Saturday, October 10, 2015

Icehouse Canyon Hike

Earlier this year, I hiked up Icehouse Canyon with a couple of buddies from work, Bryan and Dustin. This is also a hike that Ashley and I have done in the past on our way to Cucamonga Peak. The hike we did up Icehouse Canyon, in May of 2015, actually encountered the last bit of snow from the 2014 to 2015 rainy season for Southern California. This area of the Angeles National Forest/San Bernardino National Forest offers Southern California residents some great hiking trails and some amazing scenery. A hike up Icehouse Canyon is well worth any hikers time due to the scenery, historic cabins, and the fact it is a fun hike.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead to hike up Icehouse Canyon, from the 210 freeway, exit on N. Mountain Avenue and head toward the San Gabriel Mountains. You will take N. Mountain Avenue until it runs into Mt. Baldy Road. Mt. Baldy Road will take you to the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center, where you need to pick up your additional free wilderness permit, and it will take you to the trailhead at Icehouse Canyon, which is not too far from the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. As always, since this hike is in the San Bernardino National Forest you will need a Forest Adventure Pass. You can also get one at the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center where you pick up your additional free wilderness permit. Parking can be limited on weekends, due to the popularity of hiking in this area.

Description of Hike: The hike up Icehouse Canyon is a moderate to strenuous out and back hike.  There is 2,655 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead to the Icehouse saddle. The hike is 7.2 miles roundtrip. The hike is located in the San Bernardino National Forest which means you will need to have a Forest Adventure Pass for parking at the trailhead. Additionally, since the majority of the hike is in the Cucamonga Wilderness you will also need to pick up an additional free wilderness permit from the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. You can also get a Forest Adventure Pass at the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center where you pick up your additional free wilderness permit. Note, 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 early enough to be done before thunderstorms build in the afternoon. Additionally, during the winter, snowfall can blanket this entire area. If you hike this area in snow, make sure you have proper gear which could include crampons or snowshoes. When there is lots of snow present, you will find the trail has no switchbacks and is a direct hike right up the center of the canyon.

Further thoughts: This hike is truly an enjoyable half-day excursion into our local Southern California mountains. As you start your hike, the hiking trail meanders right between several groups of cabins and you also get the chance to see ruins from older cabins that burned down in past wildfires. When we started this hike, it was unique because the sky was so clear.  There literally was not a cloud in the sky when we began our hike at around 7:30 in the morning. The air was clean and crisp from the rain storm that came through the area the night before. However, by the time we finished the hike, we were socked in some thick cloudy weather, that developed during our hike. It was a neat experience to be able to watch the clouds develop in such a quick fashion. The whole way down from the Icehouse Canyon Saddle, we were in clouds.

While doing this hike, not long after crossing into the Cucamonga Wilderness, the hiking trail starts to climb at a steeper pace and that your heart starts to pound more heavily due to the uphill terrain. The hiking trail, up Icehouse Canyon, is well marked and easy to follow. When hiking in this area, you will likely see other hikers because it is a popular hiking spot. On weekends the parking area tends to fill up early, so take that into consideration when making your hiking plans. The Icehouse Canyon Saddle is a nice location to enjoy lunch, or it can serve as a staging area to hike to the higher peaks in this area, such as Cucamonga peak.

To the north of Icehouse Saddle, a trail follows the ridge to Timber Mountain (0.9 miles), Telegraph Peak (2.9 miles), and Thunder Mountain (3.9 miles), before descending to Baldy Notch (5.4 miles). To the southeast of Icehouse Saddle is a trail to Cucamonga Peak (2.4 miles). To the southwest of Icehouse Saddle is Ontario Peak (2.8 miles). And to the east, the Middle Fork Trail descends 5.4 miles to Middle Fork Trailhead.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 2,655 ft. (Moderate - Strenuous), Distance: 7.2 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate - Strenuous).

Time to Complete Hike: 3-5 hours.

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