Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hiking Mt. Baldy (Via Ski Hut Trail)

Mt. Baldy (Mt. San Antonio) is one of the most popular hikes in Southern California as it is the tallest peak in Los Angeles County and the San Gabriel Mountains. No Southern California Hiker's resume is complete without a summit on top of the 10,064 foot Mt. Baldy. The hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy via the Ski Hut Trail offers unparalleled views of the Los Angeles Basin. The Ski Hut Trail is the quickest route to the top of Mt. Baldy, without using the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the Trailhead to hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy, take the 210 freeway to Upland and exit Mountain Avenue heading North into the Angeles National Forest. Follow Mountain Avenue to the intersection with Shinn Road and make a left turn. Continue onto Mt. Baldy Road, by making a right onto Mt. Baldy Road and follow until Manker Flats. Park at Manker Flats.  The trailhead begins at Manker Flats. A Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking at Manker Flats.

Description of Hike: There are three primary routs to the summit of Mt. Baldy and the hike via the Ski Hut Trail to the Summit is the steepest and most direct route. The Ski Hut Trail climbs 3,900 feet over a total of 4.5 miles to the highest summit in the San Gabriel Mountains/Los Angeles County. This hike can be combined with the Devil's Backbone route to the Summit to form an adventurous loop that is 11.3 miles in length. The Ski Hut Trail route to the summit is one of the steeper trails in all of Southern California and it is a strenuous hike.

From the parking area at Manker Flats you will notice Falls Road on the north side of the street. There are a couple of porto-potties located here which is the starting location for the hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy. Begin by heading up the paved road past the locked vehicle gate. In roughly 0.6 miles you will reach a sharp hairpin turn to the right.  At this point you can see San Antonio Falls which is active with water for most of the year. Continue up the trail and in approximately 0.3 miles and after you round the next bend heading to the left (east), you will see a narrow path on the left angling up the slope of the mountain. This is Baldy Bowl Trail, which is better known as the Ski Hut Trail. When we did this hike there was a marker indicating the start of the trail, however this sign frequently gets knocked down during winter storms and might not always be there. The picture on this paragraph is what the narrow path looks like where the Skit Hut Trail begins.

From this point on, the Ski Hut Trail is very easy to follow and really starts to rapidly gain in altitude. The trail continues up the east side of San Antonio Canyon and the steady climb rarely levels out. You will periodically get glimpses of the Seirra Club's Ski Hut. The Ski Hut is located approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead and is a great place to have lunch or a break while on your hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy. When you leave the Seirra Club's Ski Hut, the trail curves west and ascends across the large boulder field at the base of Mt. Baldy's south face. This area is called the Baldy Bowl. The trail then steeply ascends the west ridge of the canyon top. The higher you get the more the trees begin to thin out and the more narrow the trail gets at times. Once you near the summit of Mt. Baldy, the trail gets easier and wider as you begin to arrive at Mt. Baldy's wide bald summit. You can return the way you came for a 9 mile roundtrip hike with 3,900 feet of elevation gain, or you can do a loop and descend via the Backbone Trail which drops from Baldy's east face and brings your hike to 11.3 miles roundtrip. The Devil's Backbone Trail has some pretty steep drop offs within the first 0.7 miles, however you have the luxury of being able to stop at the Ski Lodge at the Baldy Notch for a drink and/or food. Additionally, you can utilize the Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts to head down on Weekends and Holidays during the summer months which cuts off the 3.6 mile journey on the maintenance road from the baldy notch to Manker Flatts and makes your hike 7.7 miles roundtrip. For more information on the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift click Here.

Further Thoughts: This was a hike that I had a chance to do with a friend of mine, Mazi, unfortunately Ashley was unable to join on this hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy. The Ski Hut Trail to the top of Mt. Baldy is a really fun tough hike that offers you amazing views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the greater Southern California area. We did the loop with the Devils Backbone Trail diagrammed below in the Google Map. This is a very popular hike and you will likely see other hikers when out on this hike. We both really enjoyed this hike which is a must do for any avid Southern California Hiker. Only experienced hikers and mountaineers with proper gear should do this hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy during the winter time when snow is present. The best seasons to do this hike are late spring after the snow melts, Summer, and early fall before Southern California winter storms arrive. Additionally, if you are doing this hike in the summer make sure to check the weather to see if thunderstorms are forecasted for the mountains in Southern California. If they are, make sure to begin your hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy early enough to be done before thunderstorms build in the afternoon.

The Mt Baldy Ski Hut was built by the Ski Mountaineers in 1937. It is located at approximately 8,300 feet in elevation. Here is some history on the Ski Hut from the Sierra Clubs Website: The "founder" of Southern California backcountry skiing was Dr. Walter Mosauer, an Austrian transplant and professor of zoology at UCLA. The doc was a remarkable skier for the time, and began teaching his techniques to a number of young students in 1931. The gaggle of skiers made numerous ski descents to the local mountains, Old Baldy (Mt. San Antonio), San Gorgonio and San Jacinto. On February 14, 1932 Dr. Mosauer made a ski descent of Old Baldy and was so impressed with the natural bowl and quality snow condiitons, first suggested the erection of a "ski hutte" in Baldy Bowl. After founding the Ski Mountaineers Section (SMS) of the Sierra Club in 1934, the SMS acquired a permit in 1935 to construct the San Antonio Ski Hut. The Hut was built in 1937 at an elevation of 8,200' and near a year-round natural spring. Visitors to the Mt. Baldy Ski Hut were few, as the Hut was burned to the ground by a fire only a year later. The Hut was immediately rebuilt and remains near it's original condition today. The bottom-line is the hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy via the Ski Hit Trail is a must do and offers unparalleled views of Southern California.

RatingSki Hut Trail: Elevation Gain: 3,900 ft. (Strenuous), Distance: 9 Miles Roundtrip (Strenuous). Ski Hut Trail and Backbone Trail Loop: Elevation Gain: 3,900 ft. (Strenuous), Distance: 11.3 Miles Roundtrip (Strenuous). Ski Hut Trail and Backbone Trail Loop with Ski Lift: Elevation Gain: 3,900 ft. (Strenuous), Distance: 7.7 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate - Strenuous).

Time to Complete Hike: 6 - 7 hours.

FOR MORE TRAIL WRITE-UPS ON MT. BALDY


Ski Hut Trail (This Post)


View Mt Baldy Via the Ski Hut Trail in a larger map

4 comments:

  1. Ski lifts are nice and the view from the heights could be pretty stunning. But somehow, I'd rather hike up and back down. Maybe it's just me.

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  2. My buddy Matt and I just did the same loop, but with side trips to Dawson Peak, West Baldy, and Mt. Harwood. I think the whole thing was about 15 miles, and it absolutely kicked my butt. The North Backbone trail between Baldy and Dawson is one of the hardest sections of trail I've ever hiked. But it was so worth it.

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  3. We are planning on doing this hike tomorrow! We're going to take the Baldy Ski Hut trail up and hike down on the Devil's Backbone. Thank you for sharing your tips!

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.