5 - 6
FATMAP difficulty grade
Mount San Antonio, at 10,064 feet, is the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles.
It is more commonly called Mount Baldy because of its nearly treeless summit and south-facing bowl that can be seen well from LA.
It rises so high above the valley that snow usually covers its slopes in winter and can last well into spring. Its high elevation and steep sides make Baldy an imposing summit, but it’s actually quite accessible thanks to a network of trails and a chairlift on its slopes.
The hiking is not easy, but doable for a variety of fitness and experience levels in summer when snow-free.
This loop connects the two main hiking trails, Baldy Bowl and Devils Backbone, to reach the top, with the option of riding the chairlift as a shortcut.
The lift that operates in summer runs from approximately the trailhead parking area to The Notch, a trail junction and site of a restaurant on the east shoulder of Baldy. As mapped, the loop goes clockwise, taking Baldy Bowl Trail to the summit, then Devils Backbone trail to The Notch.
From there, you have the choice to ride the lift down (free) or walk the gravel service road down to complete the loop.
To lessen the elevation gain, you can pay to ride the lift up and hike the loop counterclockwise.
The easiest alternative is to ride the lift both directions and simply hike Devils Backbone as an out-and-back to the summit. No matter the route, you’ll be sure to experience a world very different from the heat and pavement of LA.
This is the alpine realm, where sun and wind exposure are pronounced, snow and ice can linger into summer months, and bare rock dominates the terrain.
From the top of Mount Baldy, you’ll see 360 degrees of distant horizon, gazing over the haze and up at a deep blue sky.
On a clear day, you can see tall peaks of neighboring ranges and the Catalina Islands beyond Los Angeles. Highlights of the hike include the seasonal waterfall near the bottom of Baldy Bowl Trail, the steep, arcing ascent over rocky couloirs of the Baldy Bowl, and the unnervingly narrow ridge crest of the Devils Backbone, with precipitous slopes falling away on both sides.
The trail is generally safe when not icy and when weather is good, but risk increases dramatically with less ideal conditions.
Do not attempt the hike if storms are in the forecast, or during winter unless you have proper experience and equipment for steep snow travel. Sources: https://www.shedreamsofalpine.com/blog/hiking-mount-baldy https://californiathroughmylens.com/2011/10/hiking-the-mt-baldy-summit-eating-at-top-of-the-notch-restaurant/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_San_Antonio