At over 10,060 feet, Mount San Antonio in the Angeles National Forest (fs.usda.gov/angeles) -- better known as Mount Baldy due to its treeless peak -- is the highest point in Los Angeles County. For locals, it's also one of the best places to hike, as it provides panoramic and stunning views of the San Gabriel Mountains from its peak. Several of the hikes around and to Mount Baldy are challenging and strenuous, as you ascend a total of 4,600 feet to the peak.
Icehouse Canyon Trail
The Icehouse Canyon Trail, north of Mount Baldy Village, is one of the easier hikes in the area and incorporates shade throughout the trail. Lytle Creek also runs parallel to the trail path, and gives you a picturesque view of the area. The Icehouse Canyon Trail can take anywhere between two to four hours to complete; it is about 4.4-miles each way, from Icehouse Trailhead to Icehouse Saddle. This moderately easy hike traverses the Wilderness Boundary and is sandwiched between Sheep Flat to the south and Cedar Canyon to the north.
Mt. San Antonio (Baldy) Loop
The Mount San Antonio Loop begins near Mt. Baldy Road, at Manker Flanks, heads east just north of Thunder Mountain before looping northwest toward Mount Baldy peak. The hike is not for the faint of heart: it stretches for about 11 miles and can get steep at certain points as the trail gradually elevates 4,000 feet. However, the loop is easy to break into sections; the Top of the Notch section includes a restaurant (no website; end of Mount Baldy Road, Mount Baldy; 909-982-1115) open most weekends year-round and serves as a good break in the middle of the hike. Much of the trail is fully exposed to the sun, so wear sunscreen higher than SPF 15 and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face.
Baldy Bowl and Ski Hut Trail
The Baldy Bowl and Ski Hut Trail ascends 3,900 feet over a four-mile span along the mountain's southwestern face. Round-trip, the hike is a little longer than eight miles. The Baldy Bowl and Ski Hut Trail starts at Mount Baldy Road, heads north through the San Gabriel Mountains and ends at the summit peak. This is an aggressive and strenuous climb and should only be done by experienced or fit hikers. It's also the shortest hike of any of the trails to Mount Baldy peak.
The Devils Backbone Trail, like Baldy Bowl, is no picnic in the park: it ascends 2,350 feet over 3.3 miles and is strenuous and steep, particularly in the last portion of the trails hat caps off at the summit. However, this hike provides spectacular views -- some of the best in the area -- of Mount Baldy and the majestic San Gabriel Mountains. This rigorous, but enchanting, hike starts at the Baldy Notch and ends at the peak. Round-trip, the hike is a little over 6.5 miles and can take anywhere between three to four hours.
A word of caution: inexperienced hikers should not try walking up Devil's Backbone during the winter. When it snows, the trail can be slippery and dangerous to climb.