Favorite Places #2: Inconspicuous Trail Camp Near Mt. Baldy

I must have hiked the Baldy Bowl Trail 6-7 times before exploring a spur trail off the official trail (between the ski hut and Mt. Baldy) that looked like it would be an interesting place to go. If you’ve ever hiked the Baldy Bowl Trail, I’m pretty sure you’ve thought about going there too. Unnamed and unmapped (at least as far as I know), it leads to an inconspicuous trail camp that it is one of my favorite places in the forest.

Spur Trailhead leading to trail camp. Left and down leads to the ski hut.

Spur Trailhead leading to trail camp. Left and down leads to the ski hut.

Normally, when I hike the Baldy Bowl trail I find myself chasing light and never wanting to break out my headlamp to finish off my hike. Last year, I went on a hike with my wife and daughter and we stopped after making the steep climb up to the ridge where this spur trail begins. While they were resting, I finally took the opportunity to go exploring and within a few minutes I found myself in an area that clearly gets used as a trail camp. It’s easy to get to, just follow the spur trail.

The most conspicuous of several sites that are flat and appropriate to set up a tent.

The most conspicuous of several sites that are flat and appropriate to set up a tent with a view down to the city below.

Last Sunday I used it as a wonderful end destination for a few of us who are training to do a multi-day hike of Mt. Whitney at the end of July. We are getting used to carrying full packs and rehydrating meals etc. We will be stepping things up on a weekly basis and hiking the usual training destinations.

View toward Mt. Harwood from another flat area.

View toward Mt. Harwood from another flat area.

We spent a while there enjoying the excellent views and I’m sure I’ll camp there someday. In my opinion, the view from there is much better than that of the Ski Hut area, it isn’t exposed the way the summit of Mt. Baldy is, and it is half the distance to water than it is from Mt. Baldy. I think it would be a great trip to hike up to this campground starting in the afternoon, set up a camp site, then go back down to the creek next to the Ski Hut and filter a bunch of water for the night and the next day’s hike. On the next day, hike up to Mt. Baldy and come back down via Devil’s Backbone.

View out toward Three Tees, Cucamonga Peak, and Ontario Peak.

View out toward Three Tees, Cucamonga Peak, and Ontario Peak. (click to enlarge)

Also on Sunday, I crossed paths with one of my favorite bloggers (Lady on a Rock). Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out why I recognized her until she was too far away for me to say hello. I also wasn’t entirely sure it was her until I read on her Facebook page that she had hiked to Mt. Baldy that day. Since ours is a very public outdoor activity and with so many people blogging and reading blogs about hiking, I’m sure some of us cross paths but never know it. For those who would enjoy saying a quick hello, I’ve decided to start including photos of me on some of my posts.

Kyle Kuns enjoying the view from his "rocky chair". Photo by Debbie Kuns.

Kyle Kuns enjoying the view from his “rocky chair”. Photo by Debbie Kuns.

Favorite Places: Rock Platform Along The Mt. Hillyer Trail

One of my favorite things about hiking is that the terrain varies as the miles pile up.  There are always interesting places along the trail to spend some extra time in.  When I’m training and trying to reach a certain spot and be back at my car before dark, I often don’t take the time to stop and enjoy these wonderful places along the way.  However, when I am exploring, I like to invest the time to enjoy some of the places a trail passes by.  This is the first in an ongoing series to share these places.

On a recent family and friends hike to Mt. Hillyer from Chilao, a mountain biker suggested we climb around and up an interesting rock formation and check out the view–which we did.  The view is terrific and the greenery is made more poignant as nearby the forest is dominated by burn areas.  It’s also fun to take a small break from hiking and do a micro rock scramble–challenging enough to require that one pay attention but easy enough for most to easily accomplish safely.  The rock formation is oriented so that a rock wall blocks the view from the trail.  So, rock scrambling up a short and somewhat narrow path of boulders to then reach the top of a rock that forms a small platform significantly enhances the drama of the expansive view that emerges. The rock platform is high enough off the ground that It feels a little precarious to be there, but not so much so as to be distracting. With the rock wall blocking the view of the trail behind, the place has an intimacy to go along with its remarkable view.

This rock formation is located on the Mt. Hillyer Trail between Horse Flats Campground and Mt. Hillyer.  Since it forms one edge of the trail, it’s easy to spot.

View of rock formation heading down from Mt. Hillyer toward Horse Flats.

View of rock formation heading down from Mt. Hillyer toward Horse Flats.

To get to the rock platform, climb up between the tree among the boulders and the rock wall.

View of boulders to climb on the way to the rock platform.

View of boulders to climb on the way to the rock platform.

There is a nice spot to sit on along the way–especially if the last boulder to cross to get to the rock platform is more challenging than you want to attempt.

View of nice spot to sit as seen from the rock platform.

View of nice spot to sit as seen from the rock platform.

From November 15 through April 1, the Chilao trailhead isn’t accessible by car.  However, another way to get to the Mt. HIllyer trail is to hike the Silver Moccasin Trail to Horse Flats from Three Points.

View from rock platform.

View from rock platform.