Tiptoeing along the spine of a ridge, heading for a summit ahead, huge canyons on both sides, the desert to your right and mountains to the left. This ridge hike is appropriately named the Devil’s Backbone, a trail takes you from the top of the Mt. Baldy ski lifts to the summit of Mt. San Antonio (Baldy). This narrow passageway famously divides the San Gabriel Mountains from the Mojave Desert. The Devil’s Backbone is 2.6 miles long, but additional time on an access trail makes the Baldy ascent 6 miles in each direction.
What Makes It Great
The first section of the hike is on fire roads. Start on Fall Road, it eventually changes name to Mt. Baldy Rd. This will take you up a steep canyon, with amazing rock outcrops and San Antonio Falls. After 3.87 miles, you will be at the top of the ski lifts. There is a restaurant at the top of the main lift; the Devil’s Backbone Trail begins on the left just past this restaurant. Hike up this ridge trail until you reach the summit.
This climb is a good workout. The majority of the climbing is actually on the fire road, as the Devil’s Backbone is mostly across topography along the ridge, but with occasional steep climbs. If you like views, this is for you. The rocky canyons, Desert, and adjacent peaks are visible throughout the hike and make it a constant sightseeing climb. If you want to bypass the fire road section, you can take the lifts up to the trailhead for Devil’s Backbone. They are operating most days and cost $25 round trip.
Who is Going to Love It
If you love large alpine hikes and diverse terrain, this is for you. It is best to have moderate fitness and not be sensitive to elevation change.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the 210 Freeway, exit at Base Line Road and head west on Base Line (first left turn if coming from Los Angeles). Take the first right turn on Padua Ave and drive 1.8 miles until you intersect Mt Baldy Road, turn right. The next 11.5 miles will take you up a beautiful alpine road that rises through rugged mountains with a myriad of vistas. Just below the ski lifts, the center median expands to be a parking lot; this is the lot for the trailhead. The trailhead is on the left and labeled Falls Road. If you get to the ski lifts just turn around, the trailhead is just over a half mile below.