The grand finale peak had me so very proud…
This is the tallest peak in Southern California towering at 11,503 feet. It is also the longest trail clocking in at 17 miles roundtrip. You should always take careful precautions for any trail, but this one requires a lot of time if you’re on the slower side, like me.
The trail begins with an easy stroll on a straightaway path, Once you cross the large granite riverbed, you arrive at the switchbacks, which are steep and difficult…probably one, if not, THE most difficult part of the trail.
Along the way, you first pass Vivian Creek Camp, which sits at 7,100 feet and shortly after that, you come to Halfway Camp, which is at 8,100 feet. These are located in beautiful, picture-worthy areas, although I did not get to take many photos. This time around I was with a group who was moving quickly, but stopped when I needed to rest.
At 9,200 feet the trail starts to become rocky and a little less shaded, wear that sunscreen! You’ll keep climbing and THINK you see the peak, but no. This happened to my co-worker and I, where we were faked out at least twice, a gut-wrenching disappointment once you can finally see ant-like people traversing across a rocky path towards a peak even further away.
Once you reach the peak, you can see far and wide views from Palm Springs to Big Bear Lake, the desert, the city, more mountains to explore.
Driving Directions: Turn east of off highway 38 to Forest Falls. Continue through Forest Falls to the top end of the Falls Picnic area. Parking is located at the end of the road.
Parking: Good luck! Most parking is taken up by 6:30 a.m., but there is a separate lot below the smelly restrooms. It’s kind of a cruel joke when you are done with the trail.
Roundtrip mileage: 17 miles, 12 hours
Elevation: 11,503 feet
Elevation gain: 5,484 feet
What to bring: At least three liters of water, electrolyte drink, snacks, sunscreen, patience, a smile, a little toilet paper—this will take ALL day
Consider this: This hike is a royal ass-kicker, not because of the steepness like Baldy, but because it is so long. For the most part, the hike is a relatively gradual climb, but there are times where the elevation gets to you and, much like Baldy, you begin to question your sanity. THERE IS NO SHAME IN TAKING BREAKS. I did and often, especially towards the top. It is a good idea to hike a trail that has similar mileage and elevation so you’re not completely blindsided. Baldy’s 13-mile West Rim trail worked nicely for me and took me 2 hours shorter than this one. Be patient with yourself, but know your limits.