Manker Flats trailhead loop to Baldy Summit then Devil’s Backbone
(12 miles, +4,000/-4,000 feet).
Time for another hike!
I was supposed to go back to the Sierra today but I have been fighting a minor cold and my buddy MixMaster has been having some minor knee issues.
We have another trip to the Sierra coming up in a couple of weeks, so we decided to stick closer to home and just do a day hike.
Our destination today is a SoCal icon: Mount Baldy! Standing at just over 10,000 feet, the peak gives great views over the Angeles Forest and greater Los Angeles megalopolis.
We left San Diego at 4am and made it to the trailhead a little after 6am to get an early start to beat the heat. Although the lower part of this loop is a roadwalk for a couple of miles, the views are pretty and the cool shade was much appreciated.
I was surprised to see a gushing waterfall near a switchback in the road. This stream runs down from the Baldy Bowl above, past the Baldy Ski Hut where it presumably runs even in years with far less snow than we have gotten this year.
After less than a mile we found the place where the trail turns off the road and we started a very steep ascent that would take us up nearly 4,000 feet in less than 4 miles.
We gained elevation quickly and soon found ourselves at the Sierra Ski Hut, which can be rented on weekends.
Just above the hut, we traversed below the famous Baldy Bowl where backcountry skiers play during the winter.
We then started climbing again, this time above the western edge of the bowl.
We passed a trail runner on our last few hundred feet to the top. I guess he ran out of gas from trying to sustain a run from the start. We chatted with him at the summit for a bit while we ate our sandwiches and snacks.
We could see Mount Baden-Powell across the way, but the views from here were much much better than from the top of that mountain.
We could see snow lingering here and there on the north side of the mountain wherever the slopes get less sun.
After a good long break we started heading down, and boy were we glad! The temperature was on its way up and we were sweaty even on the descent as we traversed a very exposed ridge to the east.
At one point we mistakenly followed a use trail and had to go cross-country to get back. It was a little annoying, but we did get to see these on the way:
When we got back to the trail, we did some stretches.
Soon we were able to see the infamous Devil’s Backbone Trail. During winter the trail is covered in snow and ice, and this year a hiker died here when a cornice collapsed underneath him. I was just a little worried about it, but it turns out that when it is dry it is more scenic than scary.
With the Devil’s Backbone behind us, we descended a steep and annoying section to the ski lift. Some people take the ski lift down at this point, but we wanted to hike so we walked the road back down to Manker Flats. At one point we took the wrong road and had to hike up and over a ridge to get back on track, but once we corrected our course the walk was pleasant with nice views and pretty flowers.
Near the end we passed the waterfall again, but this time it was full of people honing their canyoneering skills.
Ten minutes later we were back at the car where our frozen gatorade had turned into delicious slushies (thanks MixMaster!!!).