This Christmas Eve, Julia and I took Isla and Lilly on a hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy. We’ve been blessed with a few nice storms here in Southern California in the last few weeks, so we knew we’d get to see some nice snow. What we weren’t expecting to see was the breathtaking cloud formations sweeping over the San Gabriels as we hiked. It was windy and cold, but easily one of the most beautiful days I’ve spent in these mountains.
We arrived to the Manker Flats parking lot at 9 AM, and as expected, it was nearly empty. There were only a handful of cars parked near the trailhead, and it was no surprise that we only saw about 10 people on the trail for this entire hike. Heading up Ski Hut trail, the path was free of snow until we passed the ski hut and made our way up the switchbacks after Baldy Bowl.
This hike is a little over 11 miles and covers 4000ft of elevation gain to the 10064ft summit of Mt. Baldy. I do not recommend this hike for hikers without experience. Do not go into the mountains without proper training, fitness, experience, and gear.
The snow cleared from the trail on the south facing climb after the switchbacks. The wind was really starting to push in hard from the West, so we bundles Isla and Lilly up into all of their layers. It was pretty funny to see them wearing three warm layers while sprinting around in the snow.
After completing the stretch of Ski Hut Trail that faces south, we made our way towards Baldy on the section of trial covering the final mile. There are some really nice shaded sections here that hold on to a lot of snow and gave the feeling of a Winter Wonderland. It’s highly unlikely that we’d ever have a White Christmas in Southern California, but it’s pretty awesome that we can go on hikes like these to find our own snow covered Christmas trees.
Isla and Lilly ran towards the summit faster than Julia and I could manage. It’s amazing how strong and tough these two little goldendoodles are. The wind was really howling from the peak of Baldy, and the temperatures were well below freezing. We took a few pictures and made a quick descent towards Devil’s Backbone. Usually, we like to stay and enjoy the summit, but I could tell Isla and Lilly were ready to go. They run the show when we go hiking. I love how well they communicate.
As soon as we were off of the summit the wind died down, and it felt like the temperature doubled. It’s amazing how much wind can affect one’s perception of temperature. The direct sun is now different. Out of the wind and into the sun, we were once again feeling like champs, and began our descent.
From the peak of Mt. Baldy, I could see a front of clouds pushing in from the coast and into Baldy Bowl. By the time we were hiking through Baldy Bowl, the clouds had arrived. It was pretty magical to see the clouds drift up and over the Devil’s Backbone ridge and disappear into the skies of the High Desert.
As we made our way onto Devil’s Backbone, there were a few moments where the visibility was cut down by an interchanging fog. Luckily, the sun kept it’s thickness at bay and we were treated to some pretty amazing views.
Instead of continuing on the trail towards the Baldy Notch, we took the Turkey shoot shortcut to find some better views of the shifting clouds in the valley. It turned out to be well worth it as I go some shots of some of the best views from the day. By the time we reached the fire road for the last three miles of hiking, the fog had completely enveloped the trail. It was the perfect may to end such a magical Christmas Eve hike.