Hiking LA’s Famous Mt Baldy for the First Time as a New Hiker

There are multiple trails that lead to the top of Mount Baldy, the tallest peak in Angeles National Forest and the LA region. The Baldy Bowl/ Ski Hut hiking trail is the shortest and steepest hiking trail which is why I always pick to go up this — it’s about 4 miles and 4k ft of elevation gain.

I’ve hiked up this numerous times since my first time, but looking back at my first experience as a new & naive hiker is quite humbling. This is not a trail report, but a story of my experience.

HIKE TO: Mount Baldy (aka Mt San Antonio)
TRAILHEAD: Baldy Bowl / Ski Hut Trail
DATE I WENT: 4/26/15
MILES: 7.84 miles out and back
TIME: 7 hrs (if you're a faster-pace, I'd give it 4-5 hrs)
DIFFICULTY: strenuous
ELEVATION: 10,064 ft
LOCATION: Angeles National Forest in Southern California

This trail report is from the very beginning of my hiking journey…

Point of View:
You just started hiking and this is your third peak hike ever. You’re out there for the nature and challenge of it all but haven’t learned how seasons and weather conditions affect SoCal’s mountains. It rained and snowed the night before…

Also known as Mt. San Antonio, I conquered peak 3 of the six-pack of peaks a few weekends ago [4.26.15]!  I enjoyed this hike more than peaks one and two, but only the hike itself.  There was more to see.  Wilson was just long, filled with steady steep switchbacks… a bit boring for my taste… boring views as well.  Cucamonga Peak was mostly a tough one because of the weather… I was not prepared at all.  But Baldy, I was ready for… or so I thought.

I knew it was gonna be a tough hike, so mentally, I was prepared.  It couldn’t get any worse than my previous hikes in my mind.  I went to REI the day before to get some legit hiking socks and a wind-resistant jacket to keep me warm.  It rained the day before so I knew this was going to be a cold one… especially considering the elevation.  I also participated in the Lorna Jane bootcamp the day before and I was definitely feeling that workout from the moment I woke up.

Getting to the Mt Baldy Trailhead

It’s so close to Cucamonga Peak (peak 2); you even pass the parking lot on the way.  You continue on Mt Baldy Road until you hit a big open area to park at (before you hit the ski lifts). There is an outhouse at the front and a map.  From here, you hike Falls Rd for about a mile or so, and it turns into Baldy Rd.  Mt. Baldy can be done as a loop, or you can go the same way back, so there’s essentially two trails: the slightly shorter one that is steeper, and the longer easier one crossing the Devil’s Backbone trail.  We took the steep trail up and down.  

The steep trail “Mt Baldy Trail” is on the left side before the current Baldy Rd turns back into Mt Baldy Rd (use google maps and zoom in on it, you’ll clearly see the trails).  I also have a pic below of this trailhead so you know what to look for, cause I wouldn’t have paid attention had it not been for other hikers.

Layers and Temps hiking Mt Baldy in April

It was freezing in the morning, super windy.  Once we got started though, we warmed up and all the layers got to be a bit much.  I wore: shorts, leggings, and sweats on bottom, then a tank top, long sleeve, hoodie, and the rain shell thing I just bought.  I wanted to do the Devils Backbone trail down, but the winds were ridiculously strong at the top!  I didn’t bring gloves and I was freezing at the top; I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore and it was too cold to enjoy the peak so we didn’t stay at the top long.  I’m not a very heavy person, but not a double-digit either.  When I walked against the wind at the top, I literally was not inching forward at all… I had to really push myself.  When I walked with the wind… well, it gave me a huge boost.  Since the Devil’s Backbone trail is a ridge hike, it didn’t seem like the smart choice.  But I do plan to go back to hike it sometime soon (& I did).

Random tidbit: we saw a bobcat (they did, I missed it).

Since it rained the day before and we were on higher elevation, the trees were covered with ice!  It was like a winter wonderland during Spring.  Since the winds were strong, the icicles dangling from the trees fell down like rain/snow… it was really an amazing thing to see… can’t image anything like that.  The timing of our hike was perfect since the trees were all dried and green on our way down the mountain.  Once I figure out how to upload a video, I’ll show you guys how spectacular it was; the pictures don’t do it justice.

This occurred from few miles into it where the cabin is.  From here and onward, the elevation gain picks up a lot.  There are 2-3 long steep sections, and a few rocky areas where you might get lost.  After you go past the “Baldy Bowl” sign, it gets steeper and trickier.  A nice old man kind of guided us, but when in doubt, go left and up.  Coming down though, we were on our own and took a few too many “shortcuts” which were steep drops.  I think I slipped once… and that was with my new hiking poles which I was also testing out for the first time.

I only used the hiking stick going down (stick, not plural, cause I gave my friend one to use).  I feel like using it going up would be cheating because I want to feel the burn of the workout.  Going down is so much harder on the feet and knees though so the stick helped me a lot — I go much faster.

I also ran into an old friend on the way down!  It was so random and I actually would not have noticed her if it wasn’t for her dog… since we were both covered completely head to toe excluding our face.  She’s very into climbing/ bouldering and we actually did the Cucamonga Peak hike the weekend after (which I have yet to write about).

♥ I like to tell a story through my pictures (which are in order) so click through for the captions

I was a little lazy to write the detailed hike for this, so if you have questions about it, feel free to drop a comment below! 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Hiking LA’s Famous Mt Baldy for the First Time as a New Hiker”

    1. Thanks Charityvio! I would put it at an 8. It was a struggle because I was sore from the day before; even though the hike was strenuous, it’s totally doable for an avid hiker comfortable with elevation gain. & I like this one better than other peaks because it’s not as long, but that elevation really kicks your butt.

      The temperature was chilly, under 60 degrees for sure. Since it rained the night before, there was ice and strong winds. The hike to the Sierra Club Ski Hut was maybe 45-55. Then it got much warmer after that, but the last stretch up and the peak felt like 35-45! Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I really couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. I was constantly layering/ unlayering. I hear when it’s nice weather, it’s a really nice hike though. 🙂

      1. How many hikes/climbs have you done before doing this one? How many people accompanied you with the climb/hike? Ah so aside from the relatively cool temps, how was the terrain was it mostly rocky or muddy? Hmm 35 F, that must of been cold did you expect that, were you dressed for it?

  1. How many hikes/climbs have you done before doing this one? How many people accompanied you with the climb/hike? Ah so aside from the relatively cool temps, how was the terrain was it mostly rocky or muddy? Hmm 35 F, that must of been cold did you expect that, were you dressed for it?

    It must be quite rewarding after finishing a long climb or hike huh? 🙂 What is the next summit or mountain do you plan on doing in the future? 🙂

    1. Hi Glen,

      This was my third big peak. I’m hiking the socal six pack of peaks in training for Whitney and I just conquered the fourth peak (San Bernardino Peak) last weekend (keep an eye out for the blog release in a couple weeks). I hiked Baldy with one other person, and I’m training with my boss and coworker since we are doing Whitney together.

      The trail was mostly dirt and well-kept. Again, due to the weather, parts of it were icy/wet/muddy but it wasn’t too much. There’s another section that was just rocks so the path was a bit unclear.

      I learned from my last hike and did expect it to be cold (since it’s a taller peak and rained the night before) so I did make it to REI to purchase a jacket. However, the summit was sooooo much colder than I anticipated… literally the coldest I’ve ever been in my life… the kind of cold were you can’t move at all.

      It’s always a very rewarding experience; you should give hiking a try if you don’t already. There’s also something therapeutic about it, at least for me. Our next peak is #5 San Jacinto Peak this month. We aim for one new peak a month.

      1. Hey,

        Sounds awesome. The SoCal Six Pack of Peaks seems quite a feat. When did you start this adventure. 4 down to to go in a matter of how many months. Mt. Whitney would that be the highest elevation among them? During your hiking treks have you stayed overnight? Yeah I will try, will have to look for a worthwhile location and sites near here. Yes definitely, kudos to you! Have you always been the outdoorsy type?

        1. Thanks, Glen. I got really into hiking a year ago and more into hiking peaks just this year, but I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. I grew up a tomboy. Peak 5 in June, peak 6 in July, then Whitney in August. I’ve only done day hikes so Whitney will be my first overnight. Never considered overnight trips because my friends aren’t down for that. It’s hard to find friends wanting to do the same adventures.

          1. Nice. So you’re also the athletic type I would assume? Yeah I love the outdoors and the activities related to it camping, fishing and such. Yeah overnight can be somewhat sketchy. During your hikes have you encountered bears or wolves, that’s the one thing that I worry about sometimes lol….

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