Mt.Baldy (San Antonio) & Mt.Harwood Loop Hike
Location : San Gabriel Mountains, Angeles National Forest
Total distance : 11 miles round-trip (loop)
Elevation gain : 4,000 ft
Peak elevation : 10,064 ft
Tree Cover : Partial tree cover. Sunscreen highly recommended.
Parking : Parking at the trailhead.
Trailhead : Click here
Landmark : You will see cars parked on Mt. Baldy Road. There is a gate at the trailhead.
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Satellite map :
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topo map picture
Note : You need a permit even for a day hike. Call Mt.Baldy visitor center (909)982-2829 to find out about current weather. It is a peak at high altitude so its advisable to reach the peak before noon to avoid any possible storms and lightning.
Detailed directions : The hike starts at this gate which is at the intersection of Mt.Baldy road and Falls road. Checkout hiking tips page if this is your first hike to a 10,000 ft peak. We will be taking Mt.Baldy road and Devil's backbone trail while going up; and Baldy bowl trail on our way down.
At little more than half a mile (0.6) you will see the San Antonio falls on the left. There was water in October 2017. There is a small trail that takes you to the falls but if you are planning to go to the peak I'd say save your time and energy for the long and strenuous hike ahead of you. The falls aren't going anywhere, you can check it out on the way back and chill there for a bit. The trail makes a U-turn, follow it and keep going up. I usually take an advil around 7,000 ft since typically we start feeling the effects of high altitude above 8,000 ft and tablets take some time to act, read Hiking tips page for more on this.
At about 2.5 miles you will be around 7,200 ft. Stay on Baldy road, you will reach a point where the trail splits into 3, stay on the left or the center trail. The one of the left is shorter than the one in the center, they both meet at Baldy Notch.
There is a restaurant - Top of the Notch restaurant at 7,700 ft you can take a short break here and soak in the amazing views. I like to take short breaks-typically less than 5 minutes and maintain a steady pace, that works out better for me. Some people like to take longer breaks and walk at a fast pace. Observe and identify what suits you better. And please do not start with a very strenuous, long and a high altitude hike; instead start with an easy hike and work your way up.
Funny observation : the map looks like a pony with its head on the left and a tail on the right, do you see it too!? May be you do now, you cannot unsee it once you see it.
There is a large bell at the Notch, not sure what the purpose of the bell is. You can see these two trails and one more to the right branching from the Notch. Take the center one that looks really steep and seems like its disappearing into the trees under the Ski lifts. You can also take the one that is right next to it, they both join eventually.
I took 3 lts of water with me, ended up drinking only 1 lt. I usually drink more than a Gallon a day, but it wasn't hot going up so didn't need much water. It's probably a good idea to take at least 2 lts with you.
Follow the Devil's backbone trail and make a U-turn going up.
I usually pack few boiled eggs and nutribars with me. Nutribars are very easy to eat, don't need to stop.
It is usually very windy on Mt.Baldy, a bit cold too. Its a good idea to take a light jacket and wear full pants to protect yourself from the wind and the sun. At high altitudes you definitely need sunscreen. Effect of the sunburn can be really bad, your skin might even start peeling - personal experience.
When you are about a mile from the peak Devil's backbone trail splits and a trail goes right uphill. That takes you to Mt.Harwood, it adds extra distance, time and elevation to your hike but if you have the energy its definitely recommended. Also there aren't many people on that mountain. Its right next to Mt.Baldy.
At this point you will see the Devil's backbone trail climbing up and it becomes very steep, take as many breaks as you need and just enjoy the views. You've come so far not just to earn the right to brag that you've hiked Mt.Baldy but also to enjoy the breathtaking views that the nature has to offer, something that makes you forget the city, the traffic and everything else in your life. It is so relaxing and peaceful that you will want to go back to these mountains just for few more minutes of this.
When you are ready to head back look for signs for Baldy Bowl trail. There is a boulder field that you will pass through and you will see a cabin and few streams. If you are new to hiking it is a good idea to wear boots so your ankles will have extra support. Stay on the Baldy bowl trail and follow signs for Manker flats. At about 2.5 miles you will join the Mt.Baldy road. At about a quarter mile further you will see the San Antonio falls, continue downhill to reach the trailhead. Check out the gallery below and the video above to get a good idea of what you can expect from the hike.