After spending last weekend on Devil’s Backbone to watch the supermoon, we decided to spend this weekend camping at the summit of Cucamonga Peak. The last time we spent the night at the summit of Cucamonga Peak was for 4th of July last year. This is my favorite hike in the San Gabriels, with a start in Icehouse Canyon, and an end that lets you take in the view of the entire Inland Empire. Having done this hike at least 10 times now, I just never get tired of it. I was especially excited for this one, as Isla would be along for the climb. She has proven to be an incredible little hiking dog, and was absolutely amped when she realized what the weekend had in store.
This was my first time in Icehouse Canyon since the flash floods rocked the Mt. Baldy area two weeks ago. It’s hard to tell anything happened as you drive through Mt. Baldy village. The residents and volunteers did an incredible job cleaning and picking up the pieces of some serious flood destruction. It was a tale of two stories as we started on our ascent to the Icehouse saddle. On one hand, we could see the sediment and displacement caused by the floods, with parts of the trail being slightly rerouted. On the other hand, it was clear to see just how bad the drought is in California. The water flow is always slow this time of year, but this was on another level. I noticed the same problem in Yosemite a few weeks ago, with Nevada and Vernal Falls only a trickle of their former roaring glory.
The day was incredibly hot, but having started fairly late at 4 PM, we missed the worst of it. Once we got on the trail to Cucamonga Peak past the Icehouse Saddle, things had cooled down remarkably. We reached the summit about 3 hours after we started and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves all alone at the summit. The sun was beginning to set, so we did our best to take a few quick pictures and then pitch our tent before the light was gone.
Just as we were getting the tent set up, the sky became a gallery. The colors, shapes, and textures were changing every minute with each one more spectacular than the last. I’ve stood on Cucamonga Peak quite a few times now, but have never seen the view with this much clarity. San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Saddleback, Catalina…you name it, and we could see it. We abandoned the tent, our bags, and dinner, and decided to take in the views just a little longer.
As the sun disappeared in the west, we settled down to eat our dinner. The air was crisp as the colors of dusk gave way to the artificial sea of light below.
The only thing I love more than watching the sunset from a mountain peak is watching the sunrise from a mountain peak. They’re two sides of the same beautiful coin, and two lines that should be on everyone’s bucket list. I checked them off some time ago, but continue to seek them out in earnest, as few things can stir the mind with such vigor. Isla took a serious liking to the sunrise as well. Any bits of fatigue she showed the night before were completely washed clean with her first sniff of scat from the Bighorn sheep that inhabit these mountains. Once the sun had cleared the peaks of the San Gorgonio wilderness, we packed up our kit and made out way down the mountain. It was a great trip and one we’ll certainly be doing again soon.
18 thoughts on “Overnight Camping on Cucamonga Peak”
Do you need a permit to pitch a tent on top of Cucamonga Peak? If so, where can you get them from?
You’re supposed to have a wilderness permit from the Angeles National Forest, Baldy Ranger Station. I’ve arrived with the Ranger Station closed a few times and have had no problem without a permit.
I’ve seen many pictures of this area before but none as gorgeous as these. Also, I had no idea you could camp there, thanks!
Thank you so much, Meghan! I’m lucky in that I live less than 30 minutes away from the trailhead, so I get to enjoy the landscape often. Camping in this area is great, you’ll have to give it a try!
I will definitely have to camp next time I’m out that way. Thanks again, Drew.
Do you have to worry about mountain lions or bears while camping? Would you have to hang your food?
It’s possible, but not likely. I don’t hang my food, but leave it in my pack away from the tent. I see a lot of bighorn sheep early in the morning around this area, as well as deer.
This is an old post but I came across it when planning my trip to Kelly Camp nearby. There was a bear encounter on Cucamonga Peak the night of 6/25/2021. The couple stored their food in a bear can but no opsak odor barrier. They scared it off by yelling at it but they were up there alone that night. There have probably been more people up there this year than in the past and the fires have probably changed things up too. Be safe!
Awesome post! Just curious. How much water did you pack? This includes water for cooking as well. I assume there isn’t water along the trail that you were able to filter?
Want to do this overnight hike this coming fall!
I do this overnight hike and Baldy a few times a year. The water I bring depends on conditions for the day. I usually consume 1.5 liters on the hike to the summit, and then use around 3 liters for rehydrating, cooking, and drinking at the summit. I have a half liter or a liter for the downhill hike in the morning. This totals 5 liters, which is a lot of weight. In cooler months, I’ll go with 4L, in the hot summer months I might bring 6L.
Is there no streams or anything to refill along the way?
There is a flowing creek in Icehouse Canyon and a seasonal flow below the saddle. These come with 3.5-6 miles left in the hike, so its pretty pointless since you’d still have to carry that filtered water all the way to the summit. You might as well just pack it all in.
Great information Drew, thank you very much for inspiring me to plan this backpacking trip for the near future. Great pictures.
Can you make a fire up there?
No fires are allowed.