Varied ecological and geological climes on this hike up to Timber Mountain with spurs to explore.”
— Alison Kelly
This hike has something for everyone. I have seen serious hikers embarking on overnight backpacking adventures via this trail, college kids out for a social hike, families, elderly, hiking meetup groups, and every type of dog.
The scenery is so varied from the trailhead to the saddle and summit of Timber Mountain and it changes from season to season. There are remarkable geological formations along the trail about 1.5 miles up from the trailhead.
After about 1.5 miles, the gentle trail becomes uneven, crossing scree and dry riverbed, then steepens through the switchbacks up to the rise to Icehouse Saddle, before the final push to the summit of Timber Mountain.
There is a problem with people cutting switchbacks. Signs have been posted, but I have seen a lot of people still doing it. While it is very busy on weekends, hikers have always been very friendly on this trail and I have not had a problem passing groups easily despite the narrow trails.
The parking lot fills up so you may have to tack an extra half mile or so onto your trek if you can't find a parking space!
Features: Birding — Fall Colors — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Need to Know
If you're a birder, bring binoculars! I have seen California quail and Stellar's jays and I'm not a very good birder, so that's just a sample.
If the parking lot at the trailhead is full, park along Mt. Baldy Road (be respectful of private property/driveways along here). There are pit toilets and trash cans in the parking lot for last-minute needs. Sign-in to the trail registry if required.
The Icehouse Canyon Trail
is wide and flat for the first 0.5 miles or so as it rises gently along the river. The surface is generally even with sections of stone steps. You pass several little cabins along the river (again, respect the private property here). In this section, you'll notice small but very pretty waterfalls intermittently in the river but different sections flow at different times of the year so waterfalls are not consistent.
About 1.5 miles up from the trailhead, you encounter the Cucamonga Wilderness boundary and associated signage. This also marks the transition into a rockier section of the trail as it follows a scree/dry riverbed section of the canyon floor. There are remarkable geological features along this portion. Try to watch the trail, especially on the way up, as it's easy to lose it on parts of the riverbed if you're watching the amazing scenery.
Just over two miles into the hike, the trail begins to rise in earnest toward Icehouse Saddle from the canyon floor. The best way to describe this section is a classic lovely mountain trail. It's dusty and narrow with amazing specimen of pine and fir trees and occasionally steep switchbacks.
After about a mile of this, there is signage pointing toward the summit of this trail, Icehouse Saddle. The last section is also rising switchbacks and the ecology changes to manzanita stands and open pockets of forest floor. This will take you up to the Saddle, which then splits into a network of other trails out into the Cucamonga Wilderness. This is a great place to stop and enjoy the cool breezes and lovely scenery before the final ascent of 0.9 miles.
From this junction, turn left and head north along the Three T's Trail
as it gradually climbs the ridge toward the summit of Timber Mountain. After 0.7 miles, look for the right-hand turn onto the Timber Mountain Summit Spur
. This short spur will climb steeply up to the top of Timber Mountain, marking the turnaround point for this hike with beautiful views at an elevation of 8,827'.
Flora & Fauna
A lovely array of ecological zones, from century plant/agave varietals on the lower elevation slopes to birch and other riparian trees along the stream bed. Higher elevations have fantastic, humongous pine and firs, which are really remarkable.
Massive stands of manzanita shrubs in the last rise to the saddle bloom in early April and numerous other wildflowers continue through the late spring/early summer.