Mt. Baldy, the highest peak in the LA County soars at 10,064 ft. San Antonio Falls is a three tiered waterfall fed by year-round runoff that is just .5 miles away from the start of the Baldy Hike. This is an appropriate summer hike, cool mountain winds are felt from the trailhead all the way to the top. The views from the peak are outstanding and really give unparalleled feeling of the vastness of the San Gabriel Mountains. Be prepared and pack appropriately for this trip, a meal and lots of water is a necessity for this journey.
Distance: 12 mile loop
Time: 7-8.5 hours (depending on breaks)
Elevation Gain: 3900 ft.
Dogs Allowed?: Yes, but only recommend in top shape.
Parking fee: Adventure Pass Required (can be found in some 7-11, Big 5 or other sporting good store locations)
Parking address and info:
Parking is plentiful, it is off road dirt parking next to the Manker Flats campground area. Parking address is here: 1149 Falls Rd. or use coordinates: 34.270070,-117.632387.
This is a write-up detailing the loop we took to the summit and down, the hike can be shorter from the falls or back or from the summit and back.
From the parking area, head north on the road toward the trailhead. In other words, head away from the yellow arrow signs in the above photo. To the left you will see a white metal gate, this is the start of the trail.
For the first portion of the hike and even after seeing the waterfall you will be hiking on this relatively large trail. There is no steep elevation gain yet. Enjoy this relaxing climb to the falls which is .5 miles away from the trailhead.
You will see a few numbered turnoffs to your left. Do not take any of these roads they lead to private property. We made the mistake and turned off way too early before the falls.
Without making any direction changes you will easily run into the waterfall. The sounds of the cascading falls will not fall short of your orientation.
You will see a short runoff trail that leads to the falls. Take this to get a closer look.
Because this is a write up on the Mount Baldy loop, once you’ve taken in the falls you can move forward on the same road and continue on the steeper grade. About .4 miles from the falls the more serious section of the hike begins via Baldy Bowl. You’ll come across for a skinny and rocky trail from the left of the main fire road. Half of the sign “Baldy Bowl” is gone.
The harsh accent begins here, many breaks had to be taken from the start of this trail to the Green Ski Hut you will see later on. But man oh man did the views only get better.
This is the trail that will be taken all the way to the peak, it’s harsh, but it’s better to get the worst part done first, which is why I recommend this route. The next marker you will come across is the Ski Hut.
After taking a much needed break at the Ski Hut we moved on towards a rocky outcropping. There was no serious navigation issues at this point. But the elevation was really killer. After the rocky outcropping, get ready for some thigh busting action.
Take this part slow, there’s no need to rush, it’s a very difficult accent that takes a lot of time. Around this area the wind really sweeps in. It only gets stronger the higher the elevation, it is cold and piercing, bring the proper attire.
Something to note, the trail splits into many smaller ones about halfway through the harsher accent, around the point in the above photo. Just be observant of the path people have taken, some rocks have been organized to highlight the trail, also ask around if need be.
Keep on trucking up the mountain, after this point, the peak is closer. Make for the last push before the top.
The views on the top of the peak were just amazing. We took at least a 30 minute break, ate some food and just hung out in the enclosed rock barriers that block the extreme winds.
As we took photos, sat around and ate, the rock barriers built on top protected us from the wind. It was great hanging out and just feeling sublime on the highest peak in the LA county.
After soaking up the views, make a decent down the opposite side of the mountain to continue on the loop hike. You’ll find this section of trail, it very rocky, wide and many paths go down this steep section of trail down the side of Mt. Baldy.
After the starting decent of Mt. Baldy, the hike gets extremely easier. It’s all downhill, but the next section of trail is called “The Devils Backbone”, which got it’s name for notoriously looking like an upright backbone, with a lot of drop-off on each side of the trail. This trail appropriately named killed 3 people so far in 2016 due to icy conditions. They fell to their death while crossing this trail, one man died trying to help another, tragic stuff. In the summer there is no ice, but a fall still can be devastating, be cautious and prepared.
Head down this trail and you’ll soon run into and old and still operable ski lift. We took quant shelter in the small house, due to the cold and rough winds that were still pelting us on that mountain.
The next step is to head right, right before the wooden house you see. You’ll begin a steeper decent down a rocky trail, which will connect to the main road, from which you started your journey on.
Head down or run down this steep trail. The views are phenomenal and only open up more as you get an opening of the valley you parked in.
As you head down this trail, you will run into the bottom of the ski lift area. There was a ski school and a giant bell in this small village.
Make a right past the bell and you will find the main path you started on. Now this is where the hike becomes very scenic and a welcomed a walk in the park. Head down this trail all the way until you see the white gate from which it started. Do not make any left turns, but continue strait.
Head down this trail for about 40 minutes and you will reach the end.
The views will be nice on this relaxing hike down, soak them in. Remember to come across the waterfall again. The waterfall should be your marker that you are almost at the end. A truly grueling journey, but rewarding most of all.