It was odd that we hadn’t hiked up Mt Baldy in all our years in Pasadena. “Baldy” is the highest peak surrounding the Los Angeles Basin at 3069m. (10,068 ft.). Officially Mt San Antonio, it is a pyramid-shaped mountain that has no trees and few features near the top, thus the name. Baldy has a snowy cap first every year and has the last visible snow in the Spring. There are several ways to reach the summit, including from its base, from the backside where it nears the Los Angeles Crest Highway, and the way we chose, from the Mt Baldy Ski Lift, which tops out at 2377 m. (7800 ft.). Jeanne and I each took a dog in our lift chair, and held them tight by their collars and chests just in case they were spooked and decided to leap. To our surprise, they were perfectly calm on the ride up. They looked around and seemed genuinely comfortable having this rare dog adventure.
From the top of main lift, the trail follows a ski run that is steeper than most hiking trails and takes your breath away quickly. Once above the run, however, the path becomes a single track trail that climbs a thin ridge known as the Devil’s Backbone. To the right is a spectacular view down to the High Desert east of Los Angeles, and to the west is a clear view to the Pacific Ocean. Once past the ski runs, the trail seems relatively tame, and we were surprised that it was easier as we walked higher on the mountain. With a name like Devil’s Backbone, we also expected it to be difficult and maybe a bit unsettling for those with height fears, but it was neither and provided an easy approach to the final part of the hike.
Approaching the summit
Beyond the Backbone, the trail became less distinct as the approach was well above the treeline and the mountain’s top was classically conical and several approaches were possible. We had never had the dogs at that altitude and were concerned that they would become out of breath or overly tired. Neither of these were evident, as the dogs enthusiastically covered the ground right to the summit. Once on the top, we cooked up a hot lunch of hotdogs and ramen soup and endured the envious stares of the other groups munching trail mix and Cliff bars. We took in the great 360 degree view for a while before heading back down the trail. The total time was around three hours and the total distance was only 10.3 km (6.4 miles).
For another variation, starting at Manker Flats and ending at the ski lift, see Pasadena Hiker.