Mt Baldy Hike

Mt Baldy Hike

In This Guide
  • Why Mt Baldy Is So Popular
  • Picking the Right Time To Hike Mt Baldy
  • How to Get to the Mt Baldy Hike
  • Mt Baldy Trail Maps
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • What You Need To Do the Hike
Distance11 miles (17.7 km)
Time7 Hours (Total Time)
DifficultyHard
Total Climbing3,830 feet (1167m)
Highest Elevation10,064 feet (3068m)
Dog FriendlyOff Leash Okay
ParkMt Baldy Visitor's Center
Park Phone909-982-2829

This 11 mile Mt Baldy hike brings you to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. With about 4000 feet of climbing, it’s a tough yet popular hike, and well worth the effort. You can see from the Pacific to the Mojave on a clear day. There are a few ways to hike Mt Baldy, and this guide takes you on the most popular route.

Why Mt Baldy Is a Great Hike

mountains behind la

Mt Baldy is a popular hike because it takes you to the highest point in Los Angeles County. The hike is very doable for lots of people and gives you the accomplishment of having bagged the highest peak. On a clear winter day in LA you can sometimes see snowcapped mountains looming in the background. The tallest one is Mt Baldy (and the tallest mountain in SoCal is San Gorgonio, which you can hike too).

Mt Baldy is also known by it’s official name of Mt San Antonio, but everyone just calls it Mt Baldy. It was named for the bald (treeless) face of the Baldy Bowl which is visible when you see the mountain from LA. Mt Baldy is located in the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, as well as Angeles National Forest.

When to Hike Mt Baldy

Devils Backbone Trail
I left early on this day and had the whole Devil’s Backbone section to myself, which is the best way to experience it. I’ve also seen pictures of a line of hikers from this same perspective. Leave early.

Do the Mt Baldy hike as early as possible to avoid the crowds. It’s one of the most popular hikes in LA. I usually leave at sunrise. The later that you leave, the tougher it will be to park at Manker Flats. If you can do the hike on a weekday, you’ll encounter even less crowds. If you’re starting later in the day, don’t forget to look at the sunset time. Getting caught on the trail after dark is a recipe for disaster.

Is There Snow On Mt Baldy?

So there’s no official way to know if there’s snow at the summit of Mt Baldy, but there are some roundabout ways to figure it out. If you’re in the summer months, say late May to October, the chances are that it’s clear.

When I want to check for snow and bad conditions, I do a couple of things.

If there’s snow or bad weather, hike Mt Baldy on another day. People have died on these trails in bad and wintery weather. Let me say that again – hikers die every winter on Baldy. It’s real, take it seriously and wait until summer if you don’t have mountaineering experience.

winter on baldy
This is what the hike is like in the winter. If you happen to slip on ice or snow, you will fall 1000s of feet off the sheer sides to a certain death. Save it for the summer months; it’s much more fun. Thanks to my (experienced winter hiker) friend Kyle Saenz for the photo.

If the conditions aren’t good for hiking on Mt Baldy, try something challenging without snow at a lower elevation like Mt Wilson, Echo Mountain, or Saddleback Mountain.

Directions & Parking for the Mt Baldy Hike

The Mt Baldy trailhead is at Manker Campground, about 1:15 hours east of downtown LA. You’ll drive through Mt Baldy village on your way to the hike. It’s a good place to grab lunch after hiking.

Here’s the address you can put into your GPS to get to the trailhead.
Manker Campground, Mt Baldy, CA, 91759, USA

You need a parking pass for the lot. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every park, monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the ranger’s office.

There have been reports of thefts at the trailhead parking lot. Be smart and don’t leave valuables visible in your car.

Gear For the Hike

Even though this is a popular hike that lots of folks do, it’s still a serious mountain hike. The conditions at the top of Mt Baldy are famous for being hard, mainly windy and cold.  You should be prepared accordingly. Here’s what I bring:

Garmin inreach review

If you want hiking gear recommendations, check out my full gear list. I only recommend and review gear that I actually use. No company pays me to push their product. Everything on my gear list is battle tested on the trails, and should work well for you too.

See The Gear I Use

Mt Baldy Trail Maps

There are two popular ways to do the Mt Baldy hike, the Ski Hut Trail and the Devil’s Backbone Trail. This hiking guide starts on the picturesque Devil’s Backbone Trail and then descends the steeper Ski Hut Trail. I find this routing to be the most enjoyable. If you want to avoid the crowds and do a much tougher hike, try the route on Bear Canyon trail.

Because a lot of the trail markers on this hike get stolen, I highly recommend having a paper and electronic map for the hike.

Fenix 5x Hiking Review

I highly recommend bringing some form of paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Mt Baldy Hike Elevation Profiles

mt baldy hike elevation
You can see the route up the Devil’s Backbone Trail is not as steep as the Ski Hut Trail, which you descend. Hiking poles come in handy on the steep descent.
mt baldy hike 3d map
One of the coolest aspects of this hike is your ascent along the ridge line of Devil’s Backbone. The route to the Mt Baldy summit is very exposed. Don’t try it in bad weather. The Ski Hut Trail descent is a little more sheltered and cooler on a hot day.

Tips on Not Getting Lost

Some hikers get lost when descending the Ski Hut trail. The trail splits apart, comes back together, and can be confusing (more below). If you are descending and you see airplane wreckage, you’ve gone off the trail, immediately turn around and head directly uphill to rejoin the trail. If it doesn’t look like you’re on a trail, you’re not, turn around before you get stuck on a ledge.

If you do get lost, stop, collect yourself, consult your maps, and regroup. If you don’t find the trail after a little while, stop, stay put, and fire up your rescue beacon. Don’t move when you set off your beacon, stay where you set it off.

Turn by Turn Mt Baldy Hike Directions

These directions have you hiking the entire way, but you can also cheat and take the chair lift to Mt Baldy Notch. It doesn’t cut that much off the hike, so I recommend just doing the hike.

mt baldy hike parking
There’s a large parking area immediately past the Manker Campground. Park here for the Mt Baldy hike trailhead. There are bathrooms around the campground.
Mt Baldy Trailhead
The trailhead is on the north side of the lot. Thanks to Advait D for the updated photo!
mt baldy hike trail
Look for the gate at the start of the trailhead.
mt baldy hike maps
There are basic paper maps at the gate, courtesy of a local business.
 San Antonio Falls
At the first switchback, you can see San Antonio Falls to the left.
mt baldy hike climbs dirt road
The pavement ends and you gently climb up a dirt road.
mt baldy hike trail
At about 0.8 miles, stay right on the dirt road. You’ll be coming back on the trail to the left (which goes to the Sierra Club ski hut).
mt baldy hike views
As you climb toward Mt Baldy Notch, turn around to see the awesome views.
ski lift to Mt Baldy Notch
At about 2.4 miles, you’ll see the ski lift to Mt Baldy Notch.
mt baldy hike trail intersection
At about 3.1 miles, you come to a trail intersection. Take the shortcut to the left.
mt baldy hike trail
This short section of trail brings you to Mt Baldy Notch.
Mt Baldy Notch
At about 3.4 miles, you reach Mt Baldy Notch, which is the ski area where the chair lift ends.
cris hazzard at Top of the Notch restaurant
Mt Baldy Notch is a great place for a break. There are bathrooms here, and you can get food at the Top of the Notch restaurant. I fueled up with an energy bar for the next tough section.
mt baldy hike trail
There are lots of trails (ski runs) from Mt Baldy Notch. Take the main trail directly across from the trail you came into the area on.
mt baldy hike trail goes left
Shortly after going up the hill, there’s an intersection, hike to the left.
mt baldy hike trail goes up
Now there’s a short but tough climb (up the ski slope). Keep hiking straight up, avoiding the trails heading down to the left.
views of the Cajon Pass
This section of the hike is steep. Take breaks, turn around, and soak in the views of the Cajon Pass.
mt baldy hike climbs
No rest here! The trail keeps going up. Hike to the right as the trail climbs.
Devil’s Backbone trail starts
At the end of the ski slope, hike to the right as the Devil’s Backbone trail starts. You can see Mt Baldy in the distance.
Devil’s Backbone Trail
Here is the famed Devil’s Backbone Trail. As you hike along the the saddle of the mountain, the mountain drops hundreds of feet down on either side. Be careful here, this is where the hike gets real.
mt baldy hike views
Take your time and enjoy the Devil’s Backbone trail, there are great photo opportunities and views.
Mt Harding trail
At about 5.4 miles, a side trail to Mt Harding splits off to the right. Give it a pass and continue hiking to the left.
Mt Baldy
The trail widens and Mt Baldy looms in front of you.
mt baldy hike trail
This is the last tough stretch of the Mt Baldy hike. Start climbing toward the summit at around 6 miles.
mt baldy hike trail splits
As you hike this steep section of trail, it splits apart into many smaller trails. They all lead to the top and rejoin each other at regular intervals.
mt baldy hike views
Take breaks on this steep trail to turn around and soak in the great views of the Devil’s Backbone trail.
Mt Baldy summit
You made it to the Mt Baldy summit!
wind shelters on mt baldy
Stone wind shelters are at the summit of Mt Baldy. Pick a nice spot, soak in the views, and refuel for the trip down.
cris hazzard with Mt Baldy summit sign
Pose for a picture with the Mt Baldy summit sign.
mt baldy hike views
The views from Mt Baldy are incredible. On a clear day, you can see west to the Pacific and east into the Mojave Desert.
trails from mt baldy summit
Time to hike back down. This part is a little tricky. The Ski Hut Trail is between the Devil’s Backbone Trail and the trail to the next peak over, which leads to Mt Baldy Village. A post marks the trail to the Ski Hut.
new mt baldy signs
UPDATE: Evidently there are new signs on the summit that point you in the right direction when you head back. The trails up here can be confusing, so this is a welcome addition. However signs don’t have a good track record on Mt Baldy, with many being stolen over the years. Just a heads up.
mt baldy hike trail
After you start hiking the trail, it’s becomes well defined.
mt baldy hike trail stays left
This part of the hike is a little tricky. The trail starts to split apart. Generally, head to the left, avoiding any trails that head steely down into the ravine. When in doubt, look for other hikers coming up the trail. I wish the trail was better defined, but it’s not.
ravine
There are reports of signs pointing down toward the ravine. Ignore them and stay on the main ridge. The ravine is a dead end. If you see aircraft wreckage, you’ve gone too far. Turn around and go back up the hill.
mt baldy hike trail
After splitting apart for a while, the trail comes together and is well defined.
mt baldy hike vista
There are some nice vistas as you descend. This one is around 7.7 miles.
mt baldy hike trail splits
The trail descends steeply and splits apart. Again, stay hiking on the ridge to the left.
mt baldy hike trail
After that steep section, the trail becomes more clearly defined.

Here are tow images of new trail signs before you reach the ski hut (thanks to my friend Amit). Whether they’re still there when you do the hike, who knows…

New Sign On Mt Baldy 2

New Sign On Mt Baldy

boulder field on mt baldy hike
At around 8.2 miles, you hike through a boulder field. Again, the trail can be hard to follow here. Stay toward the left and look for people coming the other way. You’re heading to a stream crossing.
stream on mt baldy hike
Soon after that, you’ll cross a stream before the Sierra Club Ski Hut.
 Sierra Club Ski Hut
After the stream, a side trail leads to the Sierra Club Ski Hut, which you can rent out.
mt baldy hike trail
Hike back to the ski hut trail intersection and keep heading down the trail.
mt baldy hike descends
This section of the hike is well defined and descends steadily. Avoid any side trails off to the right on a steep incline.
mt baldy hike dirt road
At around 10 miles, you’ll hike back to the dirt road that you hiked up on. Hike to the right to head back to the trailhead.
Devil’s Backbone Trail view
As you descend, look up to admire the saddle on the Devil’s Backbone Trail that you hiked across a few hours earlier.
cris hazzard on mt baldy hike
You did it! Pat yourself on the back, that was a tough hike!

If you are going to bag Mt Baldy, why not set Mt Whitney as your next goal? You won’t be disappointed, it’s awesome.

You can help other hikers. If you do this hike and something has changed, snap a few photos and email me the details. I’ll update the guide so that others can do the hike safely.

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