Mount Baden-Powell is a special summit in the San Gabriel Mountains. It is one of the range’s tallest peaks at 9,399 feet and holds particular importance to the Boy Scouts of America because it memorializes the lofty accomplishments of Lord Baden-Powell who founded the Scout Movement. The views are lofty too, lording over an expanse of rugged mountains framed the San Gabriel Valley to the south and the Mojave Desert to the north. The hike to the top is a thigh-burning 8.25 miles round trip with lots of switchbacks and 2,834 feet of elevation gain. The effort is rewarded by substantial views including a summit 360.
The hike begins 6,565 feet above sea level at Vincent Gulch Divide, located near the northeast end of the San Gabriel Mountains. Vincent Gulch Divide (Or Vincent Gap) is a divide below Mount Baden-Powell that separates the drainage of Big Rock Creek to the north from the drainage of the upper forks of the San Gabriel River to the south. You will find a large turnout along Angeles Crest Highway at Vincent Gulch Divide where the trail sets out southwest up Mount Baden-Powell. The trail up Mount Baden-Powell is a well-maintained section of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Silver Moccasin Trail (Silver Moccasin Trail is a 53-mile route used by boy scouts and other backpackers to cross the San Gabriel Mountains between Chantry Flat and Vincent Gap, topping out on Mount Baden-Powell).
Make your way up the dirt single track, climbing through Jeffrey pines and firs that exude pleasant mountain aromas. The trail maintains a steady grade, never getting too steep as it chips away about 700 feet per mile. If you like switchbacks, you are in luck, because there are about 30 along the way. At the top of the sixth switchback, and 0.95 miles from the start, you will arrive at a bench that presents an early opportunity to pause and enjoy the view. The bench looks east over Mine Gulch below Vincent Gulch Divide.
Above the bench, the trail continues to climb with switchbacks alternating between the northern slope of the mountain and a ravine on the eastern face. At 1.8 miles from the start you will arrive at a junction with a spur to Lamel Springs, marked by a large sign. A narrow track heads to the left, extending to a water source in the ravine. Assuming you packed enough water for the trek, simply continue up the main trail to the summit of Mount Baden-Powell. About half a mile above the spring, the trail passes a landing on the side of the mountain that could make a nice backcountry campsite.
The switchbacks continue, weaving farther around the north side of the mountain. As you climb above 8,000 feet, the lodgepole pines thin and the views expand, allowing you to gaze down the north side of the range toward the Mojave Desert. The switchbacks shorten as you climb a false summit east of the actual peak, taking you to new views northwest over canyons carved by Big Rock Creek.
Catch your breath as the trail crosses a narrow ridge just below the actual summit (that is like a short taste of the Devil’s Backbone Trail east of Mount Baldy). Along the ridge, you will reach the Mount Baden-Powell Pacific Crest Trail Junction, 4 miles and 2,625 feet from the start. To the right, the PCT heads downhill to Windy Gap (5.2 miles) and Islip Saddle (7.2 miles). To reach the summit of Mount Baden-Powell, turn left and continue up the ridge to the peak.
Just past the Mount Baden-Powell Pacific Crest Trail junction you will pass the Wally Waldon Tree, a limber pine clinging to the spine of the ridge that is estimated to be 1,500 years old. The tree honors the scout leader most responsible for the creation of the monument for Lord Baden-Powell on the summit, which you will reach after just a couple more switchbacks.
From the junction, it is only 1/8 of a mile to the summit of Mount Baden-Powell. The impressive mmemorial has four sides labeled with compass arrows and the guiding principles of scouting, duty to God, country, others, and self. Each side of the monument bares a plaque of significance to Baden-Powell and the Boy Scouts of America. There is a summit register next to the monument, where you are invited to write a message, having completed the climb to the 8,399-foot summit!
The views from the mountaintop are epic. To the north lies the expansive Mojave Desert. To the west, Hawkins Ridge extends toward Throop Peak. To the south, when not consumed by clouds, you will spot Iron Mountain. The dominating form of Mount Baldy, the tallest mountain in the San Gabriels, rises to the southeast and just north of that round bald summit you’ll see Pine Mountain and Dawson Peak. If you aren’t afraid of heights, look southeast over the deep trench called Mine Gulch and the canyons carved by the upper forks of the San Gabriel River. The views in every direction are mesmerizing.
The summit is roughly pyramid-shaped with three ridges extending east, west, and south. If there are crowds on Mount Baden-Powell, the south ridge is a great place to get away and enjoy a private view. You can hike a quarter mile down this ridge (dropping 125 feet) before the terrain becomes steep. There are fantastic views southeast over the chasm of Mine Gulch toward Mount Baldy. The path down the south ridge offers bonus exploration for those who want to spend a little extra time on the summit.
Linger as long as you like before hiking back the way you came (it’s all downhill), completing the 8.25-mile round trip hike between Vincent Gulch Divide and the summit of Mount Baden-Powell. Do not hike up the mountain in a lightning storm or when the trail is icy or made dangerous by other questionable weather. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but mountain bikes are prohibited. A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for vehicles parked at the trailhead, but no other permit is required to hike to the summit of Mount Baden-Powell, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge, head northeast on Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) for 50.3 miles to Vincent Gulch Divide where there is a large turnout on the south side of the road at the start of the trail. From the 15 Freeway, take exit 131 for Route 138 west. Drive 20 miles and turn left up Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2). Go 14 miles and turn left into the trailhead parking area.
Trailhead address: Angeles Crest Highway, Azusa, CA 91702
Trailhead coordinates: 34.372947, -117.752282 (34° 22′ 22.60″N 117° 45′ 08.21″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Los Angeles trails and campgrounds.
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