Hiking Mt. Baldy

On Saturday, May 25, I finished what I didn’t complete on May 4, conquering Mt. Baldy.

This time I approached it differently. Starting from the same parking lot, I went up the ski lift road to Baldy Notch, then up towards north-west to the Devil’s Backbone, and along the ridge, all they way to the peak at waypoint 24. Then I came down the way I wanted to go up, waypoint 25 and 27. I checked out the camping spots Kyle had pointed out at waypoint 26, went down to the Sierra Club hut and the creek, waypoint 28, and finally back down the same route I had taken last time. It was a long 9 hours and 11.5 miles, with some of the steepest trails I have seen in Southern California.

Map Baldy Hike 05-25-13
[click to enlarge]
Starting out, the trail is really a truck road from the base to the top of the ski lift.

Ski Lift

Here is a view looking down with a lift tower crossing the road. The first 3.2 miles of this hike is basically on road like this, climbing moderately up to 8,200 feet.

Looking Down on Clouds

Here is a view from the same spot looking in the other direction, south. The marine layer is still over the Los Angeles valley far below.

Going Here

Looking west, I can see the peak of Mt. Baldy for the first time (red arrow). This is where I am headed.

Top of Lift

It is somewhat disconcerting to hike 90 minutes uphill a dirt road in the deep mountains and then find – cars – on the top. This is the top of the ski lift. There are some side lifts going into several other directions from this point. I have never actually been up here skiing, but I thought I should try it sometime and see the mountain from a whole different perspective.

North to Mohave

Just a few steps from the skiing area is the precipitous drop to the north. Here I had a good view down into the Mojave Desert with a thick white band of clouds covering the base of the mountain.

Devil's Backbone

After another ten minutes of hiking west from the ski area up an access road, the Devil’s Backbone starts. This is a narrow ride with steep declines in both direction, in some places several thousand feet down. There are spots where the ridge is literally three feet wide, with drops on both sides. I could not take pictures there. I have to fix my eyes on the trail and put one step in front of the other, lest I get dizzy and – I don’t want to think about it. There are also sections where the trail is a mere foot wide across loose scree fields, where I find it very important to make sure to place every step carefully. Twisting an ankle or stumbling could be very hazardous. The slopes are steep enough that it would be impossible to arrest a fall, should one occur. I always wondered what it would be like up on the Devil’s Backbone during gusty winds.

Summit Ridge

Finally the summit is in view. It’s still a long way up, about 1,000 feet in altitude from where I took this picture.

Summit Ridge Zoom

Here is a zoomed view. Looking carefully, it’s possible to see the trail winding up the ridge and there are even some hikers visible on the trail. The top is the summit of Mt. Baldy.

On Summit

And here I am standing on the summit at 10,068 feet (3,069 m). It took four hours and ten minutes to get here, hiking 6.8 miles.

Busy Place

The summit is a large area. There must have been a hundred people on top when I was there at 11:40am.

Broad Expanse

The peak is vast, this view facing west. On clear days, the Pacific would be visible from here. I am always amazed when I am on the top of a mountain. There is no way to go any higher.

View East

Looking east from the same spot, the two other iconic mountains of Southern California are visible. On the left (red arrow) is the huge bulk of Mt. San Gorgonio, with 11,499 feet (3,505 m) the highest mountain in Southern California. A bit to the right is Mt. San Jacinto, at 10,833 feet (3,302 m) still 800 feet higher than where I was standing at 10,068 feet.

Rugged Life

Plant life is rugged up here.

Found It

I took the way down toward the Sierra Club Hut and found the spot where I had intended to camp on my last trip. It’s a beautiful, quiet place. I sat down and had lunch here.

Coming down the one mile to this spot from the summit was very steep and slippery due to loose gravel at times. I was glad I was making it downhill, not the other way with a full pack.

Need to Go There

From this point, I could see where I had yet to go, the valley (red arrow).

Devil's Backbone from other Side

In the other direction, I could see the ridge of the Devil’s Backbone, the way I had gone up a few hours before.

Trail Down

The trail down is quite rugged at times.

Mystery Plant

I saw some of these mushroom-like plants, about six to ten inches tall. I don’t know what they are.

I Was There

Just before getting down to the parking lot, I looked back up to where I just had been, the summit of Mt. Baldy (red arrow).

San Antonio Falls

At 0.7 miles into the hike, there is a good view of San Antonio Falls. There are always people frolicking at the bottom of the falls.

At this point, having hiked over 11 miles, I could think of nothing but getting back to the car.

It was a good day.

2 thoughts on “Hiking Mt. Baldy

  1. One of my favorite hikes! I go the other way though because it’s easier on my knees to go down the less steep trail. Great that you found the inconspicuous trail camp. Someday I’m actually going to camp there.

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