Hike Name:Mt. Baldy-Baldy Bowl-San Antonio Creek Hike
Name of area/general location: San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles
Land Acknowledgement: This trail is located on the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Kizh Tongva. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit native-land.ca
AllTrails Hike Link (if applicable): N/A
Trail rating and why (easy, moderate, hard): Moderate to strenuous for narrow and steep trails
Trail mileage (different options if available): 6.9mi (with ski lift on the way up)
For more information: Forest Service, Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument: (626) 335-1251. Be sure to purchase an Adventure Pass for trailhead parking at Manker Flat. Maps: Mt. Baldy & Cucamonga Wilderness Trail Map (Tom Harrison Maps, 2006). Angeles National Forest Recreation Map (USDA Forest Service, 2008). USGS 7.5-minute topographic quad maps: Mt. San Antonio and Telegraph Peak.
Background: In southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains, San Antonio Creek flows from a spectacular sub-alpine bowl on the slopes of Mt. Baldy through a rugged canyon studded with old growth big cone Douglas fir. Clear days offer visitors to its upper watershed outstanding views all the way to Catalina Island.
San Antonio Creek rises from the scenic Baldy Bowl and drains the south face of 10,064’ Mt. San Antonio (a.k.a. Mt. Baldy). The Forest Service identified a four-mile segment of San Antonio Creek from its source to Mt. Baldy Village to be eligible for National Wild & Scenic River protection due to its outstandingly remarkable scenic and recreational values. This trail route also skirts part of a 39,482-acre Forest Service recommended addition to the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. Upper San Antonio Creek and the Baldy Bowl are located in an area of high ecological significance, providing important habitat for Nelson’s bighorn sheep and the San Gabriel Mountain slender salamander.
San Antonio Creek is a popular destination for families escaping the summer heat as well as for winter sports. The scenic 75-foot-high San Antonio Falls draws many visitors from the nearby Manker Flats Campground. The Baldy Bowl Trail steeply climbs more than 4,000 feet past the falls to upper San Antonio Creek and the summit of Mt. Baldy. Along the way, the trail passes the rustic San Antonio Ski Hut, which was built in 1937 by mountaineers for hikers, climbers, and skiers. According to the John Robinson’s definitive trail guide to the San Gabriel Mountains, Trails of the Angeles, this trail “is one of the most scenic and historical hikes in the San Gabriels.”
Trail Description: The good news is that you can bypass more than 1,400 feet of this steep and strenuous trail by riding up the Mt. Baldy Resort ski lift to Baldy Notch and then hike the 3.1 miles along the Devil’s Backbone and traverse the south face of Mt. Harwood to the top of Mt. Baldy. This narrow but precipitous trail segment provides magnificent views of the desert country to the north and on clear days, you can see the Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island to the southwest.
After taking in the scenery from the top of Mt. Baldy, you can go back to the ski lift or proceed downhill along the Baldy Bowl Trail for 3.8 miles. This steep trail drops more than 4,000 feet, crossing the very upper segment of San Antonio Creek, past the historic San Antonio Ski Hut, and then switch-backs down past beautiful San Antonio Falls to Manker Flats. The Flats are about a half mile down the road from the Mt. Baldy Resort ski lift parking lot at road’s end, so you’ll either need to arrange a car shuttle or walk back to the ski lift parking lot.
Even if you take the ski lift short cut, this trail is steep, rocky, and exposed to the elements in many places. The downhill segment from Mt. Baldy to Manker Flats can be hard your knees. Visitors should be in good shape, bring plenty of water and snacks, and be prepared for highly changeable weather, even during the summer. Often snowy and icy, this route should only be used by experienced mountaineers with alpine climbing equipment during the winter.
The Mt. Baldy Resort ski lift typically operates Friday-Sunday during the summer (check https://mtbaldyresort.com for operating hours). Even by riding the ski lift up to Baldy Notch, this hike takes all day so be prepared. Of course, if you just want to stretch your legs a bit, you can simply stroll about .75 miles up the gated paved road from Manker Flats to view the beautiful San Antonio Falls.
How To Get There: From Interstate 210 in Upland, take the Mountain Avenue exit and head north on Mountain Avenue to its intersection with Euclid Avenue. Turn left to continue on Mountain Avenue. After entering the National Forest and crossing a bridge, turn right on Mt. Baldy Road. Continue 4 miles north to Mt. Baldy Village and then another 3 miles to Manker Flats Campground. Just past the campground on your left is the gated road that is the trailhead to the Baldy Bowl Trail (and the service road to the Mt. Baldy Resort). If you choose to take the ski lift short cut, continue up the road to the parking lot at the end.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.