Cucamonga Peak offers amazing views over Southern California’s Inland Empire, east toward Apple Valley and beyond. This hike from Icehouse Canyon is a strenuous 11.6 mile out-and-back route with 4,300 feet of vertical gain and a top elevation of 8,859′. The north-facing slope holds snow much later in the season than other peaks. There were several sections of the trail that were covered with large patches of snow even in June.
Time: ~7 hours
Elevation gain: 4,300 ft
When to go: June-October
This hike is the second in my Six-Pack of Peaks series of training hikes that I originally used to train for the hiking the John Muir Trail. This hike features substantial vertical elevation gain and introduced higher altitude — though still just shy of 9,000′
We stopped at the ranger station in Baldy Village and picked up our permit. Yes, permits are required even for day hikes in the Cucamonga Wilderness. Party size is limited to 12, the permits are free, and you can call the day before (909-982-2829) and the ranger will pin it to the bulletin board out in front for you to pickup in the morning. Otherwise the ranger station opens at 7am.
Pro Tip #1 - Make the call to reserve your permit in advance, or you’ll have to wait for the ranger station to open. By that time, you will have to park far down the hill from the trailhead.
Pro Tip #2 – If you have a group larger than 12, don’t think that you can just get two permits. If a ranger determines that a larger group (> 12) is actually together, even with two permits, you could be fined. Instead, split into smaller groups by pace, each with their own leader (who’s name should be on the permit).
The trail begins at the popular Icehouse Canyon trailhead about a mile beyond Mt. Baldy Village.
The Icehouse Canyon trail is a beautiful, well-forested trail that parallels babbling Icehouse Creek. There is lots of parking at the trailhead (Adventure Pass required) but due to the popularity, it fills up early. We started our hike at 7am and the parking lot still had a few spaces, but was quickly filling up.
There are a number of cabins in the lower canyon that are still in use, as well as the remains of many more that have been destroyed by flood or fire over the years. It’s a beautiful trail but extremely popular. At times it felt like rush hour on the 5 with long lines of hikers and few places to pass.
Icehouse Saddle makes a good place to break for a snack and regroup. There are five separate trails that come together at this junction. You want to look for the Cucamonga Peak trail sign. From here it’s only 2.4 miles to the summit, but they are steep and often hot miles.
The north face of Cucamonga holds snow much later in the season. Even in June, we hit many patches of snow that covered the trail, but nothing that required any technical equipment. Still, our trekking poles were much-appreciated.
Once you reach this marker to the summit, you’re almost there. And if it’s a clear day, you are rewarded with amazing views in every direction.
Retrace your steps for the return trip, which is nearly all downhill. One pleasant surprise. On our return trip down Icehouse Canyon, there were literally thousands of ladybugs flying about — a good omen for next week’s hike up Baldy!
- Permits are required even for day hikes. Call ahead the day before and ask them to post it on the bulletin board.
- National Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking at the trailhead. Parking fills up quickly. Carpool and get there early.
- There is water available in Icehouse Canyon, but treat or filter before drinking. The second half of the trail is dry. I would recommend two liters for this dry and often hot section of the trail.
- The second half of the trail is steep, dry and exposed. On a hot summer day, I would opt to hike a different trail.
Trail Map and Elevation Profile
I’ve posted even more photos on Flickr.
- Call Mt. Baldy Ranger Station (sometimes called the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center) at (909) 982-2829 to get your permit
- Trailhead location on Google Maps
- Download the GPX file (right-click and Save Link As…)
- 3D trail view in Google Earth
Title photo credit: Erik Nielsen. All other photos: Jeff Hester
Baldy Village Weather Forecast