Mt. Baldy, Dawson Peak and Pine Mountain via Backbone Trail: Angeles National Forest

Most people who climb Mt. Baldy go via the Ski Hut Route and do not know that there are a few different ways up to Mt. Baldy, this one being the shorter way up, but not easier.

Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Angeles National Forest
8.2 miles
4,504 feet

— What to Expect in this Guide —

  1. Background – A little background on Mt. Baldy and things to know about this trail (very important you read this).
  2. Map of HikeI put together a map of what our hike looked like.
  3. DirectionsMake sure to have an AWD/4×4 vehicle to get to the trailhead.
  4. Weather – Weather changes often, make sure you check before you go. *Do not attempt this hike when it is icy
  5. Permits and PassesNo overnight wilderness permit is required, but an Angeles National Forest Adventure Pass is. Read more on how to get one below.
  6. Hike Stats – Quick overview of the mileage and elevation for points of interest on the hike.
  7. Maps, Books and Gear RecommendationsI like to put together some important items or even just some gear ideas for your adventure, check them out in this section.
  8. Description This is my favorite part because I can share my adventure and pictures with you guys.

— Background —

Mt. Baldy is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. Did you know that Mt. Baldy is not its official name, it’s actually Mount San Antonio. The mountain was named after a local rancher in the area by the name of Saint Anthony of Padua. The official name is Mount San Antonio even though many locals refer to it as Mt. Baldy.

— Things to Know Before Attempting the Trail —

  1. What time of year should I do the trail? The best time to go is in the summer and early fall there is no snow on the trail. Unless you are ready to icy/snow travel meaning proper training and equipment, do not attempt to do this trail.
  2. What should I know about the trailhead? The trailhead is located off of Blue Ridge Truck Road a four-wheel drive road. Also note that the road isn’t open all year-long; it depends on the time of year. The gates along the road will be closed due to road conditions. If the gate is closed near Guffy Campground, you can still get to the trailhead on foot.
  3. What is the trail itself like? Be advised that the trail at times has very loose rocks and scree, which can make it very easy for you to slip or fall; bring trekking poles as I advise later in my gear recommendations and take your time on the steep areas.
  4. Should I attempt the trail if there might be a storm? No, if a storm is likely to happen do not hike this trail. The trail is very exposed most of the time and does not have much cover. Check the weather before you decide to do the trail.

— Map of Hike —

— Directions —

North Backbone Trailhead
To get to the trail from Wrightwood, take Hwy 2 off of CA-138 W. Once you get on Hwy 2, take it for a little over 10 miles and turn onto East Blue Ridge Rd/Blue Ridge Truck Trail. Continue on Blue Ridge Truck Trail for 7.1 miles. You will see a small sign on the right, easy to miss. Park off the road there are small areas that have turnouts, but make sure you are not in the way of others trying to get by. There is a small area at the start of the trail head for only about 4-5 cars.

Note: Blue Ridge Truck Trail is a dirt road, therefore make sure that you drive an AWD/4×4; do not attempt without a car that has high clearance.

— Weather —

The weather can change at any time in the mountains, due to this fact be sure to prepare. This area is known to get very hot in the summertime; hike early to minimize impact of any heat illness. In contrast this area can also get very cold and windy with even snow on it, prepare for anything!
Mt. Baldy – Elevation 10,066 feet

— Permits and Passes —

— Wilderness Permit —
You are not required to have a wilderness permit for a day hike neither an overnight hike. Certainly you can camp along the trail, but there aren’t many flat spots along the trail, however at the top near Mt. Baldy you can find some pretty good camping spots.

— National Forest Adventure Pass —
To park in the Angeles National Forest you do not need an adventure pass. If you park at Forest Falls or Vivian Creek you will need an adventure pass. To obtain an Adventure pass find the closest Forest Service location or go to a major sporting goods store. The fees are either daily ($5 per day) or annual ($30). If you’d like to know more about the pass, read on the USDA Forest Service Recreation Passes & Permits Website.

— Hike Stats —

Point of Interest Mileage Elevation
Trailhead 0 miles 8,310 feet
Pine Mountain 1.75 miles 9,648 feet
Dawson Peak 2.55 miles 9,575 feet
Mt. Baldy (Mt. San Antonio) 4.1 miles 10,064 feet

— Maps, Books & Gear Recommendations —

— Maps —
  1. Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga Wilderness, Trail Map – My favorite type of maps are the Tom Harrison Maps. This is the perfect one for this hike.
  2. HIKE Southern California: A Day Hiker’s Guide – This book my mom got me and sits on my adventure shelf at home.

— Some Gear Recommendations —

  1. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles – I definitely recommend trekking poles for this hike it will save your knees.
  2. Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire GPS Watch – I really would like to have this in my gear box; more like on my wrist during an adventure.
  3. Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir – I recommend taking a lot of water and this reservoir fits 3 liters. Check it out.
  4. PROBAR Bolt Energy Chews – Feel like you’re getting tired, take some of these for some quick energy; they are my favorite energy chews out there.

Check out some of the other items I have in my backpack on hiking and backpacking trips on my What’s in My Backpack Page. I also have some trail food ideas – check those out on Trail Food: Grub Ideas for the Trail

— Description —

This write-up only took me one year to finally finish, however I still want to share this adventure because it is one of those training hikes that are killer and so close to home (So Cal peeps). We hiked it last November (2017) on a bit windy and somewhat cold day, arguably it was still great hiking weather.

The Steep Way Up to Mt. Baldy

We arrived to the turnoff on Hwy 2 for East Blue Ridge Road around 8:00 am. It took about 25 minutes to do the short 7.1 miles down the road. The first part of the road wasn’t too rough; the road gets more bumpy as you get closer to the trailhead. We lost reception at some point, but still had the directions printed out and we were able to find where to park. There was only one other car there.

It was barely over 32 degrees when we got started. I had about 4 layers on and was so happy The first part of the trail is a sudden drop for a short distance, that’s one thing I always say “that means uphill on the way back”. I’m sure all of you think the same way.

We decided to stop at Pine Mountain and Dawson Peak on our way back, because we knew later in the day it would get windy. Something to note on this hike it is very exposed and there is a lot of loose talus and rock. This was one of the more difficult hikes I have done and if you want a good training hike for a big hike coming up, do it!

We took a lot of breaks along the way as it was steep. From Pine Mountain to Dawson Peak after the saddle there is a class 2 climb; be very careful especially during weather on this portion. We kept tugging up slowly and reached the top around noon. When we reached the top, there were only a few people compared to when my last summit: Mt. Baldy via the Ski Hut Trail. It was windy and cold at the top we didn’t spend much time there; just a quick bite to eat and all set to head back down to the cars.

Stopping at Dawson Peak and Pine Mountain on the Way Back

We hit Dawson Peak on the way back and found the register, but did not find a register on Pine Mountain. I wonder if there is one. On Dawson Peak, I opened the register and a gal’s signature I hiked with not too long before was in there  – took a photo and shot her text after I got back into cell range.

The way down was brutal, first of all because of my bad knee acting up and aching every step I took also because there were no breaks of downhill. I honestly wasn’t sure I could make it back to the car it hurt so bad, seems like I was moving like a snail one step at a time. We got back to the car around 4:00 pm making for a very slow way down, because I stopped millions of times to give my knee a break!

Despite the knee pain, I really enjoyed the hike and I truly relish hiking this time of year in our local Southern California mountains. Why? Finally the weather is much cooler and there are fewer people on the trail, above all this means the serenity we desire during hiking becomes existent.

*Originally hiked on November 12, 2017

Thanks for listening, hope you guys enjoyed the write-up and let me know if you have any questions about hiking or backpacking this trail.

Happy Adventures,

AnnetteBeyond Limits on Foot

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6 thoughts on “Mt. Baldy, Dawson Peak and Pine Mountain via Backbone Trail: Angeles National Forest

  1. If you’re starting to have leg troubles, I find the other type of trekking poles with the flat top (like an old folk’s walking stick a bit unfortunately) are the way to go as you can lean on them if your leg gets really bad. That’s got me back from many walks when my worn hip played up (now been replaced).

    Where you say you’d need a 4×4 to do the 7 miles or so on the final bit to the parking, we’d take a mountain bike (or even road bikes) here. It’s amazing how much rough stuff a normal bike can do – my little small-wheeled fold-up has done many rough tracks in Scotland to get to the hills – usually 6 to 8 miles – with no complaints. I only mention this as we don’t normally have 4x4s here (although they are becoming more prevalant).

    1. Carol,
      Good to know about the trekking poles!
      As for the idea of taking the mountain bike or road bike, I really like that idea. Could make the trip even more enticing and fun for people!

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