In winter, our local mountains have snow. Yes, you read right, SNOW. Right in our own backyard. Rain means snow at higher altitudes.
Mount San Antonio aka Mt. Baldy is the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, it’s peak stands at 10,064ft above sea level. Located off the 210 freeway borderline of Los Angeles County and San Bernardino county, in the Angeles National Forest.
The Top of the Notch restaurant: A restaurant that sits 7,300 feet above sea level in the middle of the mountains? how cool can that be. The restaurant is accessible year-round, and it is only a short drive away from the Los Angeles area. There are 2 ways to get to the Notch: ski lift chair and hiking.
The ski lift elevates you 1,500 feet in just under 15 minutes, the fee $20-$25 round trip. The views on the way down are nice, well worth the ride. Groupon tends to have a great deal; food and ride for a discounted price. About our hike: We start at the San Antonio Falls trailhead, an ADVENTURE PASS is required for parking. Big 5, Sport Chalet and REI have the day pass for $5 or a year pass for $30. We then follow the fire road, 3 miles, 1,500 feet elevation gain. This trail is fairly easy, and as long as you keep one foot in front of the other, you will reach your destination. Withing 0.8miles, San Antonio Falls is reached. A 10-20 minute detour can be taken down to the falls. Be careful ! Though there is a small trail, it is in some places slippery, specially if snow is present. Not a huge drop, but will definitely leave a bruise or scar. We enjoyed a nice break here, took off our packs, and had a snack. After about 10minutes, we continued our hike. From here, the road gets less traveled, meaning the snow is much fluffier . The level of steepness increases just a tad bit. Pace is key; going too fast might wear you out, cutting your trip short.
Once at the Notch, you can enjoy a packed lunch, or a fancy meal from the restaurant, which is very yummy and the price is not up the roof. There is an option to hike up to the Notch, and get a one-way ride down, should be $12-$15.
The Top of the Notch restaurant has flush toilets, full dining menu, and cold beer. Furthermore, a live band plays in a stage on the weekends. A great treat if you ask me.
take the I-210 E towards the Claremont area. Take the exit Base Line Road, and turn left at the light. At the light, turn right onto Padua Road. Follow Padua Road until you reach Mt. Baldy Road. Turn right onto Mt Baldy Road for about 9 miles. Pass through Baldy Village, here you can stop for an Adventure Day Pass. Keep going down Mt. Baldy Rd 4more miles, Look for parking once beyond the Manker Flats Campground. Trailhead is to the left hand side, look for a few blue porta-potty’s . Park along Mt. Baldy road, display ADVENTURE PASS, and hike on. Ski Lift parking is just 0.6mes down the road, keep going until you come to a dead end.
Determination is major key when you set out to accomplish anything. Cucamonga Peak is not an easy trek; the steep 11 mile hike gains just over 4,000 ft.. It is one of the highest peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains range and is located in the San Bernardino County. The 8,860 foot peak has amazing views; Something worth having will take some effort, this long steep hike is a good workout. I should note that a Wilderness Permit is required, this is mainly for your safety as it asks about your trek, and destination. Although if you are asked by a ranger for the permit and one was not filled out, you might get cited. At the very beginning of the trail, there is a small wooden box which contain the self-issued permits. There are usually pens in the slot.
As this was Christopher’s 2nd attempt at Cucamonga Peak, I did not want time to be an issue, weather seemed just perfect. Check out our first shot, Endurance Knows No Age .
Early morning, 6:15am, all packed and ready to go at Icehouse Canyon Trailhead, our trek begun. It felt chilly, temperature was about 52 degrees F, sun still had yet to make its appearance. Headlamps on, we got on our way. All layered up, the first few steps are always the hardest, especially with a cold body. Within an hour or so, sun already peeping out, we were forced by our heating bodies to remove a layer. We moved to the side, as hikers were passing by, hundreds of them. 1 mile mark passed and we were feeling good. We entered the Cucamonga Wilderness in about 1.8miles. Once there, we took a brief break, had a snack, and were passed by 2 friends who started not long after us. There are some serious switchbacks not long after the Cucamonga Wilderness Sign, the steepness is felt greatly with every step. Plenty of hikers still making their way up, some backpackers with huge 50lbs pack for an overnighter. I would suggest to pack light; half the crap you carry you do not really need or won’t use anyway.
Christopher was getting tired, and when that happens he gets a bit fuzzy and annoyed. I promised him chocolate chip pancakes at the saddle, which was about 1 mile away, and a long steep hill with a few switchbacks, of course I was glad he did not know that. In the meantime, my wife was trying to make things better, they started playing games, I joined once coast was clear and he was not as moody. We started saying rhyming words, composing sentences, and played I spy with my little eyes… 09:05am One last break, hydrated, Christopher had a sneak preview of his M&M’s which he claims give him energy to proceed. The trek continued for about 20 minutes and before we knew it, the saddle was right in front of us. The time now 09:35am, we enjoyed a nice long breakfast break. As planned, I met with some cool friends of mine, who were going up for a morning stroll to check out the location for a future group hike they might host. Packs off, relaxed as can be, I took out pancake batter (already mixed), small pot and fuel stove. As promised, pancakes were in the making. The cool breeze felt nice once we were not in motion, in fact, started getting a little chilly.
The Icehouse Canyon Saddle itself is a nice hike; you can picnic and call it a day, or choose one from the many trails beyond this point. The crowds decrease tremendously beyond the saddle, mainly because the best is yet to be demanded from you. With that in mind, we continued our trek, 10:20am, started our ascent following signs for Cucamonga Peak. Well rested, bellies full and a positive attitude, Christopher soon begin leading the way. He was as energized as a fresh set of batteries, just blazing thru the switchbacks and hills. I was amazed at how determined he had gotten to reach the peak; his main goal was for his babe, aka the wife to reach the summit. He began to feel a bit fatigued and let the wife lead the way, while still keeping up a good quick pace and being extra careful with the sketchy edges and cliff drops along with some minor rock scramble in certain areas. Along the way, we met a group of cool Hindu hikers, who started a race/game with Christopher to see who would reach the summit first. This also helped Christopher push a bit faster. We also encountered 2 nice gentlemen who advised us of a ram sighting; and being so amazed of Christopher’s motivation, they shared some organic coconut almond oat granola, I had my share, very yummy. No rans were spotted.
Once you reach the Cucamonga Saddle, is a matter of steps before you can see the summit. In the meantime, you can get a good glimpse of the Baldy Bowl, Mount Baldy and it’s surrounding smaller peaks. After many many switchbacks, rugged rocky terrain, we finally reached our destination, around 12:30 noon. Tired and hungry, we first picked a spot to relax and enjoy the view. I prepared for a dehydrated meal. While water boiled, wife had hot cheetos, and Christopher the rest of his M&M’s, very well deserved if you ask me. Lunch was served on the rocks, literally. All hikers are nice, and I did not hesitate to ask a nice young lady if she could snap our pic; “no problem,” she said with a smile on her face. We walked around the summit, looked for a place to lay and relax some more. Here, the wife and I took a quick nap, while Christopher played with the dirt and built castles.
“Ready to go?” I said as I awoke from my 15 min nap. After another photoshoot at the summit, we got on our way, 2:13pm. The hike down left me in shock, as Christopher was rushing down the mountain almost running at some points. Quickly reached the Icehouse Saddle at around 3:35pm, we decided to skip the break and keep going. Christopher started feeling fatigued, and we took a quick 5 min breather about 1/2 mile after the saddle. He sat down, rest his legs, caught his breath, “let’s go, I’m ready,” he said. He aimed for no more stops. However we were asked for the Wilderness Permit by a park ranger making his way up the mountain. A few minutes later, we saw 2 deer at the creek, snapped a pic, watched them a bit and got on our way. I looked at the time and was super impressed, we made it to the trailhead parking lot in 3 hours and 10min. Tired and beyond exhausted, Christopher recharged batteries with a long nap on our way home. Overall, this was a great hike, and most importantly, we had fun while achieving a goal.
Thank you all for reading, hope this inspires you to enjoy the outdoors with the family. Take the first step, that one is usually the hardest, then it all becomes natural. PHOTOS AND VIDEOS: