- Location: Dawson Saddle, Angeles National Forest. From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway (route 2) northeast for 45 miles to Dawson Gap. Park on the south side of the road in a small dirt turnout with room for a few cars or on the north side of the road, at a turnout near mile marker 69.6. From I-15, head west on Highway 138 for 8.6 miles. Turn left on the Angeles Crest Highway and drive 19.2 miles to Dawson Saddle.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
- Distance: 9.4 miles (including the detour to Throop Peak and the bypass to Mt. Burnham)
- Elevation gain: 2,850 feet
- Suggested time: 6 hours
- Difficulty rating: R (Elevation gain, distance, altitude, steepness)
- Best season: May – October (road closed during the rest of the year)
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun screen; sun hat; long pants
- Dogs: Allowed (exercise caution on warm days; make sure they are up for the challenge of this hike)
- Cell phone reception: None for most of the route; weak in some spots
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None at the trail head; there are vault toilets at Islip Saddle, five miles west on the Angeles Crest Highway
- Camping/backpacking: Throop Peak and Mt. Baden-Powell are possible backpacking sites (although you might not have much solitude on Baden-Powell). There is a spot near the junction of the Dawson Saddle and Pacific Crest Trails that might work as well. For information about dispersed/remote camping in the Angeles National Forest, click here.
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here
- Rating: 10
Updated May 2018
Mt. Baden-Powell is the fourth (or fifth, if you count Mt. Harwood) tallest named summit in the San Gabriel Mountains and the highest outside of the Mt. Baldy complex, at 9,399 feet. Its vantage point provides an outstanding 360-degree panorama including the high desert, Mt. Baldy, the L.A. Basin, downtown, the coast, Catalina Island and a particularly dramatic view of the East Fork, nearly one mile below. The route from Vincent Gap is the shortest and most popular and a must-do trip for L.A. hikers. This route, however, is even better, offering several advantages. It gives hikers a chance to explore the highest stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail south of the Sierras, featuring not only the great high desert views offered by the Vincent Gap route but also views to the south. It provides an opportunity to bag two other scenic peaks: Throop and Burnham. It also receives considerably less traffic than the Vincent Gap route; in the spring, you are more likely to be sharing the trail with northbound Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers than with day hikers.
Begin by following either of two unmarked trails leaving from the south side of the Angeles Crest Highway (the two soon merge). The trail climbs steadily through a thick pine forest and follows the north ridge of Throop Peak. As you climb, your efforts (950 feet of elevation gain in 1.8 miles – at high altitude) are rewarded with views of the high desert, a taste of what’s to come. Saddleback Butte pokes noticeably up from the flat expanse to the north.
At 1.8 miles, you reach a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. To visit Throop Peak, head right (the trail is a little overgrown in spots) and almost immediately look for a use trail branching off to the right, heading uphill. The climb is steep – about 300 vertical feet in 0.3 mile – but the route, while faint, is not too difficult to follow. Throop Peak (elevation 9,138) offers an impressive view; there is no higher point between this summit and the ocean. A monument informs visitors that the peak is named for Amos G. Throop, founder of Cal Tech.
After enjoying the summit, carefully retrace your steps back to the Pacific Crest Trail and continue heading east. The trail drops about 300 feet to a saddle and follows a ridge, gradually ascending. Just under a mile from the junction with the Dawson Saddle Trail, you reach a Y-fork. The trail on the right is the use trail that heads toward Mt. Burnham, quickly climbing about 300 feet. Mt. Burnham (elevation 8,997) was named for Frederick Russell Burnham, an American soldier who taught “woodcraft” (as scouting was then known) to the British army. The trail is vague and overgrown in spots, but you are following a ridge so it is hard to get too lost. At a clearing just below the top, the trail bends to the right, bypassing a thick cluster of bushes on the summit. Reaching the true high point requires some bushwhacking, but the use trail passes by a clearing just below, where you can enjoy a commanding view of your next target, a mountain named for one of Burnham’s students: Robert Baden-Powell.
A fairly easy descent along the east ridge of Burnham brings you back to the P.C.T. Note this spot on your return. The trail continues east, providing views of the Iron Fork of the San Gabriel River far below to the south and skirting the sides of an unnamed bump on the ridge. It then picks up another 400 vertical feet over the next mile to reach a saddle just below the summit. Make a hard right and begin the final push to the top (the P.C.T. begins its descent to Vincent Gap, about four miles away and 2,800 feet below). You pass a limber pine that is believed to be about 1,500 years old known as the “Wally Waldron Tree” (named for a former Los Angeles area Scouts board member.) A short but rigorous high-altitude climb brings you to the summit.
On Mt. Baden-Powell, you can enjoy a view that rivals that of Mt. Baldy, which dominates the landscape to the southeast. The summit is known for its stone monument to Lord Baden-Powell, which makes for a nice spot to sit and rest and enjoy the well-earned scenery. A large American flag stands on the eastern side of the summit, high above the East Fork of the San Gabriel River.
Text and photography copyright 2018 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.