About Mount Baldy
Mt. San Antonio, most commonly referred to as Mt. Baldy, is the highest peak in Los Angeles County at 10,064 feet. While hiking to this peak is challenging, the views from the Pacific to the Mojave, make the 4,000 foot climb worth it.
Mt. Baldy gained its nickname due to the lack of trees at the peak. During winter and spring months, Mt. Baldy’s peak is covered in snow, making it a bit more challenging to hike during but easy to recognize from the city on clear days.
Located in the San Gabriel Mountain Range, Mt. Baldy is the perfect example of a “folded” mountain. Folded mountains are formed when two tectonic plates, like the ones along the mighty San Andreas Fault, collide. The layers of rock will typically crumble and create a visual effect that resembles the look of a cloth being pushed forward.
There are two trails visitors can use to summit Mt. Baldy, and if you’re short on time or energy, there’s a ski lift that takes you up 1,500 feet and eliminates the least interesting portion of the hike. The lift operates seven days a week, with the cost of tickets ranging from $15 to $25. There are some restrictions, including children under 12 must be at least 40” tall to ride, and tickets can be booked in advance.
History of Mt. Baldy
Mt. Baldy has a rich history that dates back 8,000 years to the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe. Asuksangna, one of the tribe’s longest permanent villages, was established near the gaping drainage of Mt. Baldy’s largest watershed, which collected the generous snowmelt and supplied the village with water. The Tongva tribe also used Mt. Baldy to assist with their economy by creating trails up the mountain to barter with other local tribes.
In the early 1900s, a shift from interests in resources to resorts happened and many camps began popping up in the area. Because the San Gabriel Mountain Range supplied the majority of water to surrounding areas, there was conflict between camp owners and the San Antonio Water Company. In 1899, a brush fire broke out and ultimately led the water company to purchase Deli’s Camp and close it in an attempt to eliminate further damage and pollution to the watershed. After some time and various legal battles, the water company decided to reopen the camp in 1910 with a new name, Camp Baldy. They began profiting from the camp and charging tolls on the road from 1908-1922. As of 2018, there are very few resorts serving the general public. Some of these include Mt. Baldy Lodge and Buckhorn Lodge in Mt. Baldy Village.
In 1921, a single room schoolhouse was built on Mt. Baldy. The school closed down in the 1970s after it failed to pass new earthquake standards. Today, there is a new Mt. Baldy School with approximately 100 students, but the old school house still serves as a visitors center for the community and mountain visitors.
Parking and Rules and Regulations
Mt. Baldy is approximately one hour from Los Angeles. The best way to find the trailhead is by plugging Manker Campground into your GPS, as the parking area for the Baldy Bowl-Ski Hut trailhead is nearby on Mt. Baldy Road. In order to park in this parking lot, you must have a California Adventure Pass, which can be purchased at a 7-Eleven, Adventure 16, or other stores listed here. Visitors can use either the daily pass ($5) or annual pass ($30) for access to this parking lot. The National Parks Annual Pass is also accepted here.
Mt. Baldy visitors should remember that they play an important role in helping to “secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness” as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. The area provides clean air and water for rare and endangered plants and animals, and visitors are encouraged to follow the rules outlined below, as well as “Leave No Trace” techniques.
- Group size is limited to 12 people per party.
- Dogs are allowed, but they must be leashed at all times. Dog owners are required to clean up after their pets.
- Visitors are required to pack out what they bring in, including garbage, debris, and waste.
- Smoking is not allowed, except in areas where you are seated and within an area of three feet in diameter in which all flammable debris has been cleared.
- All campfires must be properly extinguished
- Visitors must stay on authorized trails at all times.
- Natural features, such as plants, soil, rocks, etc., may not be removed from the park..
If you wish to receive parking at the trailhead, arrive early. Spots will fill up quickly, despite the permit rule, and the trail can become crowded very quickly.
It’s important that hikers are bear aware while hiking in the San Gorgonio WIlderness. Bear-human encounters have occurred. Hikers are encouraged to keep their packs with them at all times, as bears are more likely to approach an abandoned pack. Park staff requires that you hang all food, garbage, and smelly items, such as shampoo or chapstick, at least 10 feet from the ground and 5 feet from the tree trunk and 100 yards from your campsite.
Hikers should also note that during warmer months, beginning in April, rattlesnakes are commonly seen on trail. While rattlesnake bites can be deadly, they are not usually aggressive unless they feel threatened. Below are some tips to help avoid being bitten.
- Do not step where you cannot see. Do not put your hands where you cannot see.
- Wear closed toed shoes.
- Keep an eye out for snakes where the sunlight meets shaded areas.
- Do not approach a rattlesnake, even a freshly killed one.
If you are bitten, stay calm. Wash the bitten area with mild soap and water and remove jewelry, watches, or any other item that may restrict swelling. Call for help or walk to get assistance for transportation to the nearest medical facility.
Poodle-Dog Bush, Eriodictyon parryi, is common in parts of Southern California. Touching it can cause a significant allergic reaction. Poodle-Dog Bush has a purple bloom and a rank smell. Unfortunately, long sleeves and pants do not fully protect travelers. You may contaminate yourself by touching clothing that has been in contact with the plant, but it is still recommended that you wear these items while hiking through areas where Poodle-Dog Bush is present.
Hiking Mt. Baldy in the winter and early spring will require you to use crampons and an ice axe for your safety. If you are not comfortable using these items, it is recommended that you attend a safety course before attempting to summit Mt. Baldy.
Trails to Mt. Baldy
Baldy Bowl-Ski Hut Trail
Length: 11.3 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,100 Feet
Features: Historic Landmark, Waterfall, Local Flora, Panoramic Views
The trailhead for the Baldy-Bowl Ski Hut trail is located about the Manker Flats Campground. Begin the hike by following the paved road for 0.6 miles to San Antonio Falls. After the paved road ends, the trail will curve sharply to the right and then left. After the curves, keep an eye out for the unmarked single track trail breaks off up a gravel slope, a third of a mile past San Antonio Falls. This is the trail to Baldy-Bowl, and it’s easy to miss.
This trail ascends the southwest side of the mountain and is the shortest route to the top that does not require a ski lift. What the Baldy Bowl trail lacks in length, it makes up for in elevation gain and aggressive climbs.
Approximately halfway up the trail, you’ll see the San Antonio Ski Hut. This is a great place to take a break and regain some strength before taking the Devil’s Backbone trail to reach the summit. From the ski hut, you will hike both the easiest and hardest sections of the trail. For the next approximate 1-mile, you’ll hike an easy stretch and then a steep ascent to the summit. The panoramic views at the top are well worth the effort! To Descend, either go back the way you came, or head east towards the Baldy Notch trail.
Length: 13 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 Feet
Features: Panoramic Views, Local Flora
If you plan to hike the Baldy Notch trail to the summit, you should park at the ski lift and begin the trail that is located to the left of the ski lift. This trail will follow the path of the ski lift, and you will gain 1,000 feet in elevation within the first mile. This trail is a bit more challenging than the Baldy Bowl-Ski Hut trail, and most hikers will say they prefer to hike down the Baldy Notch trail, rather than up.
On the Baldy Notch trail, you will follow a wide dirt road for the majority of the trail until you reach the top where the ski lift drops off riders. Take a left here and continue beyond the lodge to the Devil’s Backbone trail, where you will continue to follow until you reach the summit.
What to Bring
Being prepared is the best way to ensure you will have a great hiking experience. Below is a list of the essentials you will need to pack for your hike to Mt. Baldy.
- Polarized Sunglasses
- Comfortable clothes according to the weather forecast
- Windbreaker for the top (it’s usually windy)
- Trail shoes or hiking boots
- Hiking poles
- Camelbak or hydration backpack
- Trail snacks
- Snacks and lunch, like sandwiches, for a well-deserved lunch
Hiking Mt. Baldy is a great way to explore the outdoors year-round in SoCal.It’s also a popular way for hikers to prepare to summit Mt. Whitney. With activities like hiking, camping, skiing, and snow tubing, there’s something for everyone on Mt. Baldy.