Mount Baldy Mother’s Day Present

June 5, 2017
May 13, 2020

The first time I scrambled up Mount Baldy, it was just with my husband Mike. We felt bad going when our girls were in school as we thought this was a climb they would really enjoy. Three years later, and we are in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The parks have been closed since March 26, 2020, but they have just reopened a few days prior. After being cooped up for so long, the whole family was desperate to get a hit of that mountain high.

It’s been a tradition for our family to climb a mountain for Mother’s Day. It started five years ago when my girls were 13. This year we decided my Mother’s Day present would be to scramble Mount Baldy with the whole family. When you look at the photos below, the dry conditions are from our first trip in 2017. The pictures of snow are from our most recent family trip.


It’s been raining and miserable in town for days, which means snow at higher elevations. This means gators and spikes. As the snow was way more than expected, we could have also brought ice axes.


The Mount Baldy trail is straight-forward. From the pull-out on the side of the road, go straight up the ridge line on the left until you hit the summit. Return the same way or do the traverse. I have planned to do the traverse both times, but have been unlucky with nasty weather. The first time, we got hit with a downpour and had to turn around at the summit. The second time the snow was very deep, and as the weather warmed, the risk of a wet avalanche was too great to ignore.

Trail Head

The Mount Baldy trail head is on Highway 40, across from Barrier Lake. Please be aware that this is NOT Old Baldy, which is further along the highway and is a hike, not a scramble.

You can park either directly at the trail head, in a small flat area on the east side of the road. Or you can park in the huge ‘lot’ across the highway on the west side, overlooking Barrier Lake.

From the trail head, ensure you stay left (north) to hit the main Mount Baldy summit. The return trail for the traverse is on the right, across the creek, so avoid being sucked into that route.

Old Baldy 1

Mount Baldy from the parking lot across the highway. On the left is the scramble part. When you are on it, the top of the scramble part looks like a false summit.

Main Trail

Once you are firmly on the north (left) trail, make your way up the steep trail through the forest.

Old Baldy 2

There is no approach, and the trail goes straight up, until you reach the summit.

After skittering up some steep slabs, the scrambling begins. If you are not keen on this, then go around them to the right. There is a perfectly good by-pass route in the trees.

Old Baldy 3

Mike going up the first part of the scramble. Despite the amount of action Mount Baldy gets, the rock is not too worn or slick.

Old Baldy 4

Here’s a look along the narrow ridge. There is exposure on both sides.

Old Baldy 5

The down climb off the first hump is good fun. There are steps at perfect intervals.

The second major hump took us up to a narrow ridge walk.

Old Baldy 6

I do not love heights when I am confronted with them on both sides, but the scrambling was too good to avoid this section.

Once we came down from this section, we were greeted with the most amazing sight – a living room! I absolutely LOVE it when people take the time and effort to make art and objects in the mountains. These people not only made a couch, but a coffee table and some end tables. This is a great spot for lunch.

Old Baldy 7

The living room – complete with sofa, coffee table, and end tables.

The final bit of scrambling is a traverse up, and then around the side the ridge.

Old Baldy 8

From the living room, you can see the final scramble. First, go up, and then traverse to the right to gain the col before the summit push.

Old Baldy 9

Once we went up to the top of the ridge, there is a down climb to head across the side of the ridge.

Old Baldy 10

This is the traverse on the right side of the ridge. At the top corner, you can see the start of the col and the easy walking beyond. This photo was taken on the way back down.

From the col, it’s now a scree walk to the summit.

Old Baldy 11

Looking down from near the summit, you an see the two humps below, plus the side traverse right before the col. The walk up the scree is quite pleasant with a decent enough trail.

Above the scree is the final final summit ridge. What is an easy scramble up some rocks in good weather, is much more trouble in snow.

Old Baldy 12

In dry conditions, the summit ridge is very enjoyable.

Old Baldy 13

After a good snow, the summit ridge takes care and attention. The problem is the cornice build-up on the left. Stay well away from that.

Old Baldy 14

The avoid the cornices along the ridge, we went to the right. This required a few down climbs, and a bit of exposure, but it was worth it to avoid a cornice collapse and an unceremonious drop back to the highway. 

Once above the final bit of ridge scramble, it is a rather enjoyable walk to the summit.

Old Baldy 15

A very nice walk to the summit of Mount Baldy.

Mount Baldy Return

To head back, retrace your steps back down the mountain. We elected to do all the scrambling because it’s so enjoyable, and it’s great practice. If you are late on time, it’s possible to avoid the scramble parts in the trees.

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Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date:   Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Group:  Four (Alisen, Mike and two daughters)
Distance:  6.5 km
Elevation:  765 m (2,524′)
Time:  4 hours 30 minutes (1/2 hour lunch)


The trail starts directly across from Barrier Lake. You start climbing on the left side immediately from the highway.


The elevation profile – straight up and down.

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Posted in Adventures, Scrambling
7 comments on “Mount Baldy Mother’s Day Present
  1. cbholganza says:

    Wow! Wish i had your determination and fortitude.

    • alisendopf says:

      You can totally do it! I teach an introduction to hiking course, and I have found that if you have the desire, it’s within your power to make it happen. Give it a go and enjoy.

      • cbholganza says:

        An intro to hiking! Perhaps you can start giving me some sort of pep talk to get out of bed? But yes, i am interested to get that intro to hiking. Help me please!

      • alisendopf says:

        LOL! Yes indeed! The first thing is to get out of bed. Do you live near some mountains? There are a few things you can do. First go for strenuous walks with lots of uphill sections. If you like that, then start with short hikes. I always recommend for new hikers to find a short hike (around 5 km) that has a good view, waterfall or lake as the destination to encourage you along. I hope this helps. If you live near me, then I should be happy to take you out.

      • cbholganza says:

        i’m cooped up in a subdivision in urban manila. not too many hills or good views. but yes, i shall resurrect my walking shoes now. i really need to get back to exercising. thanks for the encouraging words, dear friend!

    • alisendopf says:

      Thank you very much – you are too kind. I didn’t start out with this mountain though. I had to work up to it, both physically and technically. One step at a time 🙂

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