“This trail starts with great shading and level ground, but the difficulty kicks in and stays.”
— Sung Kwang Kim
River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Park on Mt. Baldy Road near the visitor center. Do not park in church parking lot or along Bear Canyon Drive. No pass required. No bicycles in the wilderness.
The trail starts at the end of Bear Canyon Drive. From the visitor center, hike southwest through the site past a gate to the road and then proceed a half mile up the road. The trail starts by crossing the stream then climbs gently through Bear Canyon in a forest of oak, bigcone spruce, alders, bay, and incense cedar with occasional areas of chaparral that have good wildflowers in spring. After 1 mile, the trail reaches Bear Flat where there are a few camping sites near a seasonal spring.
A pleasant meadow offers a nice resting point after which the trail steeply switchbacks up through shadeless chaparral of ceanothus and oak finally reaching some Jeffrey Pines near the top of the ridge. About 2 miles up, it passes into the Sheep Mountain Wilderness then continues steeply north on the ridge offering outstanding views of Coldwater Canyon to the west. Sugar pines and white fir offer refreshing shade. A bare ridge with steep slopes on both sides is crossed, and the trail enters into a lodgepole pine forest with mounds of chinquapin groundcover. The trail continues along the edge of a large natural depression as it turns northeast on the slope of West Baldy. Finally, the trail reaches the west ridge of Mt. Baldy and climbs up to the 10,064 ft. bare summit. The highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains has outstanding views in all directions.
Be sure to look back at the direction you came. People have died taking a wrong turn on the descent. Dangerous weather can occur at any time of the year. The temperature difference between the bottom and top can vary as much as 40 degrees. Snow can linger well into late spring and summer. This is a strenuous hike at high elevation and proper hydration is critical for your health.
Flora & Fauna
From bottom to top: Oaks, bay, incense cedar, alder, bigcone spruce, Jeffrey pine, sugar pine, white fir, lodgepole pine, limber pines. Beware of poison oak along first mile of trail.