We took a hike to our favorite mountain this weekend, Mt. Baldy. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve made my way up to the summit via the handful of trails that guide one to the peak, but somehow, I never get tired of the views. I don’t think it’s possible, each time I see something different, and each season feels like a new world. This is my favorite time of year, as the ice and snow make for a festive holiday backdrop. As scenic as the surroundings can be, the cold keeps most people off of the trails, and fellow hikers are always friendly.
We started this hike around 9:00 AM from Manker Flat and made our way up Ski Hut Trail. The temperature was around 35 degrees, but the sun made it feel much warmer. The path was dry for the most part over the first two miles, with a light dusting of snow and ice off of the trail and hanging from trees. A young deer was walking on the trail just ahead of me about 1 mile in, and it scampered off as we made eye contact.
Just as we passed the iconic green Ski Hut, the snow and ice beneath our feet began to materialize. It was very thin at first, and at it’s deepest only a few inches. This is expected at this point in the trail, as the sun exposure is pretty good on most days. After rounding the trail at the bottom of Baldy Bowl, the series of switchbacks that leads to the saddle above are no longer noticeable. Different hikers have taken different routes, some more direct than others. We followed a foot path that lead straight up, and luckily, only managed one or two postholes.
The hike from the saddle to the summit of Mt. Baldy can be pretty tough in the summer, as the dusty and gravel laden trail gets hot and moves quite a bit beneath you. The snow and ice fills in all of those cracks and gaps this time of year, and makes it a much easier ascent on the legs. It usually takes 2 hours for us to reach the summit from Manker Flats on this trail, and even with the snow and ice, we made it in 2 hours 30 minutes. This is much less of a time addition than other trails given the same condition change.
The summit of Mt. Baldy was absolutely gorgeous, and of all the times I’ve stood at the top, I can’t think of very many with this clarity. I could look out and see San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, Santiago Peak, Catalina, the High Desert and everything else in my view, with stunning clarity. It was also pretty nice that the winds weren’t too biting at the summit. Usually at this time of year the winds will blow you around, which leads to a very small amount of time being spent at the top. This day was one for enjoying!
For the descent we took Devil’s Backbone trail, as we wanted to make this hike a loop from start to finish. Devil’s Backbone trail is in pretty good condition given the season, but crampons (micro spikes) are still mandatory. We heard of a group that got into some serious trouble earlier in the day from a slip that occurred on their way to the summit.
We made our way down from the Backbone, quickly hopped down the Turkey Shoot, and rounded the Notch to take the fire road down. It was exciting to see so many people at the Notch enjoying the snow. I know the businesses in the area really struggled last year with the drought and dry winter. I hope business is good this year and we get a lot more snow. Until next time.