A couple of friends and I drove out to Mt Baldy today and had a nice hike. No, not to the tippy top, because I would still be there huffing and puffing and trying to make it down the mountain before dark right now. But we had such a nice day hanging out on the mountain, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking to get our of town for half a day.
Since it’s not a weekend and there’s no snow on the mountain (except for a tiiiiny bit on the very top), Mt Baldy was pretty empty. The visitor’s center was closed, so we stopped in the lodge across the street to ask if we needed to get a permit to park and where we should start out trek. There was a guy named Pavel behind the bar pouring himself an iced coffee (he didn’t work there), and he gave us the low down and so much more. He said no permit needed, and that Top of the Notch, the restaurant we were heading for half way up the mountain, was closed today and so were the ski lifts. It felt like bad news, but he also said the hike to Bear Flats via the Bear Canyon Trail that started across the street was a similar hike with some really nice views. He was going for a hike anyway, so he’d catch up with us.
The hike is about 2 miles from the road, so a little under 4 miles round trip. A vast majority of the hike to Bear Flats is uphill, so be prepared to gain some elevation. Luckily the distance isn’t so bad, and there is some reprieve and some very nice scenery. It starts out paved next to some cabins and a creek, and then criss-crosses up the mountain on dirt or gravely paths. There are beautiful big fir trees and lots of happy vegetation, along with some lovely wildflowers right now. Once you are most of the way up, there are some very nice views of the village below, the hills around and the top half of Mt Baldy. On a very clear day, you can see all the way to Catalina Island (or so I’m told). Even on a lightly hazy day, the views were beautiful.
Bear Flats is just a lightly sloping grassy field with a nice view and spots to pitch a tent. Pavel had caught up with us with four beers in his back pocket, so we all had a celebratory beer and a rest before heading down. He also pointed out different plants and told us some history about the mountain. He goes hiking once or twice every day, and definitely knew the trails (and otherwise) like the back of his hand.
Afterwards we had lunch with Pavel and some of his friends from the town at the Lodge. There is a small porch with outdoor seating on the front of the restaurant that literally has a sign that says “Pavel’s Porch.” We all shared beers and laughed a lot, and met what felt like half of the town. It was a merry time, and I’m sure we’ll be back.
To reach the visitor’s center, use the address 6700 Mount Baldy Road, 91759 in your GPS. It’s about an hour outside of LA and a nice drive. The visitor’s center will be on your left and the lodge on your right. The entrance to the Bear Canyon Trail is just slightly south of the lodge, across the street and past the church. Be sure to follow all signs—the path is maintained and well-marked, but it can still be easy to miss a couple of the turns.