Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley I learned my directions (north, south, east, west) based on the location of the mountains–the mountains were always north. To this day I am lost without my mountains! The one prominent mountain which my grandparents consistently pointed out to me was Mt. Baldy–especially when it was capped with snow. At 10,064 feet it is the tallest mountain in the San Gabriels so it has been awesome as an adult to summit it numerous times from four different approaches–Devil’s Backbone, Ski Hut Trail, Bear Flats and the traverse from Iron Mountain (which I refuse to write about as we should have never been up there!). Last October Amber, Sarah and I took on a new (for us) and rarely used route to Mt. Baldy from the Wrightwood area via Pine Mountain and Dawson Peak and, like all the other approaches, it was stunning. It was also pretty difficult! Here is the account with pics.
We drove out to Wrightwood and then took Hwy 2 to Inspiration Point where we turned onto a dirt service road that was pretty rutted. We followed the road to the gate where it was closed at Guffy Campground, parked the car and then headed down the road on foot to the trailhead. We had read previous blogs and knew the trailhead was not well-marked, however the route followed the ridgeline which was easy to see so we just had to find where it intersected with the service road. Once located we found ourselves on a single track faint use trail which we would follow all the way to Baldy.
It was a beautiful start to the morning with incredible views through the forest and over the clouds which encompassed the valley below.
The initial climb took us over Wright Mountain which was barely a bump compared to what lay ahead. As we came into a saddle we had a great view of the opening piece of the trail up to Pine Mountain. If you look closely (at the pic below) you can see how it literally follows the spine of the ridgeline. All three of us had brought trekking poles which were put to good use.
The climb up Pine had some fairly steep sections with one piece requiring us to put our poles away and use all fours. It was one thing to have to go up this section but coming down it on the return trip was not going to be fun. It was slick with light gravel/scree but it was the only location where things were a bit sketchy.
The groves of trees were beautiful and one gracefully arched its way over our route.
At the top of Pine we took a break to eat and enjoyed the view. Below is a panoramic looking toward Baldy and Iron Mtn.
From Pine Mountain the trail quickly dropped about 430 feet to the saddle and then the climb up Dawson Peak began where we re-climbed 316 feet. I don’t know if “re-climbed” is an actual word or phrase but it is what we did a lot of on this trek! From the top of Dawson we captured a view of our route up Baldy (see next pic). Once again the trail took us right along the ridgeline but first we had to descend 640 feet to the saddle only to have to climb back up from the saddle to the summit of Baldy, a gain of almost 1200 feet.. It is always a bummer to go downhill when you know you will have to climb that elevation all over again. 🙁
The climb up Baldy was really tough but we slogged our way through it. Eventually we made it to the summit and were met with an incredible view towards the desert. The view towards LA was socked in with clouds.
It was at the summit where we met the only other person we would see on the trail that day. We asked if he would take our picture. He obliged but I realized later when I looked through my pics that he was not accustomed to using an iPhone–he took about eight selfies without realizing it while repeatedly telling me he did not think it was working. 🙂 His name was Mark and we appreciated his effort!
He did manage to take quite a few pics of the three of us as well. (Yes, I was wearing a goofy hat but it kept the sun off my neck and ears!)
We ate most of the rest of our food at the summit and then headed back.. Along the way Sarah entertained us with a trail dance! I am wondering if it was inspired by a caffeinated gel. 🙂
It was a peaceful hike back as we saw nobody else until we got back to Guffy campground.
All in all it was a total of 13 miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain. We did not do any running, we simply hiked, and including our break time we were out there 7 hours and 20 minutes. It was a great trip but if we were to do it again we would make a significant change. We would drop a car at Baldy (Manker Flats) and then beg or bribe someone to drive us to Wrightwood, dropping us off at the Acorn Trail. We would hike up Acorn to the PCT, make a left and pick up the trail for this hike off the PCT. Then after climbing Baldy we would simply descend Baldy to the car and not hike back out to Wrightwood–it was a LONG way back!