Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
- Location: Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. From I-210, take Mountain Avenue north (it becomes Shinn Road on the way) until it ends at a T-junction with Mt. Baldy Road. Take a right and go 5 miles to Mt. Baldy Village. Park next to the visitor’s center. A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for a year) is required. Click here to purchase. (You can also reach the vistior’s center by taking I-210 to Baseline Road, heading east on Baseline, taking a quick right on Padua and following it to Mt. Baldy Road where you bear to the right and follow it to the village).
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel River Ranger District
- Distance: 3.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, altitude, elevation gain)
- Best season: Year round
- USGS topo map: “Mt. San Antonio”
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- More information: here. Trip report on the complete Bear Ridge trail (including the Bear Flat portion) here; Everytrail report of the entire route here
- Rating: 7
Like nearby San Antonio Falls, this hike falls into the “Taste of Baldy” category. The hike to Bear Flats is actually the beginning of the very challenging Bear Ridge route to the summit, which gains almost 6,000 feet in six miles. The trip to Bear Flats is a good workout in and of itself, with a lot of nice views.
From the parking area, pass the visitor’s center and follow the signs (small but clearly visible) to the Mt. Baldy trail. The trail ascends a dirt road, passing by several cabins and following Bear Creek. It switchbacks quickly up the hill, giving views of San Antonio Canyon, the Ontario/Cucamonga Ridge and the Inland Empire. Some of the switchbacks are pretty quick, so make sure you don’t miss them.
The trail leaves the cover of the trees for a little while, contours around the hillside, and goes back into the woods. After a few longer switchbacks, there’s another open stretch, another return into the woods, then after a creek crossing, you arrive at Bear Flat, a large green meadow with views of the peaks above.
The trail continues to the summit, but the route gets more and more challenging (if you are tired by this point, know that the remainder of the trail is even steeper). If you decide to continue, based on what I have heard about the Bear Ridge trail, you have my admiration–and sympathy.
For those whom Bear Flat is their turnaround point, retrace your steps down to Mt. Baldy Village for a total round trip of 3.4 miles.