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.
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.
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.
I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: Women – Men
On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.
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 Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 2020.
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 offset website expenses. 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.
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
Your best move to navigate this hike is to take a paper map, compass, and a GPS device. Load the GPX track from this hike onto your GPS to ensure that you’re on the trail. I’m a big fan of GPS watches; I just glance down at it to cross-check my position and use paper when I want a deeper dive. The GPS watch that I’m using now is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (price: REI or Amazon). It’s pricey but has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of other wellness, fitness, and smart-watch applications. For a more affordable option, check out the value-packed Garmin Instinct (price: REI or Amazon), a similar watch without some of the features. There are also great smartphone GPS apps like GaiaGPS. If you end up getting GaiaGPS premium, I’ve arranged for a 20-40% discount for my readers.
|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.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.