mt baldy hike

Mt Baldy Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Hike Video
  • Mt Baldy Trail Maps
  • Picking the Right Time To Hike Mt Baldy
  • How to Get to the Mt Baldy Hike
Total Distance (?)11 miles (17.7 km)
Hike Time7 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)3,990 feet (1216m)
Highest Elevation10,064 feet (3068m)
Fees & PermitsNone
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Mt Baldy Visitor's Center
Park Phone909-982-2829
Monthly Newsetter

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.

Resting On Blady
Play your cards right and this could be you on the summit of Mt Baldy.

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 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.

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. 

Winter On Baldy Devil Backbone
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, 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.

  1. Echo Mountain Hike on the Sam Merrill Trail – 5.6 miles – 1460 feet
  2. Mount Baden-Powell Hike – 8.3 miles – 2800 feet
  3. 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.

Mt Baldy Trailhead
The trailhead is a little bit past the campground. Park as close to the trailhead as possible.
Mt Baldy Parking
Here’s the parking by the trailhead. It’s usually a lot more crowded than this.
mt baldy hike parking
This is normally what the parking lot looks like. You can park on the right as well.

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.

Mt Baldy Hike Update 30
There are primitive bathrooms at the trailhead and in Manker Campground.

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.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

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.

Lone Peak 5

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 Ergo Poles 2

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.

Latest Price
REI | Amazon

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.

My October 2021 Top Gear Picks

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.

Click Here To View

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.

Hike Landmarks

Landmark Miles Elevation
Baldy Bowl Trail Junction0.96600ft
Ski Area3.47800ft
Start Devil’s Backbone4.58600ft
Optional Mt.Harwood Turnoff5.39300ft
Start Last Steep Climb5.89500ft
Mt Baldy Summit6.310064ft
Ski Hut Turnoff7.88200ft

Mt Baldy Hike Elevation Profile

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 Baldy Bowl / Ski Hut Trail descent is a little more sheltered and cooler on a hot day.
Mt Baldy Hike Topo Map
Here’s a topo map that gives you another view of the topography.

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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Hike Video

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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.

Mt Baldy Hike Update 31
The trailhead is the paved road to the left at the far end of the parking lot. The bathroom is up on the hill next to the entrance.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 29
Continue past the signs and go through the gate, hiking up the paved road.
 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 toward Mt Baldy Notch.
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.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 8
Keep going straight, avoiding the dirt road down to the chairlift parking area.
ski lift to Mt Baldy Notch
At about 2.4 miles, you’ll see the ski lift to Mt Baldy Notch.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 7
At the intersection close to the top, make the hard left to hike into Mt Baldy Notch.
mt baldy hike trail
This short section of trail brings you to Mt Baldy Notch.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 6
Walk through the buildings to the open ski area in the middle of the Baldy Notch.

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.

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. So that is, directly across from where you came into the Notch area.
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.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 5
Stay to the right as the trail continues to split.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 4
A pole marks the beginning of the Devil’s Backbone Trail. It’s narrow but 100% doable in normal conditions. If there’s snow and ice here, it’s time to turn around and go back down the way you came.
Devil’s Backbone Trail
As you hike along the Devil’s Backbone trail, the mountain drops hundreds of feet down on either side.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 3
While the trail is narrow, there’s no point where you have to balance or fall. It’s wide enough to hike safely on.
mt baldy hike views
Take your time and enjoy the Devil’s Backbone trail, there are great photo opportunities and views.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 26
Don’t forget to turn around and get some shots with the Devil’s Backbone in the distance.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 2
The Devil’s Backbone Trail leaves the exposed stretch and starts to climb around the west side of the mountain.
Mt Harding trail
At about 5.4 miles, a side trail to Mt Harwood 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.
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 Hike Update 25
Look for the post at the top of the hill, which marks the start of the Devil’s Backbone trail from Mt Baldy Summit.
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 Update 1
Two signs point you back in the right direction when you descend.
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 Baldy Bowl / Ski Hut Trail is between the Devil’s Backbone Trail and the Bear Canyon Trail to the next peak over, which leads to Mt Baldy Village. A post marks the Baldy Bowl trail.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 23
Once you’ve confirmed that you’re on the start of the Baldy Bowl Trail, start your descent to the Ski Hut.
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.
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 Update 22
A trail sign confirms that you’re in the right place. Hike toward the Ski Hut and Manker Flat (where you started).
Mt Baldy Hike Update 21
This next section can be tricky. Again, you want to avoid heading down into the canyon to your right. Look for the poles with the yellow blaze and follow them. The trail will split and come back together often. As long as you’re heading to a yellow-blazed pole, you’re okay.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 20
Some trail signs are mixed in with the yellow blazes.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 19
Keep following the yellow blaze poles. In this case it’s down the hill. You’re heading to that plateau in the distance.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 18
At the plateau the trail levels out and makes a hard left down a shaded switchback section.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 17
Eventually the trail will become rocky and you enter a boulder field.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 16
The trail can be hard to follow through the rocks here. You’re going to be looking for the trail to your left as you come through the rocks.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 14
This satellite photos shows the boulders in the last shot and the trail to the left.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 15
Once you make the left the trail is easy to spot and there is a sign.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 13
Soon you’ll see the Sierra Club Ski Hut to your right as you descend.
stream on mt baldy hike
Soon after that, you’ll cross the spring/streamright 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. Check the website for opening hours; when it’s open you can fill up your water bottle there and use the pit toilet.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 12
Soak in the views at the Ski Hut.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 11
People also camp occasionally around the Ski Hut. Check it out and head back to the trail.
mt baldy hike trail
After the Ski Hut, go back to the last junction after the stream, make the left, and hike down the trail towards Manker Flats.
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 Update 10
Trail signs confirm that you’re in the right place.
Mt Baldy Hike Update 9
When you see the trail register you’ll be approaching the dirt road to Baldy Notch.
mt baldy hike dirt road
The Ski Hut Trail ends at the dirt road that you ascended earlier. Hike to the right to head back to Manker Flats and the end of the hike.
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.

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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