll see the trail head sign.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      Mike, some friends of mine did Icehouse Canyon this weekend, and they said it was impassable past the saddle without crampons and poles, and pretty treacherous in spots below the saddle, too. Icehouse is lower than Baldy, and the Baldy trails are much more exposed. For new hikers, I would cancel the trip and find someplace lower.

      Sunset Peak might be worth checking out.

  • Mike says:

    Well I don’t want to cancel the trip. How high up do you think we could get without snow gear before turning back? Is there a recommended way up? I want to use this as a “practice” run for another month to do the full hike.

  • Audrey says:

    Most of the trail is cover with snow and some icy spots to the ski hut. The rest of the trail to baldy summit is cover with snow. I would suggest crampons and ice axe to be safe.

  • Mike says:

    How are conditions during this time of year? Would crampons be required for this hike? My entire group consists of new hikers but everyone is in excellent physical condition.

  • Nadja says:

    While the map that they hand out may almost be better than nothing, I highly recommend purchasing a detailed one. My sister & I walked up San Antonio Falls today to Mt. Baldy Notch. We wanted to hike up while there was still snow on the trail (for added fun). Towards the top though the trail seemed to just end in a criss cross of skiing slopes and we had to figure out how to get to the hut. Basically the free ‘map’ didn’t really help. But if you are experienced in trekking and are properly geared up, it is al lot of fun up there while the mountain is still white and crisp!

  • RKA Trails says:

    Thank you Zebra, the two-dimensional type map sounds exactly like what I’m looking for. I will try to get up to the village and hopefully they’ll still have such a map. Thanks again!

  • Zebra24601 says:

    The visitors’ center in Mt. Baldy village had a free two-sided handout with a large number of trails indicated on a map and the mileage for each segment along the way. It would give you a two-dimensional view of the layout of the various trails. It also gives the net altitude change for each segment, so you can get a feel for how tough each segment might be.

    They also sell a trail map of the Mt. Baldy area for $9.95. That one also has the trails, but at a larger scale and with contour lines, etc.

  • RKA Trails says:

    I plan to start exploring the hiking trails at Mt. Baldy. I’m going to purchase some topo maps of the area, but for me they’re kind of hard to read/understand. Is there a simple map that shows the trail system there that kind of shows the layout of the whole area and how the trailheads flow etc.? I’ve read a lot of trip reports from hikers doing the various trails, but without actually having been there yet I’m kind of confused. I would like to find somebody who is familiar with all the routes there that I could go with on several different days to sample and compare the most popular routes. I don’t want to get lost.

  • RKA Trails says:

    I plan to start exploring the hiking trails at Mt. Baldy. I’m going to purchase some topo maps of the area, but for me they’re kind of hard to read/understand. Is there a simple map that shows the trail system there that kind of shows the layout of the whole area and how the trailheads etc. I’ve read a lot of trip reports from hikers doing the various trails, but without actually having been there yet I’m kind of confused. I would like to find somebody who is familiar with all the routes there that I could go with on several different days to sample and compare the most popular routes. I don’t want to get lost.

  • Modern Hiker says:

    helix, if you have experience hiking and don’t have a fear of heights, the Devil’s Backbone would only be really dangerous if there were high winds or ice or snow on the trail already. It’s a tough hike, though, so be prepared.

    Icehouse is one of my all-time favorite trails near L.A. I really can’t recommend it enough.

  • helix66 says:

    I’d guess the Devil’s Backbone section might be closed or too dangerous if they don’t close it? Icehouse is another one I wanted to do, I had too late a start last week and completed that Mische Mokwa loop. I didn’t go out to balanced rock because I thought I’d be too late returning…so I want to check that again. This time it was clear and you could see PV, Catalina, and the islands to the North West. I took a lot of pix but haven’t posted them yet.

  • Modern Hiker says:


    The Mount Baldy Ski Resort site says they are currently running snowtubing on holidays and weekends with made-snow – and their webcam doesn’t show much snow in the area, so it’s still probably fine to hike up here – but I’d give the Resort a call to find out exactly where their snow is being made (http://www.mtbaldy.com/).

    If there’s too much snow around the actual resort, you can still make it up to the summit of Mount Baldy via the Ski Hut Trail (so just reverse this route) – just dress warm! I was up in nearby Icehouse Canyon last weekend, and it was CHILLY.

  • Gregg says:

    I’ve been wanting to do this hike since I came across this site a few months ago and with the closure of half of the Angeles NF.
    Is it too late to do this hike, early December? When does the ski operation open (and close the trail)?

  • Pete says:

    Hiked up to the Ski Hut yesterday (Nov 1) and it was an absolutely perfect hiking day, although almost got caught in the dark coming back due to that damn time change! Hey, quick question for the masses, does anyone know of a trail that can be taken from the Ski Hut to the Notch without going all the way up? Since they are roughly the same elevation, I was thinking it might be fun to traverse across but haven’t heard of any such route?

  • Hey there Casey.

    I went up Mount Baldy with my friends a week or so ago and I didn’t know it was the tallest peak in LA county. I underestimated the whole trip in fact, which is what caused us to be in darkness half of the way down. One of my friends ended up getting hurt in the dark on the way down, but we helped him the rest of the way.

    I have to say that that hike was great. We made it about 95% of the way to the top, and then turned around quickly because the darkness was looming.

    Thanks for this material on this site. We will use it to assess where to go next, and the like.

    On my site, the recent articles are a series I made talking about lessons from the hiking trip, if you want to check those out.

  • says:

    I agree with the comment about Devil’s Backbone being nice, but not the fireroad. If you’re willing to spend the $ on the ski lift you can avoid most of the fireroad.

    My preferred way is one I just did last week – ascend the Bear Canyon trail = 6.5 miles and almost 6,000 ft gain – and then descend the Ski Hut trail. You’ll get great views on two great trails. It’s a tough hike up, but less hike down. Just beg one of the many people parked at Manker Flats to drop you off in Baldy Village on their way out!

  • The MuffenMan says:

    I am planning on doing this loop by myself in a few weeks. This might seem like a lame question but does anyone know if you have a cell phone signal while on the trail? My wife wants me to send her text messages every now and then while I am hiking so she knows I am ok.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      It depends what carrier you’re using. When I had T-mobile, I had nothin’ as soon as I entered the canyons north of the 210. People with AT&T seem to have better signal strength in the forest … but since a big chunk of the trail is on the ridge on top of the mountain, you might be able to sneak a bar in here or there.

      I’d say, tell the wife you’ll text her when you can. Try to leave an estimated return time so she’s got a benchmark to go from, and try to text her when you’re getting to the trailhead and as soon as you can on the way out. That’s usually what I do!

  • jimbo says:

    I’m going to say here the best hike up Mt. Baldy is the Bear Canyon Trail. It is the most scenic and most rewarding with a 6,000 feet gain. The devil’s backbone is nice, but the rest of the trail meh.

  • Charles says:

    Beagged the Baldy Peak on June 14th. What a great hike. I did the fire road/Devil’s Bacbone up and back so a little different than this write up. The Back Bone trail portion was just amazing! I had a tremendously strong hike and summitted in three 3:15. The scenery is amazing and it gives you an entirely new perspective on Mt. Baldy.

  • Jen says:

    I’m glad to hear Baldy’s clear. I’m taking a friend up for her first time and didn’t want to have a reason to turn around. This is a great site. Thanks for all the info/pics/etc.

  • Vione says:

    Mt. Baldy Summit was spectacular yesterday. It was a difficult climb up Devil’s Backbone and down the bowl. My friends and I are training to do Mt. fuji this summer. It was a perfect hike.

  • Anthony says:

    The lift closes at 5pm and yes that will be plenty of time.

  • kimberly says:

    Me and friends are planning on hiking this saturday. If we start at 8am and take the ski lift down, do you think we’d be down the mountain by 2 or 3pm? I read somewhere that the ski lift stops at 2pm? How is the weather looking for Saturday?

  • Anthony says:

    Baldy is all clear. Had an amazing hike today.

  • Edd says:

    Sorry to hear about your aborted summit climb, Nicole. We went up the Ski Hut trail four days earlier than you and enjoyed spectacular weather and scenery (just what you want to hear, right?). Good Friday’s precip frosted everything up there; we felt like we’d walked into a Christmas card. A few of the photos are [url=http://picasaweb.google.com/hikinedd/AFrostyMtBaldy#]here[/url].

    Even at 9500′-plus, temps are forecast to stay above freezing all this week. The weekend should be fine with the only concern being the ever-possible wind and the NE-facing, shaded switchbacks beyond the Hut. Don’t know about Devil’s Backbone, but I wouldn’t cross it until it’s snow-free.

  • Nicole says:

    tried to ascend baldy today — eugene, i’d recommend waiting until may. there is still a fair amount of (granted, hard-packed) snow cover up high near the ski lodge. and let’s discuss the wind – good lord the wind. i point you back to the aforementioned “tried” to ascend baldy today. my friend and i got up to about 100-200yds within mt harwood and really had to turn back because it was too dangerously windy to proceed. literally nearly blown off the mountain by what was estimated at about 60mph gusts by the mt baldy fire dept. it was an amazing hike right up until we were on the backbone trail — at that point we were way too exposed and the wind was way too high to continue safely, especially considering you follow the ridge even further along baldy bowl.

    so we did the responsible thing and turned back, descended safely and considered this our “Scouting” of the best route to baldy — we’ll be back in about a month when it’s a wee bit warmer and much less windier. :) it’s definitely a great hike, and even though we didn’t make it completely to the summit of baldy, we got some great, clear views and a good workout, so i’m sure in good conditions it’ll be amazing.

  • Eugene says:

    Thanks for all the hard work you’ve put into this site! I’ve used it more than a few times to plan hikes around SoCal.

    I’m planning to do the Mt. Baldy hike at the end of April, but I’m worried that it’s too soon in the season, and that there will be snow on the trail. Has anyone done a hike up there in April or May? I suppose I can call Mt. Baldy and USFS closer to the time.

  • Raul says:

    Wow, this is awsome. a blog about mt baldy.
    If you read the post from everyone else, i hope “Abe” made it back safe from his “sleep over” on the mountain
    He said he would share his experience but i’m a little worry that we have not heard from him since..
    I hope he is fine.

    Well, for my experience, this is a beautiful place and and the best hiking trails in SoCal.
    Have fun and be safe..
    PS Happy New Year everyone.

  • Bill O'Connell says:

    Completed the round trip hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy on 11/13/08. A beautiful day in the mountains. Walked up the road to the ski lodge,over Devil’s Backbone to the top. Saw a couple Bighorn Sheep near the summit and met only 2 other hikers the whole day. Came down Baldy Bowl, a pretty steep down slope trail. I’ll reverse the hike on my next visit. Really a beautiful day. Left my car at Manker Flats campground at 7:45am and finished at 3:00pm. A must hike in SoCal…

  • Dave says:

    Did this hike yesterday. Absolutely spectacular early fall day. It had been twenty years since I last did this hike — I forgot what I have been missing. If you live anywhere in SoCal, you owe it to yourself to go. The endless 360-degree view from the summit is breath-taking!

  • Audrey says:

    August 15 – I climbed Mt Baldy via the fire road up Devil’s backbone. I couldn’t locate the trail head near Maker flats campground. Can you tell me the distance? Is it 10.33 miles? and distance from falls to Mt Baldy notch is 3 miles correct.

  • Modern Hiker says:

    Good luck, Abe! Let us know how everything goes!

  • Abe says:

    I am planning a backpacking trip this weekend to Mt 8/16/2008. Baldy summit. Temp. is about 50 degrees at night out there. I am planning to stay on the the top if it s not too windy. I will come back and share my experience…

  • Modern Hiker says:


    This trail starts past the village of Mt. Baldy, near the Manker Flats campground. The name of the road that starts this route is called “San Antonio Falls Road,” and is on the west side of Mt. Baldy Road before you get to the parking lot for the ski lift.

  • victoria says:

    Hello! I love hiking locally, but am a little confused when it comes to directions. Usually I just drive up Mt. Baldy Road, find a place to park, and pick a trailish direction. So I’m a little confused as to where exactly this series of trails you speak of starts, exactly. From the ski lifts used, I’d guess in the City of Mt. Baldy? Sorry, but I’m really not sure…

  • Christopher says:

    Can you stay overnight on Mount Baldy? Is there any way to up load your track into my Garmin? Where are some of your favorite places for overnight/2 night backpacking trips in southern California? Thanks for any advice you can give. Great web site by the way!

  • Eric says:

    I got stuck in a blizzard on Baldy back in 2001. The day started out beautiful but the moment we reached the summit we were trapped in a white-out snow storm. We had to build a snow cave and stay the night on the mountain, could not make it down. The weather on any Mt. at high elevations can turn in an instant so be aware and be prepared. This is a beautiful hike but don’t be fooled by it’s proximity to the city or the ocean. It is a high altitude climate up there. Have fun, be safe.

  • Casey says:


    To the best of my knowledge, mountain bikes are not allowed on the Devil’s Backbone trail. You may be able to ride one up the fire road to Baldy Notch, though. Give the ranger a ring and see what’s up!

  • dale says:

    Can you ride a mtn. bike on it?

  • Casey says:


    I’d say it depends on the nature of your dog. The Devil’s Backbone section is pretty narrow, but I’m guessing your puppy’s survival instinct will keep him from jumping off any cliffs. You might want to bring a leash along for a few sections, though.

  • Kyle says:

    How dog friendly is this trail? Would you advise against bringing a dog based on the Devil’s Backbone section of the trail?

  • Casey says:


    I believe the trails are open, but they are going to have some serious snow and ice on them now — especially with our recent rains. The Devil’s Backbone Section of this trail, in particular, is dangerous if you don’t have the proper equipment or experience — so be careful.

    You may want to get in touch with the Mount Baldy station of the USFS before you head out. Their contact info is below:

    Mt. Baldy Visitor Center
    Mt. Baldy Road
    Mt. Baldy, CA 91759
    (909) 982-2829
    Daily 8:00 am – 4:30 pm

    Good luck!

  • JC says:

    Are the trails open year round? Even when it has snowed?

    Let me know


    I’m trying to find a number to call to find out if I can go this wknd…


  • Carol says:

    So, if you take the ski lift, it’s about a 7 mile hike round trip with 2,600′ elevation gain? I would like to hike the entire thing, but am thinking about scoping it out via the chairlift first. Thanks for the info!

  • kristen says:

    Good to know you’re site’s back up and running.
    I haven’t been up the Baldy trail since July (via the Ski Hut Trail, Bagged Baldy, West Baldy, & Harwood). That was real nice. I hope the Baldy area isn’t hammered by precipitation in the next couple weeks. Would be nice to get back into the swing of hiking.


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