The sky was a deep, cloudless blue. The only sounds came from the occasional wind through the sparse trees and the crunching of my boots on the trail. I had just climbed nearly 3,000 vertical feet to the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell (9,399′) — one of the highest mountains in the San Gabriel mountains. The stunning 360° views made those 40 switchbacks worth climbing.
Getting to the Vincent Gap Trailhead
Vincent Gap is a popular trailhead a few miles outside of Wrightwood on Highway 2. There is plenty of parking and there are pit toilets. The Vincent Gap is on the backside of the mountains from the LA basin, so it takes some time to get there, but it’s worth it. Get your driving directions.
Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell Trail
The trail begins at the west end of the parking lot, and immediately begins a relentless ascent up the north ridge to the summit. You are actually hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail — the 2,600 mile trail from Mexico to Canada.
The trail follows a well-engineered series of switchbacks through shaded forest. And just at the moment when you think “Wow, I could use a breather,” this bench appears.
As you continue climbing the forty switchbacks, you’ll see a spur trail that leads 200 yards east to the dribbling pipe known as Lamel Spring.
Hiking this trail you can watch the climate zone change as you gain elevation. The thick forest thins out, and closer to the summit are replaced by weathered and twisted limber pines.
When you reach this ridge line, you’re almost to the summit. The trail here skirts the top of the ridge, with steep slopes in both directions. When covered with ice and snow, this can be particularly treacherous, as you can imagine.
On the far end of the ridge, but before the final climb to the summit you’ll see the gnarled and twisted roots of the Wally Waldron tree. This 1,500 year old limber pine is said to be the oldest in the San Gabriel mountains, and named for a noted Boy Scout leader and volunteer.
One last push and the rounded summit of Mt. Baden-Powell comes into view. When you see the monument, you have arrived.
There summit itself is quite exposed, but there are a few clusters of trees where you’ll find shade and a great spot for a lunch break. When you’ve had your fill of the views, retrace your steps to Vincent Gap.
Hiking Mt Baden-Powell is a challenging hike, a great workout with rewarding views. Hike this!
Mt. Baden-Powell Trail Map
PRO TIP: I track all my hikes using GaiaGPS. It’s the best solution for staying on the right trail, it works even when you don’t have cell service, and there are versions for iOS and Android. The app is free, and you can get a discounted membership for maps here.
Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.
All of these photos were from our hike on July 5, 2014.
Mt. Baden-Powell Tips
- This trail can be hot. We hiked this on a moderately warm day, but started early. By afternoon, I was glad that we were headed downhill and not up.
- Bring the ten essentials, and carry 2-3 liters of water. I carried 3 liters and drank it all by the time we finished.
More Mt. Baden-Powell Resources
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