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The 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.
11 miles (17.7 km)
3830 ft (1167 m)
Marked and unmarked trails
Crowds, climbing, alpine conditions
Mt Baldy Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
Manker Campground, Mt Baldy, CA, 91759, USA
The trailhead is at Manker Campground, about 1:15 hours east of downtown LA. You'll go through Mt Baldy village on your way to the hike. It's a good place to grab lunch after hiking.
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.
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.
Interactive Map Mt Baldy Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Mt Baldy Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Mt Baldy Hike Directions What to Expect 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. 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. 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. This hike can tough to follow. Often many of the trail signs are stolen. Print this hiking guide and take it with you. There have been reports of thefts at the trailhead parking lot. Be smart and don’t leave valuables visible in your car. You can cheat and take the chair lift to Mt Baldy Notch. It doesn’t cut that much off the hike, so I just do the hike. Mt Baldy is also known by it’s official name, Mt San Antonio. But everyone calls it Mt Baldy. There are two popular ways to do the Mt Baldy hike, the Ski Hut Trail and the Devil’s Backbone Trail. This hike 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. 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. Turn by Turn Directions There’s a large parking area immediately past the Manker Campground. Park here for the Mt Baldy hike trailhead. The trailhead is on the north side of the lot. There are bathrooms here (and at Mt Baldy notch). Go past the bathrooms and onto the paved road. There are basic paper maps at the gate, courtesy of a local business. At the first switchback, you can see San Antonio Falls to the left. The pavement ends and you gently climb up a dirt road. 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). As you climb toward Mt Baldy Notch, turn around to see the awesome views. At about 2.4 miles, you’ll see the ski lift to Mt Baldy Notch. At about 3.1 miles, you come to a trail intersection. Take the shortcut to the left. This short section of trail brings you to Mt Baldy Notch. At about 3.4 miles, you reach Mt Baldy Notch, which is the ski area where the chair lift ends. 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. 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. Shortly after going up the hill, there’s an intersection, hike to the left. Now there’s a short but tough climb (up the ski slope). Keep hiking straight up, avoiding the trails heading down to the left. This section of the hike is steep. Take breaks, turn around, and soak in the views of the Cajon Pass. No rest here! The trail keeps going up. Hike to the right as the trail climbs. 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. 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. Take your time and enjoy the Devil’s Backbone trail, there are great photo opportunities and views. 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. The trail widens and Mt Baldy looms in front of you. This is the last tough stretch of the Mt Baldy hike. Start climbing toward the summit at around 6 miles. 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. Take breaks on this steep trail to turn around and soak in the great views of the Devil’s Backbone trail. You made it to the Mt Baldy summit! Stone wind shelters are at the summit of Mt Baldy. Pick a nice spot, soak in the views, and refuel for the trip down. Pose for a picture with the Mt Baldy summit sign. The views from Mt Baldy are incredible. On a clear day, you can see west to the Pacific and east into the Mojave Desert. 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. 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. After you start hiking the trail, it’s becomes well defined. 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. After splitting apart for a while, the trail comes together and is well defined. There are some nice vistas as you descend. This one is around 7.7 miles. The trail descends steeply and splits apart. Again, stay hiking on the ridge to the left. After that steep section, the trail becomes more clearly defined. 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. Soon after that, you’ll cross a stream before the Sierra Club Ski Hut. After the stream, a side trail leads to the Sierra Club Ski Hut, which you can rent out. Hike back to the ski hut trail intersection and keep heading down the trail. This section of the hike is well defined and descends steadily. Avoid any side trails off to the right on a steep incline. 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. As you descend, look up to admire the saddle on the Devil’s Backbone Trail that you hiked across a few hours earlier. 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. An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
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I’m Hiking Guy, aka Cris Hazzard. I like to get outdoors, walk, and then write about it. It wasn’t always like that though.
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