Trailhead: Ice House Canyon Rd, Mt Baldy, CA 91759
Length: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 4300 ft.
Total Elevation: 8859
Total time: 7-8 hours
Parking: Adventure pass needed. You can buy them at any sporting goods store. I also recommend getting there no later than 6:00 a.m. for guaranteed parking, as Ice House Canyon is extremely popular.
Look, I’m going to level with you on this because we’re friends, and friends are honest with one another.
I hate this trail. In fact, I often refer to it as “Satan’s Trail” and here’s why:
The beginning part of the trail is quite beautiful, with a fairly gentle climb. This is all a trick. It’s the trail’s way of making you feel safe. But you are not safe.
After you get past the first part, you cross a dry riverbed, full of river rocks. Not fun, but not terrible, either (until you hit this on the way back).
After that, is a never ending set of switchbacks.
Then, you hit the Ice House Saddle for a bit of a break.
Then you descend 400 feet and the trail becomes completely exposed and sketchy.
Two problems with this–it’s hot, and if it’s windy, it’s terrifying. There are parts of the trail that is literally just rock piled on top of other rock.
If it’s during the winter and it’s icy, it’s extremely dangerous and can be deadly. And with no shade, you’re in danger of heat exhaustion in the summer.
And there are more switchbacks. So many more switchbacks.
Eventually, you get to the turn off for the last slog up a hill to get to the peak. Except it’s really easy to miss the turn off.
Because some jerk stole the sign for the turn off so it’s literally just a brown post with an arrow on it. This isn’t a well marked turn off. This is a cartoon scheme that the Coyote would play on the Road Runner to get him to fall off a cliff.
The view from the peak, is admittedly beautiful and might make you a little less bitter about the trip to get there.
But then, you have to descend.
Remember that 400 feet you descended on the way down? Guess what you get to climb!
Remember that riverbed filled with white rocks that you crossed? Guess what is reflecting the heat of 1,000 hells back into your face?
If you can get past the riverbed without breaking an ankle due to tired legs and lack of coordination, you’ll make it to the wooded, shaded part of the trail, the part that was so beautiful when you started. You’ll think “ah, almost there.”
Except you’re not. This part will feel never ending. Each cabin you pass on the way out will be a bitter reminder of the civilization you left–for some reason–and that you may never return to.
And then, you come around the corner and you see cars! Glorious cars! It’s the parking lot!
Except, as it turns out, it is not the parking lot. It’s the pre-parking lot parking lot, where some people get to park for some reason. But not you. You didn’t get to park there. Your car is further down. And you still have to walk to get there.
Cucamonga Peak is not for the faint of heart. Even though it’s only number two on the Six Pack of Peaks, it is not the easiest by far. If you go, be sure to bring lots of water, a ton of sunblock, and a truck load of patience.
Especially that last one. Trust me, you’ll need it.