Baldy Bowl – Ski Hut Trail climbs 3,900 feet over 4.5 miles to the highest summit in the San Gabriel Mountains. The trails ascends the southwest side of the mountain and is the shortest route to the top that does not involve the use of a ski lift. Expect an aggressive climb for most of the hike rewarded by views over San Antonio Canyon. Halfway up the mountain, the trail passes a Sierra Club Ski Hut that makes a good resting point. Baldy Bowl Trail can be combined with the other major route to the summit, Devil’s Backbone Trail, to form an impressive 11.3-mile loop on Mount Baldy.
The trailhead for Baldy Bowl – Ski Hut Trail is located just above Manker Flats Campground on the left side of Mount Baldy Road. Start hiking up the paved Falls Road. After 0.6 miles, San Antonio Falls will appear, coursing down the mountain beneath Mount Baldy. The pavement ends and the road turns sharply to the right. Feel free to take a short detour down a path to the falls before continuing up the trail.
Not far above the hairpin turn, the trail curves to the left, offering a southward view over Manker Flats Campground in San Antonio Canyon. After the curve, keep your eye on the left side of the road where an unmarked single track trail breaks off up a gravel slope, a third of a mile past San Antonio Falls. This is the route to Baldy Bowl, so don’t hike past it (click here to see a photo of the junction). Surprisingly, the turnoff for this popular trail is unmarked and easy to miss.
From here the trail becomes easier… to follow that is. The trail swings up the east side of San Antonio Canyon and really starts to climb. The ascent is aggressive but consistent. The steady grade rarely levels out or wavers. Through tall pine trees, you will have an expanding view of San Antonio Canyon. Above you, the green ski hut will come into view beneath the bald crown of Mount Baldy. There is just over 2,000 feet of elevation gain between the trailhead and the Sierra Club Ski Hut, reached after 2.6 miles of hiking.
Looking up at the Sierra Club Ski Hut
Take a moment to pause at the ski hut to take in the view and collect your strength. There is an outhouse alongside the hut and there may be cold spring water flowing from a tap just inside. However, do not count on this source because if no one is staying in the hut the water will be locked off.
The next section of the trail is the easiest, unfortunately the segment after that is the hardest. From the ski hut, follow the trail west across Baldy Bowl to a ridge south of the summit. You will pass over large boulders, enjoying a short episode of gradual hiking. Once you reach the ridge, the climb is on. The dirt trail begins an unapologetic ascent through tall Jeffery pines. It seems like there should be more switchbacks on the way to the top of the ridge, but there aren’t. It is a 550-foot climb from the ski hut to the ridge top, tackled in 2/3 of a mile.
From the ridge, turn north up Baldy’s south face. The terrain becomes rockier and there are a few steep passages below the summit. Hike on knowing that your goal is close and that the toughest trail is behind you. The vegetation thins and the ground underfoot becomes loose in place. After a couple false summits, the trail finally levels out as you reach the large round mountaintop.
Approaching the summit of Mount Baldy
Enjoy the panoramic view from the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains. You can see for miles over the range in every direction. Beyond the San Gabriel’s, Southern California’s other prominent summits, Mount San Gorgonio, Mount San Jacinto, and Santiago Peak are all in sight to the south and east. West Baldy, a slightly lower summit, occupies some of the view to the west, and there are mountain peaks and valleys stretching for miles in every direction.
To get to the trailhead: Take the 210 east to Baseline Road (exit 52). Turn left at the light at the end of the ramp on to Baseline Road. Make the next right on to Padua Avenue. Drive 1.7 miles and turn right onto Mount Baldy Road (there will be a traffic light). Continue 7 miles up Mount Baldy Road through Mount Baldy Village (where there is a visitor center) and follow the road for another 4.4 miles up the mountain past Manker Flats Campground to the bottom of Falls Road on the left. Park along Mount Baldy Road, display an adventure pass, and begin hiking up Falls Road.
Trailhead address: Mount Baldy Road & Falls Road, Angeles National Forest, Mount Baldy, CA 91759
Trailhead coordinates: 34.266172, -117.62684 (34° 15′ 58.21″N 117° 37′ 36.62″W)
Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:
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These photos were taken in May of 2009 and March of 2012. Click to enlarge.
| Devil’s Backbone|
This 3.2-mile ridge-top trail between Baldy Notch and the summit of Mount Baldy offers incredible views of the San Gabriel Mountains.
|San Antonio Falls|
This 1.4-mile hike visits a multi-tier waterfall along the trail to Mount Baldy.
To hike the scenic Devil’s Backbone to Mount Baldy, you must pass through Baldy Notch. You can hike to the notch, or take a ski lift.
|Mount Baldy Loop|
This 11.3-mile hike incorporates the Devil’s Backbone and the Baldy Bowl – Ski Hut Trail into one see-all loop.
|Icehouse Canyon Trail to Icehouse Saddle|
This 7.2-mile hike climbs 2,600 feet through a picturesque canyon to a saddle with panoramic views and extended hiking opportunities.
|More trails in the San Gabriel Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.
Twenty-one sites service campers at the base of Mount Baldy. The grounds are nothing exciting, but if want a staging area for your ascent, this is it.