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Peak 5 of 6: Mount San Antonio, a.k.a. Mt. Baldy

Peak five out of six had me wishing for wings on my shoes…

The Hike:

There are several different trails headed towards the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, however, I picked the West Rim trail, also known as Mt. Baldy Trail #7W12, which is 6 miles one way to the barren peak. Park along Mt. Baldy Road near the visitor center and head down Bear Canyon Road where you’ll walk past a church and a neighborhood of mountain dwelling folk. The trail starts at the end of Bear Canyon Road where you’ll be welcomed by a beautiful bubbling stream and thousands of mosquitos and gnats. For the first 1.6 miles you’re hiking through heavily wooded areas with a fairly easy-going gradient. Once you reach Bear Flat, the trail will appear as if it’s forked. The trail is not incredibly obvious, so bare (ha!) in mind: to continue on the trail, you’ll want to hang a left where you’ll briefly cross a stream and head into a meadow. Signage was rather poor on this trail, so be sure to stay alert.

After the meadow, there is a series of steep switchbacks that warms you up for intensity of the trail. The switchbacks are lined with mostly scrubs, like chaparral, sage and clover patches. Beware of the bees humming along in the clover patches. If you are allergic, it would be wise to bring an epi-pen as a precaution.

One word: Steep.

Once you’ve conquered the switchbacks and have reached about 7,000 feet, there are several shady spots, thanks to the Sugar Pines and White Fir trees. Following along the steep path, you slowly start to think about turning around. Unless you run out of water, don’t do it. Keep going.

Eventually, you reach a large natural depression in the landscape where you can find some shady spots. Re-apply that sunscreen! Following the trail, you’ll reach the west ridge of Mt. Baldy for your last leg—a fairly forgiving climb comparatively.

Reach the top and celebrate! You just climbed the highest point in the San Gabriels. Soak it in. Feel badass because you ARE.

Not the widest path

Driving Directions: From the 210 east towards San Bernardino, exit Base Line Drive, make a right onto Pahua Drive and a right onto Mount Baldy Road. Park along the road and walk towards the old church located on the right side of the road, walk through the neighborhood and eventually you will find the trailhead—one of THREE signs you’ll see along the way. Stay alert.

Parking: Park alongside the road where available. I would not recommend parking in the church lot, although people seem to do it anyway.

Roundtrip mileage: 13.2 miles, 10 hours

Elevation: 10,064 feet

Elevation gain: 5,650 feet

What to bring: At least 3 liters of water, electrolyte tablets, snacks, hat, A LOT of sunscreen, phone/camera, mental sanity

Consider this: Bring all the water you think you need. This trail will push every ounce of brain you have. Just when you think you have the peak in your sights, the trail fakes you out and you’ll keep climbing onto an even steeper trail section than before. Frustration may kick in to a point where you question your sanity and safety. If you feel the need to turnaround, there’s no shame in that. Know your limits. But, if you remotely think you can handle it, DON’T GIVE UP.

 

Peak 3 of 6: Cucamonga Peak

Peak three of six had me second-guessing that I was actually still in Southern California…

Beautiful redwoods dwarf any palm tree.

Beautiful redwoods dwarf any palm tree.

Taking in all the hobbit potential...

Taking in all the hobbit potential…

The Hike: By far one of my most favorited hikes during this challenge. For the first 2.6 miles, you’ll be hiking the Icehouse Canyon Trail, which features beautiful lush foliage alongside a rushing creek. There are also cabins and cairns to ogle at, which make this place look like anything but Southern California. Eventually you’ll make it to a rock quarry-looking area where you can observe very interesting geological rock formations. But don’t get too distracted—it’s easy to lose the trail. Veer towards the right in this quarry-like setting and you’ll come to the 2.5 miles to of the first chunk of the trail, which takes you through more exposeswitchbacks and eventually to the “Icehouse Saddle.” It is during this portion of the hike where you will climb the most elevation as the saddle puts you at about 7,600 feet.

Once you get to the saddle, you can go one of three different routes. I completely geeked out because not only could I see a beautiful forest view into the valley, but I also found more trails/mountains to hike.

Signage will point you straight onwards for another 2.4 miles towards Cucamonga Peak. This trail has a lot of loose gravel, and due to frequent landslides, the gravel often covers up the tiny trail itself. This makes things slippery, so proceed with caution.
And just like this hike description, when you think it’s never going to end, it does. And the view of the inland empire and Apple Valley is spectacular. If there are clouds around, they tend to make your photos look pretty damn cool, too.

Driving Directions: From the 210 east towards San Bernardino, exit Base Line Drive, make a right onto Pahua Drive and a right onto Mount Baldy Road. The trailhead is located at the end of Mt. Baldy Road, and there is a lot for those who have Adventure or National Park passes. You can also park alongside the road without any ticketing consequences.

Back in the day, California was filled with volcanoes...still was a hot place to be. ha! I'm here all night.

Back in the day, California was filled with volcanoes…still was a hot place to be. ha! I’m here all night.

You'd walk right past it and never give it a second thought, but don't forget to check out the old gold mines.

You’d walk right past it and never give it a second thought, but don’t forget to check out the old gold mines.

Roundtrip mileage: 15 miles, 8 hours

Elevation: 8,859 feet

Elevation gain: 4,000 feet

What to bring: Water, snacks, hat, sunscreen, phone/camera, Adventure Pass

Consider this: There are so many cools sights to see along this trail that you tend to forget to sip your water. Cabins, cairns and igneous rocks can easily distractify, but don’t forget to do a sanity check lest your lungs do it for you. Also, be sure to look for the old gold mines along the trail. There’s no signs that point them out, they’re just kind of chillin’, so be on the lookout. If you’re heading toward the peak, they are on your right…because to your left is a straight 1,000 foot drop.