Bear Flat

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Bear Flats, Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains, CA
Bear Flat
Crossing Bear Creek en route to Bear Flat, Angeles National Forest, CA
Crossing Bear Creek

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

Bear Flat

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.


  1. Ahhh..The Bear Flats trail.To do it proper is a car shuttle from San Antonio Falls road to the Baldy notch.Published 16 miles and 6000 vert.Starts pretty,then turns into a grind.The gift that keeps on giving.Would recommend this trail as a warm up for those aspiring to do Whitney,same miles,same vert.Do this trail,and know a bit about crampons,and how to use an ice axe,and you got a shot at it.Rates up with Iron mountain on the damn hard walks.

  2. Hi David – I wasn’t sure whether to post this comment under Bear Flat or the Mt. Baldy Bear Ridge Trail – since we did more than the first, and less than the latter. Two days ago we followed Dan’s Hiking Pages advice – which you link to – and climbed to the ridge at 7755′ – he says 7.4 mi rt; i’d put it more like 8.0 from Mt. Baldy Lodge. It’s a strenuous (for us in our 70s; our 47 year-old son pretty much gamboled up in tennis shoes) hike with gorgeous views at that ridge. I recommend it for people who don’t want to do the “Mt. Baldy death march” up to the top. Some of your photos on your Mt. Baldy Bear Ridge post reflect the views – which are of everything EXCEPT Mt. Baldy! Bear Flat, btw, was not lush green, but a field of rusty red ferns – lovely in the Fall, tho’ one can’t imagine camping there.

    1. I think I pretty much have blocked the Mt. Baldy death march out of my head so I don’t remember too many details…the photos on the Bear Flat post were posted back in 2010 following a wet winter so yes, it looks different now. Of course, after Mt. Whitney Bear Ridge would probably seem easy were I to try it again.

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