elevation profile of Mount Baden-Powell

google earth profile of mount baden powell

A moderately challenging 8-mile trek up the north face of one of the tallest mountains in the San Gabriels. Fans of switchbacks will love the march to the top of this peak, which rewards hikers with a stunning ridge, 1500-year-old limber pines, a small monument to the founder of the Boy Scouts, and a mostly-bare summit with tremendous panoramic views of the landscape. A popular trail, but definitely on the list of must-dos for the Angeles National Forest.

Mount Baden-Powell had long been cut-off from many L.A. area hikers, due to the closure of the Angeles Crest Highway. Since the road fully re-opened, we no longer have to drive around the eastern edge of the San Gabriels to come in from Wrightwood, and can reach this popular peak with an easy (albeit long) drive from the La Canada Flintridge entrance to the Angeles National Forest.

When the road re-opened in 2009, this was the first mountain I hiked, and it is definitely worth taking the time to get to.

The trailhead is clearly marked from the road, and has a large parking area and outhouses. While this can be a crowded trail – popular with day-hikers, backpackers, Boy Scouts, and Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers, don’t let that discourage you from hiking it. There are also a few other trails that leave from this parking lot – so don’t worry if you see a lot of cars when you pull in.

Head toward the western corner of the lot, then hop on the Pacific Crest Trail and start hiking.

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The trail is mostly shaded by pines at this elevation, and has a moderate but very consistent grade. You’re not going to find much flat ground to rest your legs, here. Just count the switchbacks and you’ll be fine.

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The scenery of the trail is nothing spectacular for most of the trek, but the thick evergreen forest is a very-welcome respite from the drudgery of city life, and as you ascend, you’ll be able to see more of the Antelope Valley to the north or, if you’re lucky, some leftover wildflower blooms.

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About a mile in, there is a small bench at a switchback, overlooking the mountains to the east of Baden-Powell. In another 0.7 miles and 8 switchbacks, there is a short spur trail to Lamel Spring, which – of course – should be treated before you drink any water. You’ll also pass this great knotted tree:

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It was around this point in the trail that I started encountering the last of the stubborn winter snow, still hanging on to the mountain in seemingly frozen snow-slides … or very tiny glaciers.

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While these little snowblocks started off as very small obstacles, they soon grew much larger, blocking large sections of trail, making it so I had to either climb over them or hike on some of the more directly-ascending use trails for a while.

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But it was at this elevation – about 3 miles in and just under 8500 feet – that the trees got more gnarled from the weather, and the views of the Antelope Valley to the north became much clearer.

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… if you look near the left of center in this photo, you can clearly make out the Devil’s Punchbowl. Viewed from this elevation, you can really see what a geological freakshow that place is, and how much it sticks out from the rest of the surrounding landscape.

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At about the 3.9 mark, the formerly just-pleasant trail takes a turn toward the dramatic. Here, a short, unmarked use-trail will lead you to a small, ancient grove of limber pines, some of which have been sitting on this windswept ridge for a thousand years.

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When you’re done getting your mind blown by the trees, your horizon will widen to reveal a breathtaking view of Pine Mountain Ridge and Mount Baldy to the southeast.

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… and when you’re done with that, you can look down to see the near-sheer drop of the ridge you’re standing on. I told you this part was dramatic.

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… all this, and you’re not even at the summit yet!

When you’re done soaking in the views here, continue on the trail along a short summit ridge with a sharp drop to the left. The Pacific Crest Trail bypasses Baden-Powell’s summit, heading west toward Islip Saddle. Ignore this and continue on the marked path toward the Baden-Powell summit, making sure to take time out to stop at the “Wally” Waldron Tree – a particularly hardy limber pine that’s estimated to be more than 1500 years old.

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From there, it’s less than a tenth of a mile up to the bare cap of Baden-Powell, adorned with a small concrete monument to peak’s namesake.

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Relax, have a snack, layout on the summit and enjoy the panoramic views, then head back down the way you came.

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor at Modern Hiker
In addition to writing about the outdoors since 2006, Casey has also been producing and writing television since 2003.He was the Head Writer on G4's "Attack of the Show," co-writer and host of "The MMO Report," and the Series Producer / Head Writer of pivot's "TakePart Live."His work has received several honors, including Webby, Telly, and CableFAX awards.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on June 18, 2009

53 Comments

  • Tina says:

    Great hike write-up! We did this today and it was pretty much as described (no snow). Definitely worth doing!

    Some silly people have been short-cutting the switchbacks, so we tried to put branches and rocks to block them off.

  • Courtney says:

    I hiked this yesterday (Sunday- Labor Day Weekend) and this was my first time on this side of the Angeles. What a delight it was to hike up with a mountain with actual trees and shade along the trail! I’ve spent too much time west of Mt. Wilson. It was more crowded than I expected but not at Echo Mountain levels. I encountered members of a large group with that did not bring sufficient water and seemed to have underestimated the rigor of this climb. I’m in very good shape and I struggled, likely due to the high altitude. What a view from the summit! After doing this, I am optimistic about my ability to summit Baldy in the near future.

  • Saina says:

    i was thinking about doing a weekend hike and since I’m planning a PCT thru-hike next year. I have an Adventure Pass. Can i just park overnight? Not familiar with that area…Does anybody know?

    • All the Adventure Pass stuff is still very confusing for SoCal Forests, but I’m pretty sure you’d be OK parking overnight here with any Pass that’s longer than a Day Pass.

    • Tom Romo says:

      You can also purchase a 12-month Adventure Pass for $30. Much better deal if you frequent the Angeles Forest, and it makes parking overnight legal. The single-day passes are only good for the date you scratch off.

    • Bruce Chambers says:

      It is okay to park overnight using the annual pass. As there is a problem with car breakin’s the Rangers warn to make sure that you have nothing at all of value or otherwise on the seats or floor of your vehicle.

  • Kristin says:

    Hiked this trail 5/4/14. Almost no snow- there was only one patch near the top where snow covered the trail (small, maybe 5-6 feet long). Hiked in shorts and t-shirt, which was fine (long sleeve shirt pulled from pack was appreciated at the top- windy) .Great hike, very consistent ascent…the last .5 miles or so my heart was thumping and we stopped a bunch to catch our breath! Beautiful views from the top!! About 3 hrs and change up, had lunch at the top, about 1 hr 30 minutes down, and that was an easy pace. We are Santa Monica Mtns hikers, so we absolutely loved this change of pace. My calves felt it the next day for sure!

  • Nadim says:

    Just got back from this today! Went alone and didn’t see a single person the whole trip, was quite serene. The snow for the second half of the hike was a little overwhelming and dangerous, but I managed with just some sturdy hiking shoes. Definitely one of the better hikes I’ve been on. I’d recommend going now for a snowy challenge near the top, otherwise wait a few more weeks for the ice to melt some more.

    Thanks for the info on the hike, modernhiker.

  • LouAnn says:

    Casey, Thank you for your post! It’s very informative and inviting! I’m visiting the area at the end of March and may have time to hike this mountain. Is that too early To hike? i.e. will there still be a lot of snow?

    • LouAnn, we haven’t had much precipitation this year unfortunately, but that does mean Baden-Powell should be clear unless we get a much-needed storm between now and your trip!

      • Matt Ornelas says:

        did the hike last friday, 3-28, and about the last 2-3 miles of the trail was covered in snow with very few dry spots. i did it in converses and had alittle, but made it up to the top. overall i thought the snow made it more fun and challenging. its kinda hard to tell where the trail is at some points but just follow the foot steps in the snow. if you havent done it yet Louann and still plan on doing it make sure to have good footwear for snow and be safe!:)

  • Sean says:

    Hiked Mt Islip April 21, 2013. No snow on that trail; however, Rt 2 (Angeles Crest Highway) was still closed. The parking lot for the Mt Islip trail head was as far as you could drive on 2. As of today, CalTrans still indicates this road is closed. http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi

  • Shannon says:

    Tried to do this hike yesterday, the Angeles Crest Hwy (CA State Route 2) is closed 10 miles to the west of the trailhead due to a some rock slides. It should be open in a couple of weeks according to a hiker we ran across.

    The road closure is at Islip Saddle, so we took this trail up to Little Jimmy Campground. It’s at a comparable elevation to Vincent Gap, and about 500′ higher you’ll find the trail covered in snow and slightly iced over. Since this is a North slope trail, snow remains fairly thick at 2-36″ in the deepest parts we ran across. I would expect the trail conditions from Vincent Gap to Baden-Powell to be similar this time of year.

  • j says:

    I dig your website.

  • mike p says:

    Anyone know how this trail is from Vincent or dawson gap? Looking to tackle it this weekend but would love to know about any snow/ice. Thanks in advance.

    • Modern Hiker says:

      This route is from Vincent Gap … not sure about the current ice conditions, though. Might want to give the rangers a call if you don’t get any responses from fellow hikers here.

      • [email protected] says:

        I just called the rangers, and they don’t know the trail conditions – they’re asking for reports from hikers. Mike P., did you go this past weekend? How was the snow? I’m looking to go May 12.

        • mike p says:

          I called and they did not know either. I held off as the last thing i want to do is drive out there only to be turned away by some stubborn ice near the summit. Thinking about it this weekend as the later it gets – the better it should be.

          Took down San Gabriel Peak and Mt Lowe from eaton Saddle last weekend – great quick 5 miler a little closer to home!

    • NateKat says:

      My husband and I did the hike yesterday (5/13/12). The last 1/2 mile or so had a few snowy areas and we did use our microspikes since we brought them, but it was possible to avoid most of the snow by going off-trail around it. It seemed that many people were summitting with regular hiking shoes / sneakers, and I assume the conditions will only continue to improve.

      We had beautiful weather although the views were a bit hazy. Definitely a trail I’d be up for repeating in the future!

  • Steve K says:

    I visited old Wally on 1/30/21012. I climbed to the summit of this high altitude peak with the longing to see these trees in person. Not only was my breath taken by the views but also by the beauty of the narled wood of the ancient trees there. I think it may be a bristlecone pine, simalar to those found in the ancient bristlecone pine forest. The pine cones are smaller, and have incurved prickles. Im moved by the age of these magnificent trees.

    • Catherine says:

      Was there any snow or ice on the trail? I am thinking of hiking Baden-Powell this weekend.

      • Modern Hiker says:

        Catherine, your best bet is to call the Rangers at (626) 574-1613. They’ll have the most updated trail info and should be able to point you in the right direction.

        We haven’t had precipitation in a bit, but most of that trail is on the mountain’s north slope, which tends to hold onto snow and ice a bit longer. Happy hiking!

        • Steve K says:

          there is alot of snow and ice. I recommend using cramp ons and gators over your boots if you have them. I did it with out crampons and I slipped on ice, banging my knee. The snow causes the trail to be obscured and difficult to see. We ended up following others foot steps up a steep face with 2 feet of snow. It was worth it!!!

  • Catherine says:

    Anyone know if the Baden-Powell trail has snow right now?

  • luis buenrostro says:

    this place is the nicest place ive been to in my life

  • Robert says:

    This my favorite hike of all times and I do it once a week, if at all possible. Yesterday (July 29, 2011) was my 21st ascend to the top of this mountain since June of 2010. I do it for the exercise, solidtude, clean air and great view. Please watch my Youtube video “Running Down Mt. Baden-Powell” to get an idea of the trail.

  • Filip says:

    hiked this trail today and the weather was perfect. there is a tiny bit of snow in spots, but it’s easily manageable. one of the people in my group wore running shoes and was fine. the actual hiking took us 3 hours total (1:50 up, 1:10 down), but we spent over an hour at the top (it’s gorgeous). the angeles crest highway is open and newly paved, so it’s a nice drive. i highly recommend this hike.

  • Randall says:

    For those of you who want to locate the mountain on a map, the Lat./Long. coordinates are 34.358473, -117.764654

  • Ron Clanton says:

    Explorer Post 288x, From Redondo Beach, built that monument, about 1956 or 57. I was 15 or 16 then. We carried all the cement and water up on our backs. And the forms to. We did it over a 4 or 5 weekends. A memory I will hold dear till I die. Most of the boys still see each other at a reunion every 2 to 5 years. a couple of girl friends helped too. thank you for the photos. I wish I could fine more.

  • Vince Marquez says:

    On September 25, 2010, I jogged up the mountain. My time was 1 hour, 3 minutes, 7 seconds. I’m trying to make it to the top in under an hour. It’s hard to train for that elevation, even though my gym is at 4,000 feet, and I set the tread mill at 13% to match the mountain’s profile. I can jog 4 1/2 miles on the tread mill in an hour. But applying that pace to the mountain is another thing.

  • Stacy says:

    This Was My First Hike Ever, Although I Didn’t Make It All The Way I Was Very Proud. It Was Beautiful, After Some More Training I Will Be Back There To Make it All The Way Up To The Summit

  • David says:

    On memorial day the last 1500 feet or so of elevation was solid snow (no way to see the trail so we just went straight up). It was do able with hiking poles and no ice axe (although glissading down with the ice axe was one of the most fun parts of the trip).
    Once you reach the ridge before the summit the snow clears and you can follow the trail again the rest of the way.

  • fhsiv says:

    Does anyone know the current status of any snow pack remaining on the trail?

    By the way, this blog contains unbelievable amounts of excellent information!
    Thank you for your efforts.

  • David says:

    What is the best way to reach Baden Powell from the LA area (Glendale specifically)? Have the fire closures affected the road in?

  • Mark says:

    I hiked to the summit on May 26th with hiking boots and two trekking poles. I would not recommend it. We saw others who did it without crampons, but most that made it to the summit had crampons and ice axes.

  • Jeff says:

    I tried climbing this summit on Saturday May 22. We got up about two miles and had to turn around because of snow. We noticed plenty of hikers with hiking books and poles who also had to turn around. Will try again after the snow melts.

  • elisa says:

    i believe it still has snow. last week when i was in palmdale it looked like there was still snow. but i dont know if u need snow shoes,… i know the snow that is up there is slushy

  • Robert says:

    I’m thinking about trying this hike next weekend, but does anyone know if the trail is clear enough to summit without snowshoes? Thanks!

  • kdizza says:

    Does anyone know if this hike is currently accessible due to the station fire?

  • titansoldier2007 says:

    i hiked this with my boyfriend for the first time june 12, 2009. it was our first major hike together. had a good time till 9000 feet and i swear my lungs were burning. after i stopped 300 ft short of the summit, for 20 mins i made it to the top. we went up in right under 4 hrs, and made it down in 2 hrs 23 mins

  • gene says:

    Great idea about the snowshowing. I live in Wrightwood, so I have done the hike dozens of times…never in the snow though.

  • Bud Z says:

    Have hiked the mtn. 3 times over the last two summers. Trail is well maintained considering the maintainence required. The hike is up the north ridge making for a cool walk in the shade most of the time. It is a moderately strenouous hike and makes for a great workout. Great view at the top.

  • Raphael says:

    This is one of my favorite hikes in LA!

  • Steve says:

    It’s a great snowshoe as well. You can skip the switchbacks and just plow straight up the ridge!

    http://stevemc.smugmug.com/gallery/7198333_ncRBT#462297038_4Ef96

  • Pete ONeil says:

    Nice web page, very informative. We have hiked Baden-Powell four times within the last several months and it is a good workout, nice scenery and if the day is clear a fantastic view on the summit. As always, be prepared, we went up about a month ago starting out at four in the afternoon and near the top we encountered heavy rain and winds…it got very cold!

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