Mount Baldy, known officially as Mt. San Antonio, is the tallest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains at 10,064 feet, and the tallest of Los Angeles County. It is easily recognizable in Los Angeles-- even on a smoggy day-- by the snow-packed peak visible throughout most of the year. The trailhead is only about 45 minutes from anywhere in Los Angeles, and offers hikers a strenuous elevation gain of over 6,000 feet in 10 miles.
Sections of Baldy are dangerously narrow, especially in winter time, when snow and ice cover the trail, and even experienced hikers are prone to slipping to their deaths. The Devil's Backbone, as it is known, is over 3 miles of the trail, with an elevation gain of 2,350 feet.
During summer months, this section of the trail is less treacherous, but still requires strength, endurance and awareness while scrambling up rock piles with sharp cliffs on either side. Dehydration is always an issue on Baldy, but especially when temperatures are high.
Climbing Baldy Bowl also feels impossibly steep, so no matter which direction you choose to climb to the peak (either a straight-shot up Devil's Backbone by means of the Ski Lift or the scenic route up Ski Hut Trail) you're going to feel the altitude gain in your lungs and your legs.
I have now done this hike twice in training for trail running at higher elevations elsewhere, such as for my trips to Peru (7,972 ft.), the Grand Canyon (7,522 ft.), and Montana (5,164 ft.).
For most, hiking Baldy will take a full day, and will require hardy boots with good traction, a supply of med tape and band-aids for the feet (for hot spots), and a nice, tight pair of compression socks, as your legs WILL hurt.
Stunning views of the many-colored terrain of Southern California's mountains.
I strongly recommend bringing a pair of walking sticks, as the trail is continuously steep, and they will come in use both going up and down the trail.
Keep in mind that temperatures swing drastically at different parts of the trail, and the wind is always blowing chilly at the peak, so bring layers!
Most of the hike is fairly quiet, which makes reaching the peak a surprise-- there are often dozens of other hikers at the peak when you arrive, each group in their own wind-breaking cubby of rock pile, enjoying a sandwich and a beer, high-fiving each other for an awesome day on the trail!
Lucky hikers may sometimes come across Bighorn Sheep on the trail.
Lucky hikers will catch wildlife along the trail! As we summited, a group going down reported to us of a group of Bighorn about 35 feet from the peak. We managed to get a fantastic straight shot of this sheep as it grazed between the rocks.
Baldy is a fun and challenging day for Intermediate hikers, and is a great escape from the chaos of traffic that plagues the rest of Southern California. Up on Baldy, all of that is literally smog in the distance, and instead you're surrounded by rocky forest and never-ending mountain ranges.