Mt. Baldy Hike: The Ultimate Guide
Everything you need to know about visiting Mt. Baldy and the summit hike
Mt. San Antonio, commonly known as Mt. Baldy, is LA County's highest peak at 10,000 feet and is located within two nationally protected areas, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Angeles National Forest.
Why is it called Mt. Baldy? Appropriately enough, there are no trees near the summit and the top of the mountain looks like a bald head!
Why visit Mt. Baldy? If you don't want to drive far from Los Angeles but you do want to go on an incredible hike or enjoying a plethora of other outdoor activities, Mt. Baldy is right for you.
Planning and Preparing to hike Mt. Baldy
If you'd like to hike to the top of Mt. Baldy, here's some items we recommend you bring:
- Comfortable clothes according to the weather
- Jacket for the top
- Trail or hiking shoes, hiking poles
- Lots of water or Camelbak
- Protein rich trail snacks
- Picnic food (sandwiches!) for a well deserved lunch at 10,000 feet
If you'd like to stay overnight in Mt. Baldy, consider camping at Manker Campground. There are 21 campsites and they are all first come first serve. You can also rent an Airbnb nearby or reserve a Luxurious Tent Cabin at the ski lifts.
Another really cool way to spend the night on Mt. Baldy is by booking a night in the San Antonio Ski Hut. The Ski Hut is a green lodge or cabin that was built in 1936 and is located at 8,300 feet.
The hut is only accessible via a steep, 3 mile hike, and offers a fully-equipped kitchen, dishes, cookware, running water, and solar lighting. Water from a spring nearby is piped directly to the kitchen and the hut has sleeping room for up to 16 people.
To reserve in advance for overnight stay or for more information about the San Antonio Ski Hut, take a look at their website then contact the scheduled Hut Host. If you're interested in helping preserve and maintain the hut, consider becoming a volunteer Hut Host or attend one of their volunteer Work Parties.
Finally, don't forget to check the weather before your trip.
How to get to the Mt. Baldy trailhead
Mt. Baldy is about an hour from Los Angeles. Plug in Manker Campground on your GPS. The parking lot for the trailhead to the top of Mt. Baldy is located near Manker Campground. Drive a little bit past Manker Campground and you'll see cars parked along Mt. Baldy Road. Park along with these cars.
To park at this parking lot, you're required to buy a daily ($5) or annual ($30) Adventure Pass from a 7-eleven. The Adventure Pass helps support state parks. National Park Annual Pass is also accepted.
There is confusion and controversy surrounding whether you need to pay fees for parking and recreation in state mountains such as Mt. Baldy. In 2014, a judge ruled against recreation fees. I heard a rumor that President Obama said fees should not be enforced, but haven't been able to find proof. Also, if I'm not wrong, if you forget to buy an Adventure Pass, and a ranger checks, the ranger puts a receipt on your windshield that requests you pay the $5 fee online before it turns into a citation. Just buy a pass :)
What to do on Mt. Baldy
The best thing to do at Mt. Baldy is hike to the summit. There's multiple hiking trails available on all sides of the mountain that reach the summit. The most popular trailhead to begin from is located near Manker Campground. Drive a little bit past Manker Campground and you will see cars parked along Mt. Baldy Road. Park along with these cars, then look for the trailhead.
The trail starts with a paved fire road, then becomes a gravel fire road, then just a narrow dirt trail. You'll know you're at the trailhead once you see that it's closed by a gate and there are portable restrooms by it. There should be maps available in box attached to the gate.
Grab a map and plan your route. There's lots of turns and shortcuts along the trail, which is why you will see trails connecting to other trails with no signs. I was unable to find a trail map online for Mt. Baldy but the general rule of thumb is going to be to keep hiking uphill and stay along an established trail.
Most trails will at some point connect to the Devil's Backbone Trail. Once you hit Devil's Backbone, follow it uphill and you'll get to the summit. Devil's Backbone is an awesome trail that takes you towards the summit along a ridge with steep drops offs on both sides. I included a picture below. You might have heard this trail is scary but it's actually more fun than scary. It's also steep and exhausting, not a walk in the park! Don't forget snacks and lots of water. You can make the hike to the top shorter by taking the ski lifts up during the dry seasons, but where's the fun in that?
No matter what trail you take, you will probably hike at least 10 miles/5 hours so make sure to be prepared, leave early, and bring food and water. The top of the mountain gets pretty cold and windy even during the summer so a jacket is recommended.
Other activities that people enjoy at Mt. Baldy
- Seeing San Antonio Falls
- Road Biking
- Mountain Biking
- Zip Lining
- Disc Golfing
- Scenic Chair Lift Rides
- Dining at Top of The Notch Restaurant and Bar
During the winter, snow hobbyists take over. Ice climbing the "Baldy Bowl" with crampons and ice axes, skiing/snowboarding, and snow tubing are just some of the winter activities the mountain has to offer.
Tips for visiting Mt. Baldy
- The hike excellent for a group of coworkers, friends, or family
- The parking lot near Manker Campground fills up quickly, get there early!
- Bring trail snacks and lunch food for a picnic at the summit
- Grab a well-deserved beer at one of the many microbreweries in LA after your hike
- The top of the mountain is very windy and cold, bring a jacket
Back to Reality
Standing at the top of Mt. Baldy is exhilarating. The wind blows strong, there's makeshift rock walls for protection, and the Baldy Bowl looks steep and treacherous. It feels really good to summit Mt. Baldy and the view at the top definitely makes it all worth it.
After leaving Mt. Baldy you realize that the forest and mountains are a lot closer to Los Angeles than you might have thought. You might have stared out from the top of the mountain and thought about how millions of people are only miles away. The mountains are right in our backyard.
Conquering Mt. Baldy might make you want to keep traveling and exploring all the other neat places around the area. For your next trip, consider visiting Yosemite, Big Sur, Joshua Tree, Catalina Island, or Sequoia/King's Canyon. For our list of the best hiking close to LA, click here (coming soon).
Mt. Baldy Q&A
Question: Is the mt baldy hike okay for children? My kids are 8 and 12.
Answer: The Mt. Baldy hike is a perfect hike for your children, assuming you take them walking or hiking regularly! Just take the easiest trail up and take your time. Don't forget to bring lots of water for everyone and snacks like nuts and beef jerky to keep everyone energized. If you'd like, you can even take part of the trail up on the ski lift. Your kids might enjoy that!