Bear Canyon Trail was shut down last year due to the flash floods that devastated the Mt. Baldy village. I’m not sure if the trail has yet to be officially reopened, but I had been seeing accounts of other hikers using it, and figured I’d give it a go.
Old Mt. Baldy trail starts in Mt. Baldy Village, just across from the lodge. The starting elevation for this hike is 4320′, and climbs 5744′ to the summit of Mt. Baldy at 10064′. Gaining 900 feet per mile, this hike is a real quad burner. I was accompanied by Julia, Isla, and Lilly on this one. During the summer months, Mt. Baldy is probably the most popular hiking peak in all of Southern California. Luckily, very few people take on the summit from this route. True to form, we saw no one for the first two miles of hiking, we got the feeling this was going to be a great day.
The first half mile is on the asphalt of Bear Canyon Rd, before climbing up under a canopy of gorgeous trees. I always try to enjoy the soft bed of leaves under my feet here, as I know it only gets rockier as the trail climbs upward. About two miles in, we popped up above the canopy and could see straight into the valley. It was clear, and as forecasted, very hot.
As much as I was growing tired of the bugs in the moist tree cover, I was willing to put up with them to avoid the heat of exposure. Alas, the time had come to leave the shade behind and venture out under the beating rays of the sun. At this point, the trail breaks from under the forest and heads towards a series of switchbacks that climb up to the top of a ridge.
The switchbacks came and went, one at a time, until we made it to the ridge. Up until this point, Isla and Lilly had been really well behaved, but the increase in lizards had them losing focus pretty quickly. We stopped for a water and snack break, and tried to get them to focus on the task at hand. It seemed to work, and the stuck to the trail fairly well after that.
After climbing up the ridge, the single track trail wraps around the final crest before cutting a path to the summit. It’s always a special feeling to see the peak of a mountain come into view. This day had a different look about it though. At first I thought I was seeing things, but as I approached, there appeared to be nearly 50 people standing on Mt. Baldy. Even on the busiest summer day, I had never seen it that crowded.
It turns out the 52 Hike Challenge was sponsoring a hike to the summit via Ski Hut Trail along with a group called Rockslide Crew. I’ve been in touch with both groups via Instagram for a while, so it was pretty cool to have a spontanious meetup like this. It’s a strange feeling to see people in person when your only previous communications have been digital.
There were so many people walking around that it was a bit difficult to keep track of Isla and Lilly. Wherever we go, they are incredibly popular, and this day was no different. Everybody wanted to pet them and take a picture, and they felt like minor celebrities due to my Instagram feed 🙂 At one point they took it a little too far though, and tried to make off with the beef jerky and a sandwich of two hikers who said “hello”!
After a good amount of time at the summit, we began to make our way down. At this point the temperature had really started to climb, and so we took some additional breaks to make sure everyone was well hydrated. As beautiful as this hike is on the uphill, one can only take in the beauty of the ridges on the way down.
I’m glad I had the chance to get out and hike on this trail again, and hope the hot weather doesn’t get too crazy this month as I ramp up my mileage.