This 21 mile loop hike strings together my favorite trails and mountain peaks in the San Gabriel mountains. Starting on the Bear Canyon Trail (Old Mt. Baldy Trail), you’ll climb 5,848ft to the summits of West Baldy and the 10,064ft Mt. Baldy. From there, you’ll hit the 9,551ft Mt. Harwood before finishing off on the 3 T’s trail with Thunder Mountain, Telegraph Peak, and Timber Mountain. After reaching your final summit on Timber Mountain, you hike down to the Icehouse Saddle and descend the Icehouse Canyon Trail. From the Icehouse Canyon parking lot there is a 2 mile stretch of road back to the starting point in Mt. Baldy Village.
Directions And GPS Tracks:
- To hike Mt. Baldy via Bear Canyon, drive to 6777 Mt Baldy Rd, Mt Baldy, CA 91759. You’ll park on the west side Mt. Baldy Rd, right outside of the US Forestry Department and Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. Once you’ve parked, walk south towards the Mt. Baldy Lodge Restaurant and go right (west) onto Bear Canyon Dr. past the Mt. Baldy Village Church. You’ll walk on Bear Canyon Dr for .4 miles before reaching the sign for Mt. Baldy Trail.
- Download GPX
- See track on Strava
- Distance: 21 miles (19 without the road section)
- Elevation Gain: 8556 ft
- Minimum Elevation: 4266 ft
- Maximum Elevation: 10064 ft
- Time: 7-12 hours
- Difficulty: (4/5)
- Dog Friendly: Yes, but not advisable
- Permit Required: No, but an Adventure Pass is required to park
- Parking: Park in Mt. Baldy Village, but do not take up the spaces at the Mt. Baldy Lodge.
- Trail Condition: Steep single track. Treacherous snow and ice in the winter months.
- Cell Phone Reception: Virtually none
Hike Map And Elevation Profile:
0.0 Miles (4266ft)- You’ll definitely wan’t to get an early start for this hike, so make sure to arrive to the trailhead before sunrise. The first stretch of trail through Bear Canyon is pretty gradual. You’ll reach Bear Flat at 1.8 miles, and that’s when you’ll need your climbing legs ready. You’ll get some early views of the 3 Ts, which gives you a nice sense of what’s to come.
4.7 Miles (9000ft)- Enjoy the views of West Baldy and Mt. Baldy as you pass 9,000ft in elevation.
It’s easy to miss the turnoff for West Baldy, as the Bear Canyon Trail heads straight to the summit of Mt. Baldy. In the photo below, you’ll see West Baldy on the left with Mt. Baldy just over the horizon. When you reach a small saddle between the two peaks, you can turn back and head up the short ridge to West Baldy.
6.2 Miles (9971ft)- The views from West Baldy are some of my favorite in the San Gabriels. Take your time and enjoy them, because the crowds that gather at the summit of Mt. Baldy can make it a little difficult. You’ll be able to see the summit of Mt. Baldy to the northeast. It’s close enough that you can make out the shapes of people walking around.
6.7 Miles (10064ft)- From the summit of Mt. Baldy you’ll have reached the highest point of this loop hike. From here, you’ll take the Devil’s Backbone Trail to Mt. Harwood.
As you descend Mt. Baldy, you’ll look right down onto the summit of Mt. Harwood. The main trail cuts right of the summit ridge, but you’ll see a use trail that heads to the top of a saddle between the two peaks.
7.3 Miles (9551ft)- Mt. Harwood is an uneventful peak without much by way of views that aren’t offered on Mt. Baldy. The nice thing about Harwood is that you’ll almost never see anyone else at the summit. Once you’ve reached the summit, continue on the use trail to rejoin the Devil’s Backbone Trail.
The downhill stretch on the Devil’s Backbone trail is a nice place to catch your breath and take in my favorite view on this loop hike.
9.6 Miles (7779ft)- Just before hitting the 10 mile mark and the halfway point you’ll reach The Top Of The Notch Restaurant. This is the location of the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift as well. At the restaurant, you’ll find food, drinks, and snacks. There is a water fountain available to refill your bottles. These guys provide restrooms, water, and services to hikers and backpackers, so try to purchase something and support the business if possible.
Once you’ve reloaded on fluids at The Notch, you’ll make your way up to Thunder Mountain.
11.1 Miles (8587ft)- The summit block of Thunder Mountain is also the top of the Mt. Baldy ski lift. Just west of the summit you’ll find the start of the 3 T’s Trail.
You’ll get a nice view of Telegraph Peak from Thunder Mountain, so take the time to enjoy it then head west to catch 3 T’s.
The first stretch of the 3 T’s trail loses a little elevation until you reach a saddle between Thunder Mountain and Telegraph Peak. This saddle provides views of the high desert to the northeast, and the Inland Empire to the southwest.
At 12.3 miles you’ll reach a junction on 3 T’s Trail. Take the use trail east and leave 3 T’s behind for a .4 mile hike to the summit of Telegraph Peak.
12.7 Miles (8986ft)- The small summit block of Telegraph can have you feeling like you’re looking out from a bird’s nest. From this vantage point, you’ll be able to look clear over Thunder Mountain towards West Baldy, Mt. Baldy, and Mt. Harwood. The difficult hiking is mostly finished at this point, and there is only one more peak to go.
There is a stretch of sandy switchbacks that lead down from the summit of Telegraph Peak. Be mindful of your footing here if you’re walking on weary legs, it would be pretty easy to take a spill. The view of Thunder Mountain up ahead should keep your energy levels and spirits high.
15.1 Miles (8303ft)- Just like Telegraph Peak, you’ll need to leave the 3 T’s trail behind to hit Timber Mountain. This junction actually has a ‘Timber Mountain’ sign post and let’s you know you have .25 miles to the summit. Once you’ve reached the peak of Timber, you can double back to catch the 3 T’s trail to the Icehouse Saddle or navigate the use-trail on Timber’s south facing ridge to Icehouse Saddle.
Once you’ve reached the Icehouse Saddle, you’ll have a pleasant 3.5 mile descent to the Icehouse Canyon parking lot. You can run or walk the 2 mile stretch of asphalt road back to Mt. Baldy village, or if you’re in a group, you can park two cars in the morning and shuttle back.