A Long Walk Uphill in the Snow on the Old Mount Baldy Trail

Bear Canyon is the Old Mount Baldy Trail. It's scenic and never crowded, but it starts at the town of Mount Baldy - over a thousand feet lower than the standard routes.

A lso called the Bear Canyon Trail, this trail was created in 1889. Eventually, a road was built to what is now Manker Flats and the “Old Baldy Trail” lost popularity – probably because it’s a lot harder. I started out following a creek for about a mile and then climbed away from the creek via a series of switchbacks. These switchbacks seemed to go on forever.

Mount Baldy via Bear Canyon Trail Quick Facts

  • Self-serve permit required

  • No Adventure Pass required for parking

  • Snow and ice and fatal exposure in winter

  • Allow 8+ hours

  • Very strenuous

  • 5,750′ of elevation gain

  • 13 miles out and back

  • Trail tops out at 10,069′

I continued up the switchbacks until I came to a high ridge. As I approached the ridge, I kept thinking I was almost there, but it just kept going up. After I had gained the ridge, the hiking got easier and I caught views of Sheep Mountain Wilderness and Iron Mountain.

The last few miles of trail were the easiest. I came across a ridge that has a similar feel to the Devil’s Backbone Trail on the other side of the mountain. There is a short section of trail that in icy conditions has fatal exposure on both sides. I puckered up a little as I crossed the narrow snow-covered trail with exposure on both sides.

Looking ahead, I saw that the trail followed a “C” curve to my right and gradually ascended the side of West Baldy to the main summit. It’s easy to lose direction during this section of the hike, especially if there is a lot of snow. I was post-holing in deep powder for about a half mile, which was a little taxing. I turned around periodically and mentally mapped my descent, given all of the snow I was trudging through.

I have been to the summit of Mount Baldy many times, but it was particularly beautiful that day, with dark ominous clouds changing shape and enveloping the summit. I headed down quickly when I started losing visibility. The descent was pretty hard on my knees.

All in all, I think I like this route. I’ll definitely do it again.

Trail Map

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Elevation Profile

Old Baldy Trailhead

Take the main highway to Mount Baldy Village. Park along the street or in front of the Mount Baldy Visitor Center. Next to the Visitor Center sign, there is a self-serve permit station. Fill out a permit and keep the pink copy with you. Walk through the church parking lot next door and continue past the sign that says “STOP, NO VEHICLE TRAFFIC BEYOND THIS POINT…” Walk up a steep paved road for about .25 miles. You will see the sign for the beginning of the trail.

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