We hiked Mount San Antonio (locally known as Mount Baldy) on a summer visit to LA several years ago and had wanted to do it again ever since we moved to LA. Finally we made it happen!
We decided to hike this the same way we had before. We drove to the ski area parking lot and rode the ski lift up to Baldy Notch at 7,800 feet to get us to the start of the hike. Alternatively, we could have hiked the 3.5 miles all the way from the ski area parking lot using the service road, but with pretty warm temperatures and already brutal afternoon sun, that seemed like a bad idea. One note: dogs are not allowed on the ski lift.
From the top of the ski lift, we could already feel the elevation a bit. We definitely don’t live in the high desert anymore like we used to! There was a restaurant, Top of the Notch, with restrooms — not a bad place to stop before starting the hike. From there we proceeded up the ski run bordered by a snow fence, starting the ascent towards Mt. Baldy. It sounds like this is not the official route but it’s the one we’ve used both times. This part of the hike was pretty steep and very exposed. We definitely took a break or two and took some time to enjoy the alpine views of the San Bernardino Mountains (despite the ever-present smog ;).
We then headed up the Devil’s Backbone Trail. The views got better in this area as there were more trees and some places to stop and take a break in the shade.
As we continued upwards, there was a section with steep drops on either side of the trail — nothing too dramatic, but hiking poles were a welcome addition on this hike (and even more so for the descent). Then the scenery changed again as we approached a plateau with few trees. We were getting closer but the summit still seemed so far!
After more climbing, we made it to what felt like the base of Baldy, with a lot of loose rocks, winding trails, and no trees. There was about a mile more go to from here. There were many options in trails, and they all intertwine in places, so no biggie there. The exact location of the summit wasn’t viewable until we were there, due to the steepness and the sun. Alas, we made it to the top, at 10,064 feet. The 360 degree views made it all worth it, and we had the summit to ourselves for at least a few minutes. It was a lot windier up there, and a jacket would be good to have on hand for spring or fall hikes.
After taking some time to enjoy the scenery and take some photos, we headed back down using the same route. Hiking polls were useful for this descent as it’s rocky to start and steep in some sections, including the ski run approaching the ski lift. We then took the ski lift back down from the Top of the Notch restaurant as we had before.
Distance: 5.7 miles
Elevation: 2,300 ft