Mt. Baldy (via Devil’s Backbone)

Razor’s edge of the Devil’s Backbone

Objective: Summit Mt. Baldy, San Gabriel Mountains, California
Distance: 6.6 miles (out and back)
Peak Elevation: 10,064′
Elevation Gain: 2,369′
Difficulty: Strenuous

The hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy (via Devil’s Backbone) not only takes you to the top of Mt. San Antonio, which is the highest point in Los Angeles County. The Devil’s Backbone connects Mt. Harwood, Mt. Baldy, and West Baldy along the same razor sharp ridge.

Directions to Trailhead

Head east on the 210, and exit Baseline Road in Claremont. Turn left on Baseline Road. Turn right on Padua Avenue. In 1.8 miles, turn right onto Mt. Baldy Road. In 7.2 miles, go past Mt. Baldy Village. Continue 2.8 miles on Mt. Baldy Road. Turn right to stay on Mt. Baldy Road. Drive 2.3 miles to the Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts parking lot.

Directions to Summit

Start: Devil’s Backbone Trail connects Baldy Notch with the peak, and is 2.8 miles long with 2,269′ of elevation gain. You can reach Baldy Notch by:

  • Riding the Sugar Pine Chair Lift up 1,500′ at a cost of $25.
  • Hiking an additional 2.3 miles from the parking lot at the base of the ski lift.

Baldy Notch: Follow the fire road up to the beginning of the Devil’s Backbone Trail.
0.46 miles: At the junction sign “Round Valley 2 →”, turn right and hike along Long Valley Creek.
1.7 miles: Take the northern trail along the ridge to Mt. Harwood (0.2 miles further).
2.2 miles: Reconnect to the path to Baldy.
2.8 miles: The trail reaches the summit.
3.3 miles: Turn around when reaching West Baldy. Head back to Baldy Notch.

Mt. Baldy
Crowds on the Popular Summit

Trek Highlights

Riding the Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts to Baldy Notch eliminates a 2.3 mile one-way (1,500′ gain) from the ski lift parking lot. From Baldy Notch, the fireroad climbs steeply to the second ski lift, marking the start of the Devil’s Backbone Trail. This is a remarkably narrow rising ridgeline spine with significant drop-offs on each side, connecting Baldy Notch to the summit. (When this trail is covered in ice and snow, you need crampons and an ice axe.)

The Devil’s Backbone keeps ascending until it levels off next to Mt. Harwood. After spotting Mt. Harwood’s ridgeline trail, follow it to the Harwood’s peak while it parallels the Backbone below, or you can always scramble up the scree. The path dips before rejoining the Backbone for one last climb up the switchbacks to the top of Baldy. Make sure you stick to the ridgeline trail via the saddle to West Baldy, as the Bear Canyon Trail to Baldy Village loses too much elevation.

For a more challenging hike to the top, check out the guide for hiking to Mt. Baldy via the Ski Hut Trail.

Red Tape

If you park at the Ski Lift parking lot, you must purchase a $5 parking pass, otherwise, an Adventure Pass is required for each vehicle parked along the roadside.


Gold-seekers originally established the trail to the summit in San Gabriel Canyon. The Devil’s Backbone trail can be dangerous in winter months. Aurelia Squire Harwood was a conservationist, educator, and first female President of the Sierra Club.


The Top of the Notch restaurant and bar is a great spot for refueling. Occasionally, there is live music at the Notch, such as Elevated Solstice’s reggae and roots rock lineup. The Notch also has 600′ zip lines that are 70′ above the ground.


Rocky talus of Mt. Harwood (9,551′)
Mt. Baldy
Summit Plaque
West Baldy (9,992′) clouds