Mt Baldy Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||11 miles (17.7 km)|
|Hike Time||7 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||3,990 feet (1216m)|
|Highest Elevation||10,064 feet (3068m)|
|Fees & Permits||None|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Mt Baldy Visitor's Center|
This 11 mile Mt Baldy hike brings you to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. With almost 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.
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
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 bad times.
Is There Snow On the Mt Baldy Trail?
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.
- First, I check the ski report for Mt Baldy Notch. If there’s snow here, there’s snow higher up.
- I also check out some webcams that show Mt Baldy in the distance.
- Then I check the Mt Baldy summit weather. These forecasts are a favorite because I can see not only the high and low temperatures, but also the winds. If there are high winds or very low temperatures at the summit, I know conditions are not great.
- I use online tools to check for snow cover.
If there’s snow or bad weather, hike Mt Baldy on another day. Every winter hikers die on Mt Baldy, even those with mountaineering experience. It’s real and you need to take it seriously.
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, Mt Lukens, or Saddleback Mountain.
Training For Mt Baldy
Lots of people do Mt Baldy without any fitness or preparation, but that doesn’t mean that you should. The fitter and more prepared you are, the more enjoyable the experience will be. If you’ve only done shorter or casual hikes, here’s how I would recommend building up.
- Echo Mountain Hike on the Sam Merrill Trail – 5.6 miles – 1460 feet
- Mount Baden-Powell Hike – 8.3 miles – 2800 feet
- Mt Baldy Hike – 11 miles – 3990 feet
How To Get to the Mt Baldy Hike
The Mt Baldy trailhead is just past the 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
Drive past the campground to the next parking area between the road.
Note that you no longer need a parking pass in this lot according to this USDA site, so that’s great. You used to need a parks pass or Adventure pass. If you have a parks pass anyway I’d just hang it to be sure. If you park below in the Manker Campground, you do need to have a pass.
There have been reports of thefts at the trailhead parking lot. Be smart and don’t leave valuables visible in your car.
What to Bring on the Mt Baldy 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 extreme, mainly windy and cold. You should be prepared accordingly with extra layers, plenty of snacks, and 3L of water.
It’s also worth mentioning that some folks have problems with the altitude, especially those coming up from sea level. If you want to learn about the effects of altitude, check out my guide to Mt Whitney. Mt Baldy isn’t going to produce life threatening conditions (in general) but you could end up struggling and wheezing a bit.
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Mt Baldy Trail Maps
There are two popular trail for the Mt Baldy hike, the Baldy Bowl / Ski Hut Trail and the Devil’s Backbone Trail. This hiking guide starts on the picturesque Devil’s Backbone Trail and then descends the Baldy Bowl Trail to the Sierra Club Ski Hut and back to Manker Flats. 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 trail markers on this hike sometimes get stolen, I highly recommend having a paper and electronic map.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
|Baldy Bowl Trail Junction||0.9||6600ft|
|Start Devil’s Backbone||4.5||8600ft|
|Optional Mt.Harwood Turnoff||5.3||9300ft|
|Start Last Steep Climb||5.8||9500ft|
|Mt Baldy Summit||6.3||10064ft|
|Ski Hut Turnoff||7.8||8200ft|
Mt Baldy Hike Elevation Profile
Tips on Not Getting Lost
Some hikers get lost when descending the Baldy Bowl / 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.
Mt Baldy Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn 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.
If you want to take a break, Mt Baldy Notch is a good place. There is a restaurant called Top of the Notch that is a nice place to grab a bite, or you can just do it picnic style.
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.
This guide last updated on September 18, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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