Dan's Hiking Pages: Hikes in the San Gabriels and Beyond
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Baldy's South Ridge via the Ski Hut Trail
Upper San Antonio Canyon / Baldy Bowl (6160' to 9000')
Angeles National Forest - San Bernardino National Forest / Southern California

Report Hike Report: May 17, 2003 Report View Ski Hut Trail
Hike Description

Trail Stats
Mileage (r.t.) 6.5
Trailhead 6160'
South Ridge 9000'
El. gain 2840'
Gain per mi. 873'
John Robinson added this hike to his Trail of the Angeles in its seventh edition, 1998, and it's a real winner. The trail alluded my radar because I was using Robinson's sixth edition. But on May 17, 2003, I strapped on my boots and headed up San Antonio Canyon. I fell in love with it.

The map ("Angeles High Country" by Tom Harrison Maps) labels the route as "Baldy Bowl Trail." John McKinney says it's popularly called the "Ski Hut Trail." I'm surprised that Robinson ignored the trail in earlier editions, particularly since he describes it as "one of the most scenic and historic hikes in the San Gabriels" (hike # 93). And on the Saturday when I first hiked it, its popularity was evident — I stopped counting hikers after about a couple dozen, and there seemed to be dozens more. The log book for the day recorded 37 hikers when I checked it on my way out, and that did not include the three or four dogs I saw.

This trail is the shortest and most direct route to the 10,064-foot Mt. San Antonio (popularly called Mount Baldy), unless you ride the ski lift up to Baldy Notch. But the hike for this day is only to the south ridge (9000').

DanI arose from bed at 4:20 A.M. and began the hike at 6:00. Turns out that my timing was great — going up, I had the trail to myself.

The first mile is on a semi-paved service road that heads up to Baldy Notch. After a half mile, where the road sharply cuts to the right, San Antonio Falls comes into view. In another half mile I reached the trail junction and had second thoughts about taking it up San Antonio Canyon. The skinny path climbing steeply up the loose rock slope was not inviting. And somehow I had gotten the impression that this route was off the beaten path and substandard. I vacillated. Finally I decided to go with plan B and take the road to Baldy Notch (plan C was Icehouse Canyon). But after walking up the road 200 feet or so, my curiosity got the best of me. I turned around, retraced my steps, and started up Ski Hut Trail.

As I hiked several dominant thoughts occupied my mind: steep, breathtaking (both literally and figuratively), and I've got to do this hike again. One of the characteristics of the hike is that you can see your destination from the start, and often throughout the hike you see where you've been and where you're going. When I first spotted the Sierra Club Ski Hut as a little green spot way up the canyon, it was hard to believe I would be hiking to it, and to the steep ridge above. As views of the hut re-emerged throughout the ascent, it grew bigger and bigger. I finally arrived at the hut in one hour and 45 minutes from the start. Two solo hikers were a minute and a minute and a half behind me. Both were heading to the summit.

Baldy BowlLeaving the hut, the trail moves laterally across the boulder field at the base of Baldy's massive south face, called Baldy Bowl. I felt anxiety with only five shots left and so many incredible pictures to take. I definitely have to come here again.

"Pure grandeur" replaced my thoughts of "steep trail" ... until I started up the east face of the ridge. The "trail" was steeper than reasonable, making me wonder why in the world they didn't build it right. It certainly appears that there is sufficient topography for a decent trail. After 23 minutes of climbing I reached my destination, the south ridge, which appears from the map to be around 9,000 feet at that juncture.

The point at which the trial meets the ridge is board and graced with lodgepole pine and manzanita. As I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while sitting on the prominent rock that greets the ascending trail, a couple hikers reached the ridge, out of breath. We visited. They've both been on the trail multiple times. They continued on to the summit. I explored the area, taking in the various views. A dozen more hikers streamed up the final stretch to the ridge, reminding me of the 210 freeway during rush hour. Everyone I spoke with had been up the trail multiple times. They were all going to the top.

Meanwhile the time to start my return trip was rapidly upon me. I experienced some anxiety as the grand summit summoned me up, and a date with a graduation ceremony called me down. Oh, how I wanted to join the throngs in going to the top. But, I didn't particularly want to share Mt. Baldy peak with 50 people. And with no more film and no visibility to the valleys below, I decided to save my first assent to this lofty peak for another day.

Baldy'south ridge

At 9:52, exactly one hour after I arrived, I started down. My descent was slowed quite a bit because of stopping to visit with hikers on their way up. I continued to be surprised that almost all of them had been on this trail multiple times. It seemed I was the only first-timer on the mountain! After a while I stopped admitting it.

Yet I shouldn't have been too surprised at the numbers of return visitors. As I had hiked the trail, I came to sense that this by no means would be my last time on this trail, God willing. A trail this splendid is worthy of repeating. And I decided that when I do finally make the trip to Mt. Baldy, it will be on this trail. I had previously planned to do it from Baldy Notch via the ski lift. But after experiencing this wonderful Ski Hut Trail, I knew this will be the route. Maybe in the fall when the views are clear. Or maybe next week. [Actually, it turned out to be June 12, 2004 - Great hike to Mt. Baldy Summit via the Ski Hut Trail, then down the Devils Backbone to Baldy Notch and down the ski lift. View Mt. Baldy Slide Show.]

San Antonio's grandeur compels me back. The massive, rugged, majestic beauty of this mountain reminds me of the 11,499-foot San Gorgonio Mountain which called me back multiple times after I first climbed it in 1975. And it still calls me to visit it again.

When I'm tempted to be disappointed that I didn't reach Baldy's summit, I remind myself that the hike reaches a ridge (9000') that is higher than the highest points in 37 states! In fact, even if I had reached the summit, the statistic would not change! See United States State High Points from peakbagger.com.

After experiencing the splendor of this historic Ski Hut Trail, its steepness just doesn't matter any more. icon

Hike Log
San Antonio Canyon / Baldy Bowl Trail

6:00 am A: Trailhead (6160')
6:12 B: Falls switchback
6:20/:25 C: Trail junction (6610')
6:37/:42 Photo north
Shed Flannel shirt
6:55 First switchback
Sun now on Sunset Peak
7:37 Stream (on left)
Clear view of Hut
7:47/8:17 D: Ski Hut (8200')
8:29 First snow patch
beginning west slope
8:52/9:52 E: Ridge (9000')
10:18 First snow patch
10:29 D: Ski Hut (8200')
11:10/11:22 Treated hot spots on feet
11:50 C: Trail junction (6610')
11:57/12:07 B: Falls switchback
Side trip to San Antonio Falls
12:16 A: Trailhead (6160')
View Topo Map
San Antonio Canyon
6:37 a.m. - Looking north up San Antonio Canyon toward the ski hut and Baldy Bowl from the trail.

San Antonio Canyon
Looking south down San Antonio Canyon from the ski hut (8200').

Ontario Ridge
Looking South from Baldy's south ridge at the Ontario Peak (8693') ridge. I had to hike down the ridge several hundred yards to get this view with the least obstruction from the trees. It took two of my six shots. Later I found that if I had gone up the ridge a couple hundred yards the view would have been better. Next time. The haze obscured the views beyond these mountains.

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Last Hiked: August 7, 2011

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This page was last October 9, 2011.