Get Outside: Hiking Mt. Baldy
This is the first in a series of activities we here at 530 do to get a break from the grind, re-focus and find inspiration outdoors. This time we’ll touch on hiking, maybe next we’ll turn to kayaking or biking, who knows, we work a lot.
Mt Baldy Hike:
Ok, so you’ve done the Runyon Canyon thing, welcome to LA. Now put your shirt back on (bro) and take off those Crossfit socks – it’s time for something a bit more adventurous.
At the southern end of the San Gabriel range (those mountains you stare at while sitting on the freeway) is Mt. Baldy, a tall peak standing 10,000 feet above the city (Mount San Antonio officially). This formidable challenge is the highest point in Los Angeles County and is a great quick trip to get some time away from the hustle below. It’s a bit more than an hour to the trailhead at Manker Flats from basically anywhere in LA, the last bit being a moderately winding road. Although parking is plentiful, you will need an Adventure Pass for your car. If you don’t have one already, they are available for purchase at the ranger station on your way up.
While there are many routes to the summit, we recommend ascending the shorter but steep “Ski Hut Trail” for its general aesthetic and physical challenge. You can return the way you came or complete the loop by descending the ominous sounding “Devil’s Backbone Trail.” This direction has a small traverse with big drops on both sides, but you also have the option to take a ski lift back if your knees have had enough downhill.
The hike itself climbs rapidly from thick forest thru the sparse alpine until you finally reach a lunar-like summit. Views extend past Downtown LA to the ocean westerly and into the vast Mojave to the east. As you hike you’ll start to feel the effects of the thin air and the last half mile slog up the summit plateau is brutal, but the discomfort quickly fades once standing on the summit triumphant (bring a victory beer). Be sure to get an early start to increase your chances of seeing wildlife and avoid the crowds. The hike will take you 3-6 hours depending on your fitness level and how many pics you take along the way.
While this is a very common trail, you can get yourself into trouble if you’re not prepared. Make sure you’ve done a bit of research on weather conditions for the day and have an understanding of the Ten Essentials. While the terrain isn’t especially dangerous and most people get away with running or light hiker shoes, winter conditions can be hazardous without proper mountaineering skills. Finally make sure you plan ahead and bring enough water for a full-day hike, there is limited cell coverage and rescue is costly and possibly hours away.