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Backpacker Magazine – November 2012

Mountain Map: Los Angeles - San Gabriel Mountains

Find solitude high above Los Angeles.

by: Nathan Pipenberg

Waterman Mountain Loop (Photo by Michael Just/AGE Fotostock)
Waterman Mountain Loop (Photo by Michael Just/AGE Fotostock)

Soaring 10,000 feet above the City of Angles (thirty miles to the north) this east/west range is packed with SoCal’s easiest access solitude. Dig deep with four hikes where the only stars you’ll see are the backcountry variety: from Pacific-to-Sierra views atop the highest peak to brilliant night skies on the Pacific Crest Trail.

PCT: Inspiration Point to Three Points Tiptoe the top of SoCal—with Mojave Desert views to the north and ocean views to the south—on a four-day, 25.4-mile trip. Start at dawn for an 11.2-mile push, including a 2,000-foot climb to Mt. Baden-Powell, named for the founder of the Boy Scouts. Overnight at Little Jimmy Campground (bearproof well; local bruins are cunning). On day two, drop 800 feet to Islip Saddle and climb 1,000 feet across Kratka Ridge, scanning for bighorn sheep. Camp at Buckhorn Flat after eight miles. In the morning, take note: An endangered denizen, the mountain yellow-legged frog, frequents these parts. From the PCT, follow signs to detour around their habitat. At Cloudburst, it’s 4.2 miles downhill to Three Points. Trip ID 28636

Ontario and Bighorn Peak via Icehouse Canyon 
On this 14-miler in the Cucumonga Wilderness, tackle 3,500 feet of climbing to net two 8,000-foot peaks. Rise up the lush confines of Icehouse Canyon past the ruins of a 1920s era lodge. As the canopy fades, you hit loose, talus-draped slopes enroute to Bighorn. Push on, following the ridge 1.5 miles to Ontario Peak for a front-row view of Mt. Baldy. Trip ID 265153

Waterman Mountain Loop On this escape just an hour from L.A., ascend 1,200 feet through fragrant incense cedars and pines, then top out above a once-bustling ski area where upper-deck vistas await. Trip ID 58117

Baldy-Harwood Loop Bag 10,064-foot Mt. Baldy, the San Gabriels’ tallest peak, on this quad-burning, 10.3-mile route. From Manker Flats, wind northeast up switchbacks past the Ski Hut Trail junction. Almost 1,600 feet later, hit Baldy Notch and visit the Top of the Notch restaurant for a mean weekend buffet. From the lodge, rise up the Devil’s Backbone, tagging Mt. Harwood en route. From Harwood’s summit, crank out .8 mile to Mt. San Antonio (Old Baldy to locals) and scan south over deep canyons to Catalina Island and the Pacific. Descend along Baldy Bowl’s scree-laced flanks into San Antonio Canyon, where in winter, the Sierra Club Ski Hut at the base offers the best camp for off-piste exploration. Close the loop and retrace steps to the car. Trip ID 1674709 

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