Text and photography copyright 2011 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: Angeles National Forest near Mt. Baldy. Take I-210 to the Mountain Ave/Mt. Baldy exit, drive 4.3 miles north on Mountain Ave (which will become Shinn Road). Take a right on Mt. Baldy Road (the end of Shinn Road), drive 6.4 miles and take a right into the Icehouse Canyon parking lot. On the way drop by the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center and pick up the free wilderness permit required for the Cucamonga Wilderness. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel River Ranger District
- Distance: 12.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 3,800 feet
- Difficulty Rating: R (distance, elevation gain, altitude, steepness)
- Suggested time: 7 hours
- Best season: May to October
- USGS topo map: “Cucamonga Peak”; “Mt. Baldy”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles
- Recommended guidebook: Trails of the Angeles
- More information: ANF page (with description of the hike to Icehouse Saddle) here; description of Ontario Peak here
- Rating: 9
Note: This hike begins with the 3.6 mile climb to Icehouse Saddle. For a description and photos of that portion of the hike, click here.
Like neighboring Cucamonga Peak, Ontario Peak (elevation 8,693) towers over the Inland Empire, and provides dramatic summit views. It misses out on some of the dramatic vistas of the high desert and the San Bernardino range that Cucamonga and Telegraph Peak provide, but there is still a lot of good scenery on the route. Hikers can expect nice aerial views of Icehouse Canyon and up-close views of Mt. Baldy, which seems much bigger here than when seen from the L.A. basin.
From Icehouse Saddle, take a hard right on the signed Ontario Peak trail. The first mile, to Kelly Camp, is one of the most enjoyable of the entire trip. The grade is mellow and the walk through the pines is very pleasant; on the right are views of the canyon and other nearby peaks.
After Kelly Camp, however, the trail kicks into high gear. Stay to the left of the camp and begin some steep switchbacks. There are a few stretches where the trail is overgrown and may be hard to follow; when in doubt, just keep going up. Soon you arrive at a saddle where you get great views of the flat Inland Empire communities below, clear to the Saddleback peaks in Orange County. To the left, a trail heads to Bighorn Peak; your route is to the right.
Although the sign at the saddle indicates one mile to Ontario Peak, it seems more like at least one and a half; everything takes longer at high altitude. You make a few switchbacks up to a false summit, round the corner and see the true summit shortly beyond. You cross a backbone ridge and make one last climb to the peak. A scramble up some rocks will take you to the highest point, but the views from anywhere on the peak area great. On clear days, you might see the ocean, downtown L.A. and the Santa Monica Mountains. You can also expect glimpses of San Jacinto and the high desert. Most of the landscape is dominated by Cucamonga Peak, Telegraph Peak and, of course, Baldy.
When ready, make your descent. As tiring as the hike may be, like its neighboring peaks, Ontario comes with quite a few bragging rights, and its prominent visibility from the L.A. basin is a reminder of that.