Mt Baldy Hike

Mt Baldy Hike

In This Guide
  • 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 & Hike Video
  • 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
Park NameMt 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.

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. 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 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, 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.

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.

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.

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. Here’s what I bring:

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.

My Top Gear Picks

Garmin inreach review

Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:

  1. Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
  2. Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
  3. Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.

I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.

See My Full Gear List

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 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 a good 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 Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.

Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

View the Route on Gaia GPS (Free)

HikingGuy users get 20-40% off Gaia GPS premium - click here

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 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

Hike Video

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You can watch this video in 360 degrees.
I have a version of this video where you can pan around in 360 degrees and see every angle of every trail junction, the trail conditions, and more. This is how you can use and view them.

View This Video in 360

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.
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 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.
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.

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