Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking Mount Baldy

  Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking Mount Baldy |  If you are based out of the Southern California area, then hiking Mount Baldy is one of the best hikes in California to do. Not only is it a great training hike for California’s bigger 14er mountains, it can also be hiked in a fun but challenging 11 mile loop. You’ll traverse it’s well-known Devil’s Backbone trail and summit the highest peak in Los Angeles County. A must-do hike for all Californians! | shedreamsofalpine.com

If you ask almost any avid hiker in Southern California for a great training hike, there is a good chance that they are going to suggest hiking Mount Baldy. At 10,064 feet tall, Mount Baldy (also known as Mount San Antonio) is the highest peak in  Los Angeles County, making it an extremely popular hike for those living in the LA or greater LA area, and boy is it a leg burner! 

Even though this is a really popular hike, I really enjoy it because you can hike it in a loop, it's a great workout, and if you wanted to train your uphill muscles and take it easy on your knees on the downhill, there is a ski lift that runs in the summer that can take you down the trail about 1500 feet. You can find people hiking the trail to Baldy summit year round, although, in the winter it typically requires special snow gear and mountaineering skills to reach the summit. It makes a great summer and fall training hike though due to its intense elevation gain and leg burning switchbacks on the Baldy Bowl Trail.

The guide below goes into great depth on everything you need to know logistically about the trail, plus some fun photos and a trip report of our hike on the trail. If you happen to be training for a bigger peak, such as a California 14er, be sure to check out our additional resources on the best hikes in Southern California for training and our resource with 7 crucial tips to hiking and summiting a 14er peak. 


Hiking Mount baldy- QUICK INFO:

As mentioned above, Mount Baldy is also known as Mount San Antonio and is the highest point in Los Angeles County. The fact that this peak is the county high point makes it a very popular hike with the locals. You can even see Mt Baldy standing tall amongst the San Gabriel Mountains behind Los Angeles on a clear day. It is named Mount Baldy because of the lack of trees on its summit.

There are two main trails you can take to get to the summit of Mt Baldy and both of them start at the Manker Flats Trailhead. If you want an "easier" uphill elevation gain then take the Devil's Backbone Trail. If you want more leg burn and conditioning then start your hike up the Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail. Combine the two trails to make a fantastic loop, which is what we discuss in detail below in our guide. Both trails start at the Manker Flat Trailhead. 

In the guide below we will go over:

  1. Hiking Details for the Mt Baldy Trail
  2. Mt Baldy Trail Map
  3. When to Go - Mt Baldy Weather
  4. Getting There - How to Get to the Mt Baldy Hiking Trails
  5. Mt Baldy Camping and Lodging Information
  6. Mt Baldy Permit Information
  7. Day Hiking Gear Essentials
  8. Hiking Mount Baldy Trip Report (with more details about the trail and pictures)
  9. FAQ's for the Mt Baldy Trail

Plus, if hiking Mount Baldy is one of your training hikes for a California 14er like Mount Langley, we include some additional resources and guides for hiking 14ers at the bottom of this post. Let's get started...


  Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking Mount Baldy |  If you are based out of the Southern California area, then hiking Mount Baldy is one of the best hikes in California to do. Not only is it a great training hike for California’s bigger 14er mountains, it can also be hiked in a fun but challenging 11 mile loop. You’ll traverse it’s well-known Devil’s Backbone trail and summit the highest peak in Los Angeles County. A must-do hike for all Californians! | shedreamsofalpine.com

HIKING DETAILS for mt baldy trail: 

  • Mt Baldy Elevation: 10,064 ft

  • Best Trail to summit: Start at Manker Flats Trailhead and take Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail to Devils Backbone Trail back down to Manker Flats Trailhead
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Mileage: ~11 miles round trip 

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~3,900feet total elevation gain

  • Mt Baldy Trailhead: Manker Flats Trailhead 

  • Estimated Time to complete: 6-8 hours, day hike
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Water Available? Don't rely on water sources along the trail, bring plenty of water. 
  • Dog friendly? Yes! 

Mt Baldy Trail MAP:

In this guide we recommend hiking Mount Baldy by connecting the Ski Hut Trail with the Devils Backbone Trail, making a cool little loop that allows you to experience the best parts of the Mt Baldy Trail. The Trail starts at Manker Flat Trailhead (also noted as Mt Baldy Trailhead on Google Maps).

You'll hike on Falls Road and Baldy Road for a bit. If you are wanting to start your hike up the Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail, keep a look out on your left for this trail (it's easy to miss!). If you are wanting to hike up the Devils Backbone Trail instead, continue on the Mt Baldy Road until you get to the Mt Baldy Notch (ski lift) area. You will connect to the Devil's Backbone Trail at Baldy Notch.

Below is a map of the hiking trail. If you click on the image below you will be taken to an interactive map that you can further explore.

The directions and trail finding can get a bit confusing at times, so if you have a gps, I definitely recommend that you download a gpx file of the route before going. You can download the GPX file that is shown above with the link below:

Download the GPX File

Get access to my library of GPX files with tracks and waypoints for trails loaded onto the She Dreams of Alpine blog.

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WHEN TO GO- mt baldy weather

Temperature wise, Mount Baldy is a great peak to hike year-round, but the best months to do this trail as a hike are it's summer months June to October. Do not attempt this hike in the winter unless you are skilled in mountaineering. The Devil's Backbone Trail in particular is especially dangerous when wet and icy due to its steep drop offs that allow little room for error. There are deaths every year from hikers attempting to do this trail in the winter.

I have done this hike in January before, but it was when California was going through a drought and the trail was completely dry. Make sure to check the weather before you go, and if there is snow on the mountain (or chance of snow/rain in the winter), opt to do one of the LA Areas lower elevation peaks. If you want some good alternative hikes, check out our list of best hikes in SoCal.

Also, this trail can get very, very busy. To avoid the crowds try hitting the trail early, or even better, go on a weekday!

 I created this average temperature map myself, you are welcome to use it on your own site for more descriptive detail on weather at the Mount Baldy Area.   All I ask is that you link back to my website for credit  .

I created this average temperature map myself, you are welcome to use it on your own site for more descriptive detail on weather at the Mount Baldy Area. All I ask is that you link back to my website for credit.


GETTING THERE - How to get to the mt Baldy hiking trails:

Mt Baldy is the tallest peak in Los Angeles County and is located in the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest.

Once you enter the Angeles National Forest Area you will take Mt Baldy Road all the way up to Manker Flat Campground. The Mt Baldy trailhead is located near the Manker Flat Campground area, and this is also where you will begin to look for parking (again, make sure to get there early so you can easily find parking). Once you drive past the campground you should see a bunch of cars parked on Mt Baldy Road.  In order to park here, you must have a Parking Pass. See our Permit section below for more details about the parking passes. Alternatively, you could park your car at the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift Area, but I believe it costs a bit extra to park there (even with the parking passes)

  • Drive from Los Angeles: 1 hour
  • Drive from San Bernardino: 1 hour
  • Drive from Palm Springs: 2 hours
  • Drive from Bakersfield: 3 hours
  • Drive from San Diego: 3 hours

The Manker Flat Campground is easily found on google maps directions. Click the photo below to estimate your drive to the trailhead.


Mt Baldy CAMPING & Lodging INFORMATION: 

While most people just visit Mt Baldy as a day hiking adventure, you could certainly make a weekend of it by camping near the area. Here are a few Mt Baldy camping options nearby:

1) Camp at Manker Flats Campground. This campground is in a prime location for starting your Mount Baldy hike. The trailhead is right by the campground. There are 21 sites to choose from which have picnic tables and fire rings, and there are flushable toilets on site. These sites are first come first serve. If you have an adventure pass it will cost you $10 a night, otherwise the sites are $14 per night (though rates could change, so be sure to check the Manker Flats Campground webpage)

2) Stay the night at the San Antonio Ski Hut. This can be a really unique way to make a weekend visit of Mt. Baldy. The hut is managed by the Sierra Club and can sleep up to 16 people. Be sure to contact the scheduled host in advance if you want to stay here. This hut is only accessible via a steep 3 mile hike. For more information, check out the Sierra Clubs Website.

3) Rent a Tent Cabin. There are 20 Tent cabins available to rent at the Mt Baldy lift area, within walking distance from the Top of the Notch Restaurant. You can book them here


mt baldy parking pass INFORMATION:

 You must have a parking pass to park at the Manker Flats Trailhead for Mount Baldy.

In order to park your car at Mount Baldy you must have a parking pass. There are several options for this:

  • You can use a National Parks Pass. This costs $80 dollars, but allows you access into all sites that are managed by the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM and Bureau of Reclamation. This pass is also good for one year. So if you travel to a lot of different parks frequently, definitely consider this option. If you buy your pass through REI they also donate 10% of their proceeds to the National Parks Foundation.
  • You can use a Southern California Adventure Pass. This costs $30 dollars and allows you one car access (for a year) to Angeles National Forest, Cleveland National Forest, Los Padres National Forest and San Bernardino National Forest. You can also purchase this Adventure Pass at REI, or check out this list of vendors who sell Adventure Passes.
  • You can also buy a $5 day permit from the Rangers Office/ Mt Baldy Visitor Center or list of vendors mentioned above.  You can buy this pass ahead of time. It doesn't have to be used the same day your purchase it. 

DAY HIKING GEAR ESSENTIALS:

 Make sure to bring the essentials on your day hike of Mount Baldy!

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

There's not a whole lot "extra" you need (besides the basics) for this hike, but I would like to reccommend a couple of things.

  1. Good Hiking Boots - Make sure to have some good hiking boots for your tail. My favorite hiking boots so far have been my Ahnu Montora Hiking Boots. I've never had an issue with blisters and they are waterproof and light weight. These are my go-to hiking boots! 
  2. Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles Invest in a good pair of trekking poles and you will have them for a long long time. I've had theses for over 3 years now and they still seem like new. These are my favorite trekking poles, and they definitely come in handy for the really steep portion of this hike. You might be tempted to buy cheaper "twist" to lock poles, but honestly don't bother... they break super easily. I started out with a pair like that and they barely lasted me a year. Definitely just invest in a good pair that will last you a long time to come.
  3. Camelbaks are awesome for hiking! They are the easiest way to stay hydrated, and I always bring one with me (unless it is really cold out because your camelbak water can freeze inside the hose). I recommend getting one that has at least a 3 liter reservoir, and the ones with a mouth piece cover are awesome too because when you set your backpack on the ground you don't have to worry about your mouth piece getting all dirty. You'll need to bring a lot of water on this hike, don't rely on being able to fill up anywhere.

  4. GPSI am a data nerd, and you should be too! I know so many people don’t utilize GPS when they hike, but I consider it an essential piece of gear and there are many great options. My favorite GPS is the Garmin GPS 64st. It has definitely come in handy to help me navigate when I wasn't sure where I was. The first solo hike I did, it helped me navigate through a big tallus field back to the main trail when I got off route. I've even built my own GPX file on google earth and downloaded it to this GPS so my friend and I could follow a less traveled route called Bastards Ridge. Its easy to get off trail while hiking Mount Baldy, so this could come in handy!

Don't forget to check out our post on Essential Day Hiking gear, for more of our outdoor gear personal recommendations, and be sure to download our packing list below so that you don't forget anything next time you are packing up for a trip!

We're making packing for your next hiking adventure easy. Download our essential hiking gear packing list, and you'll always be prepared when you hit the trails!

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hiking mount baldy PEAK-TRIP REPORT: 

In our visit to Mt Baldy we did the hike as described below, a loop starting up the Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail to the summit and down the Devil's Backbone Trail. Ironically, it was one of those very, very dry winters in California, so we did this hike in mid-January. There wasn't any snow, so that is the only reason it was safe to attempt in the winter. Normally this isn't the case, so check out our suggestions above on when to do this hike, particularly the Devil's Backbone hike portion. We drove up early in the morning to start the hike. The first time I hiked this, we were training for the Rim to Rim Hike in the Grand Canyon.

At a high level, the loop to hike Mt Baldy goes something like this:

  1. Start hiking up Mt Baldy Road 
  2. You'll hiked on a paved road which will turn into gravel as you pass San Antonio Falls until you reach a side trail (typically unmarked) on your left
  3. Hike up to the Sierra Club's Teal Ski Hut (This is about halfway to the summit), a good place for a break
  4. Hike on meandering (and sometimes confusing) trail to the summit
  5. Hike Eastward toward the Devils Backbone Trail
  6. Hike all the way down this steep trail to Baldy Notch (the Mt Baldy Ski Area)
  7. Potentially grab some food at Top of the Notch Restaurant
  8. Either hike the remaining way down back to trailhead or take the Mt Baldy lift down

From the parking area above the Manker Flat Campground, we started hiking up the Mt Baldy Road until we saw the turn off for the Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail. Try not to rely on signs being there to mark the turn-off. The signs are frequently stolen in this area.

 Hikers going up the paved Mt Baldy Road.

The trail up Baldy Bowl Ski hut trail is a more challenging uphill than the hike up Devils Backbone trail, but that is exactly why we decided to go up this direction... for a better workout! We hiked a bunch of switchbacks onwards and upwards toward the Mt. Baldy summit.

Keep an eye out for San Antonio Falls on your hike up (a little over a half a mile on you way up) the Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail. It was barely a trickle the time we went in the winter (during the drought), but you could still pick it out. There were patches of snow here and there where it stayed shady, but mostly it was snow free. 

 Snow on the Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail.

I don't know what it is about Texans (aka me), whenever we see snow, we always feel inclined to take a photo by it. Still to this day (even though I see snow all the time now in the winter here in California) I still always want to take photos next to it. I wonder if I'll ever get used to it...

At a little over the 2.5 mile mark, you'll see a teal hut. Hike up to this! This made a great spot for us to grab a snack and take a quick break from our uphill hike. This hut will mark the half way point till you get to the Mt Baldy Summit.

 View of the Sierra Club Teal Ski Hut.

I'd say after this hut is when the trail can sometimes get confusing. Just try to pay close attention and not get off track. It will be like hiking a big zig zag toward the summit. You can sort of see in the picture below how patchy the trail looks. 

 Hikers on the Ski Hut Trail.

The trail breaks up even more towards the final 30 or so minutes to the summit. Just pay attention and keep an eye out on where you are going, or better yet, invest in a GPS so you can make sure you are staying on trail. 

 Almost to the summit of Mount Baldy.

The summit has a very large area to relax, and a cool summit sign to take a photo next too. Spend some time up here and enjoy the excellent views all around. Make sure to pack some layers though because the summit can get very cold and windy, even in the summer! 

On a clear day you can see the coast (and maybe even Catalina Island) and possibly even San Gorgonio in the distance.

 Mount Baldy Summit sign

You'll head eastward to find the Devil's Backbone Trail. While the start might not be well "signed", it's not hard to find. You will see a long trail heading down the steep side of a ridge line. 

I remember being worried about this portion at first because of the name of the trail, but as long as the trail is dry, it is a fairly safe trail. You definitely need to be mindful of where you are walking though, and be sure not to trip over anything. A stumble down the side of the trail could be dangerous or even fatal. 

 The start of the Devils Backbone Trail

You'll traverse along a the side of a steep hill next. The trail is thin, and there may be people hiking up the trail while you are descending. Just be sure to be safe, and share the trail with others. 

 Traversing the side of a hill on the Devils Backbone Trail

This portion (below) looks especially eerie with its steeper drop-offs on both sides of the trail. Can you see why it is not recommended to hike when it has recently snowed? 

Trekking Poles are nice to have on your downhill hike of Devil's backbone.

 Steep drop-offs on the Devils Backbone Trail.

Hiking when there has been recent snowfall or there is wintery conditions should only be attempted by those who know what they are doing with mountaineering skills and have the technical know-how. 

 Hiking down a steep portion of the Devils Backbone Trail.

After a bit of knee-busting down hill hiking, you will make it to Mt Baldy Ski Area, where you can either continue to hike down  to the trailhead or take the Mt Baldy lift. At the time when I first did this hike, my friends knees were really bothering her so we opted for the ski lift back to the trailhead. 

The ski lift cuts out about 1500' of descent (or ascent if you are hiking the loop in the opposite direction) and costs $25 round trip for adults, and it runs 7 days a week.

If you want to grab a bite to eat before you head down, you could treat yourself to some grub at the Top of t Notch Restaurant, another great reason to hike this trail from Baldy Bowl Ski hut trail and down Devil's Backbone trail.

 Mount Baldy Ski Area and Top of the Notch Restaurant

The Mt Baldy Lift runs during the summer months and takes about 20 minutes to get to the bottom. 

 Taking the Mt Baldy Lift down to the bottom of the trailhead.

An excellent day hike, and a fantastic training hike. If you are living near the Los Angeles area I would say it should be very high on your must-hike list. I wish we lived a bit closer so I could come and train here more often. 

Speaking of training, if you are working on your hiking conditioning and need some good goals for your next big mountain consider hiking one of the California 14ers. We have guides on several great beginner 14er hikes. Check out our resources below!

Trail guides on popular California 14er's:  

Also be sure to check out these essential hiking resources!


More fAQs for the mt baldy trail:

Is this trail safe to hike when there is snow? I mentioned this above but it is worth stating again. Do NOT attempt this hike if it has snow on it or if there is threat of snow. Even rainy conditions could be suspect. Only attempt this trail in those conditions if you are experienced in mountaineering. People die every year trying to do this hike in winter conditions when they are not appropriately skilled to do so. The Devils Backbone trail is particularly dangerous in the winter when there is snow and ice. 

Why is this peak called Mount Baldy? It is named Mount Baldy because of its bare summit! There are hardly any trees up there and sort of resembles a bald man's head.

Is the route easy to follow? Do I need a Map? When hiking Mount Baldy it can potentially be easy to lose your way on the Baldy Bowl Trail (aka Ski Hut Trail) so it's good to make sure you have a map to follow, and better yet, a GPS device with the route preloaded (you can download my GPX track in the Mt Baldy . Be aware of your surroundings, and try to stick to the main trails. This is usually a very popular hike, so also watch where others are hiking as well.

What Other Things Can I Do at Mt Baldy? If you are making a day out of your visit to Mt Baldy. You can grab a bite to eat at the Top of the Notch Restaurant which is at the Mt Baldy Ski Area. The first time I did this hike we went up Baldy Bowl Ski Hut Trail and down Devils Backbone Trail. We ended up grabbing our "post hike" meal at the Top of the Notch Restaurant, and we bought a ticket to take the Mt Baldy lift down the rest of the way because my friends knees were giving out on her. You can also do some camping in the area (See our section above on Mt Baldy camping). 

Is this a family friendly hike? I would say that this hike is better left for serious hikers. It is a very strenuous hike and might not be the best one to take children on. 

Can I bring my dog on on the Mt Baldy Trail? You can bring your dog on this trail! Just make sure to be respectful and clean up after your pets. Its typically best to leave your pet on leash to protect others and your dog from potentially dangerous situations, snakes or other animals, however, I did see many dogs off-leash when I was hiking this trail myself.

Let us know if you get a chance to go hiking on the Mt Baldy trail!

Cheers,

Allison

 
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