Getting ready for our trek in Nepal meant having some great practice hikes in the local Los Angeles area. We chose Ice House Canyon, just south of Mount Baldy, only an hour from Pasadena. Ice House Canyon is a very popular hike in this area, but is typically a late Spring or Fall hike, when the temperatures are lower and there isn’t snow to contend with. The fact that it was March and this had been a heavy snow year was offset by the need to get our legs trekking shape.
Permits are required for a camp stove (no fires) and anything beyond day hiking into the Cucamonga Wilderness, so getting to the Mt Baldy Village Visitors Center while they were open was key. They closed at 3:30pm that day, so we needed to hurry to get there in time. We reached the Visitors Center on Mt Baldy Road moments before they closed shop, and it was only ten more minutes until we were at the trail head, which is just past the turn off for the Mt Baldy Ski Area. We brought Mitch and Gwen, since dogs are allowed in Cucamonga Wilderness on leash, and we weren’t going to leave them home after being gone so long just recently. Besides, they love to hike and we enjoy having them along, especially since they have packs that they use to carry their own food and water.
We planned to spend two nights on the trail, so it made sense to make our first stopover at Cedar Glen, which is reached by taking the Ice House Canyon Trail to the Chapman Trail, and then following that to Cedar Glen. The Glen is very aptly named, as it is a very peaceful, shady and flat spot on the side of a mostly treeless mountainside. After the dry trail approaching the site, the Glen is a beautiful spot to rest or to spend the night. There are several great spots to camp, but bring water if you come later in the season, as the stream that passes just below the Glen is seasonal. We enjoyed a dinner and a great sunset before getting into the tent with the dogs for the night.
The next morning meant packing up and continuing higher to Ice House Saddle, the junction point for several trails that lead to other peaks (“Three T’s”, which are Timber, Telegraph and Thunder, and also Cucamonga and Ontario) and also down toward the High Desert east of Los Angeles. From the Saddle, a clear day provides a view both toward the desert and also the Pacific Ocean, making this a great place to take a break and enjoy the scenery. There is also a reliable stream for water that can be treated to refill Camelbaks and bottles. We chose to head southwest toward Ontario Peak and to overnight at Kelly’s Camp, another shaded bench where we could rest and decide whether to climb the peak or just relax.
This camping spot is less flat than Cedar Glen but has running water during the summer months from a pipe that was installed years ago. In April, however, the only source of water was from the snowpack that covered about half of the area. Melting snow take a significant amount of fuel and time, so anyone planning to stay at the camp in the colder months should bring as much water as possible from the Ice House Saddle. Few people passed by, as Ontario Peak is less popular than the others and it was still early season. This turned out to be the perfect remedy for post-Nepal blues. Rather than climb the peak, we chose to relax and recover.
The last morning was spent as a very enjoyable hike down to the trail head. Though we didn’t hike a great distance, the variety of terrain along our hike was surprising and the weather, while cool, was perfect for strenuous activity.
Ice House Canyon is a very well maintained trail and very popular with day hikers, so don’t expect much solitude when heading up or down. It follows the path of a beautiful, rocky stream and there are plenty of cool and shady places to stop and enjoy nature. Its proximity to Pasadena and the many choices in final destination make this one of our favorite hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains.
For more pictures, go to our Maximum Adventure website. To read our other dog adventures, click here.
For a very detailed resource on Ice House Canyon and the nearby peaks, check Dan’s Hiking Pages Ice House Canyon post. To read our other dog adventures, click here.