Cucamonga Peak Overnight Camping Trip 04.05.15

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This Sunday I finished hike number 23/52 for the 52 Hike Challenge in 2015, and have now completed 265 of my goal of 1000 miles for this year. Of all the hikes I’ve done this year, none have been overnighters, and only one destination involved camping. Now that Winter is over and Spring is in the air, it’s time to really start training for John Muir Trail. Cucamonga Peak is probably my favorite overnight camping destination in the San Gabriels, as you get beautiful sunset and sunrise views of the Inland Empire, Orange County, San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto. This hike is 12 miles round-trip, and takes you to the summit of Cucamonga Peak at 8,858 ft. The nighttime temperature for this overnighter was 28 F with a chill to 15 F. I was accompanied by Julia, and my two dogs, Isla and Lilly.

Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Cucamonga Peak Overnight

We started hiking at the Icehouse Canyon trailhead just after 2 PM. Hiking Icehouse Canyon in the afternoon makes it feel like a brand new trail, as I usually do this one early in the morning to avoid crowds. This is one of the tougher overnight hikes, as there are no water sources at the summit. It makes for great training, especially being that I already have to carry extra gear for the dogs. I like to train hard for trips like John Muir Trail, so I can really enjoy the hiking without any physical struggle. For this training hike I carried 7 liters of water and some extra gear to get my pack nice and heavy. With a light pack, I can make it to the summit of Cucamonga Peak in about 2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes. For this hike, it took us 2:45. We were moving at a pretty relaxing pace with the dogs, and it was nice to have the weight on my shoulders for a prolonged period of time. We were standing on the summit of Cucamonga Peak just shy of 5:00 PM and got to setting up camp.

Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Valley Views
Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Bouldering Isla
Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Isla and Lilly

The first thing we did after setting up the tent was get food out for Isla and Lilly. They plowed through a bag of treats and a can of wet food before wrapping themselves in a sleeping bag and conking out in the tent of a nap. It was so funny to see these two little dust bunnies so tired after such a great hike to the summit.

Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Sleepy Isla
Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Nap Time for Lilly

After a really nice nap, the dogs were awake and full of energy, just in time to watch the sunset. The visibility was not very good atΒ the summit, but valley smog makes for spectacular evening colors. This was coupled with a brilliant glowing full moon that was rising over San Gorgonio in the east.

Cucamonga Peak Overnight
The Doodle Wears Prada
Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Sunset on Cucamonga Peak
Cucamonga Peak Overnight
From the Summit

The head of a cold front was blowing in to Southern California just as the sun went down. The wind on this night was constant, and the temperatures pretty low. We woke to find that the water we left outside the tent had frozen. The great thing about having small dogs is that they fit in our sleeping bags. Julia had Lilly in hers, and I had Isla in mine. Isla is a warm sleeper though, and she didn’t stay with me for long. I let her leave, but wrapped her in my down jacket at the foot of my sleep pad. Sleep was hard to come by for me with the wind making so much noise, but I was able to rest my body a little, and was up to see the sun rise.

Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Just Short of Daybreak
Cucamonga Peak Overnight

Seeing the sunrise and the sunset is one of my favorite parts of camping and sleeping outdoors. There are few better places to see this than at the top of a mountain. Isla always gets really excited when she wakes up and does sprints wherever she can. On this morning Lilly joined her as they dashed back and forth on the summit. They got a hundred or so yards away and disappeared from sight for a second. I walked over and saw a one person tent on the ridge between Cucamonga Peak and Etiwanda Peak. There was a guy inside trying to watch the sunset from the comfort of his 1P tent, and Isla and Lilly invited themselves in to take a peek!

Cucamonga Peak Overnight
Isla and Lilly Wanted to Enter
Cucamonga Peak Overnight
They Love to Play
Cucamonga Peak Overnight
A Ridge for Sprints

We packed up the tent as the wind tried to thrash it from out grip, and were heading back down the trail before 7:00. We walked at a very relaxed pace and enjoyed the empty trail. Not only was it empty due to the early morning, but Sunday was Easter. This was an incredible overnight hiking weekend, and I’m looking forward to many more in the near future.


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26 thoughts on “Cucamonga Peak Overnight Camping Trip 04.05.15”

  1. What a great trip. My goal for this spring and summer is to camp overnight at Cucamonga Peak and Ontario Peak a couple of things.

    • Thanks for reading, Alex! That sounds like a nice plan for summer and spring. There are a lot of great places to camp on and around the summit of Cucamonga. Ontario is a little more limiting, but there are some decent spots along the ridge that runs above the trail. I have my eyes on a similar spot along the ridge just before Bighorn Peak.

  2. What a sunrise, definitely one of the perks with overnight hikes:) I’ve been following Gabi’s and Dave’s JMT hike (which is soon coming to an end on their blog) – seems like you got quite a hike in front of you! πŸ™‚

    • Sunrise and sunset are what I live for! It’s so nice to be able to see them on mountain peaks. The JMT is going to be a real adventure! I’m still working out some of the logistics and am getting excited πŸ™‚

  3. I can never sleep in a camp in sub zero temperatures. Still remember the camping trip to Nanga Parbat base camp. But the warmth of the sun when it finally rises more than makes up for it.

    • Thanks! It was in the 15-20 degree (F) range for this one, but it’s usually warmer in the preferred summer months. Last July I slept on the summit without needing my sleeping bag.

      It’s tough to sleep on the colder nights, but for me it’s the noise of the wind. I usually bring earplugs but forgot this time.

  4. I am planning an overnight at Cucamonga soon from my JMT training with some friends. How many tent sites would you estimate at Cucamonga Peak? I have seen campers at Ontario Peak and estimate maybe 2-3 spots at the peak with a few down lower on the ridge, but I have not been to Cucamonga Peak

    • Hey Charissa,

      I camped at the summit of Cucamonga twice in preparation for the JMT last year. I’ve been at the summit for 4th of July and saw upwards of 20 tents. Not all of them were pitched on ideal sites, but there is a lot of land to work with. There is room for 3-4 tents at the actual summit. I’ve camped there, the ground is very rocky and that spot gets windy. My favorite spot is the sandy ridge facing Etiwanda Peak and San Gorgonio. There are two really nice spots there, and the ground is soft. The best part is watching the sunrise over San Gorgonio in the morning. Another nice area is the sandy patch just before the two overlook rocks west of the summit. If you keep hiking west, there is another patch of sand with great views of sunset. Cucamonga Peak is a much better place to camp that Ontario Peak in my opinion. I like it better than Mt. Baldy as well, as it tends to be less windy and less cold. Have fun!

  5. Thanks for the excellent information. That helps with the planning I didn’t want to get up there and discover there weren’t really any spots to pitch a few tents. Can’t imagine pitching a tent at Baldy! I get cold up there even on the warmest summer days! Happy trails πŸ™‚

      • Not yet, in a couple of weeks. We have appropriate gear for cold weather, but our biggest concern is carrying water. Ranger doesn’t think there is water at Kelly Camp. Which means we’d have to carry enough for the weekend or take a detour over to Commanche Camp. How much did you carry?

      • I always carry enough water from the parking lot. It weighs a ton, but is good for training. I usually go up with six liters. I try to leave Icehouse parking lot around 3, so the canyon is shady and cool. I usually make it up to Cucamonga Peak in about 2.5 3 hours. After a night at the top, I’ll save 1 liter for the hike down. Baldy is a little bit easier, as you can hike up to the Notch Restaurant and fill up there after hiking the fire road. There is a nice creek by the Ski Hut if you take ski hut trail. It is much more difficult on each peak if you’re doing two nights though.

      • Thanks for the input. We’ll be doing two nights, but not heading over to Baldy. I am familiar with the Ski Hut trail and the stream. We’ll just have to consider the extra water weight good training. Thanks again for your help!

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