Mt. Baldy Hike via Bear Canyon and Run To The Top Race

run to the top, trail runners, running up the hill, mt. baldy, baldy,

This Mt. Badly hike via Bear Canyon was the first hike that I have done in the past 5 months or so. I had taken time off from hiking completely in order to concentrate on marathon training till regrettably my foot injury sidelined me several weeks ago. As it is healing, I’ve just started recovery runs, but since I could still feel slight discomfort, instead of pounding the pavement every time when I go for a run, I figured that walking on the dirt would be easier for the injured foot in particular (and the joints).

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade they say. My leg and foot injuries sidelined me for a few weeks now as I suspended my training for the two marathons. The training spanned almost six months, and for that I decided to defer every hiking opportunity till mid-September this year.

For runners injury happens. However, it really sucks when it happens only a few weeks prior to a race that you’ve been training for.

While I have been taking a break from it all, I started itching for hiking.

Thanks to the long Labor Day weekend, I had an extra day to squeeze in a couple of outdoor activities that I love – SUPing and hiking. As for hiking, I picked Mt. Baldy via Bear Canyon, which reopened some time in August after a year-long closure due to severe floods last year.

And I wanted to see how my injured foot holds up while hiking. A strenuous one.

sunrise, sunrise glow, mt. baldy, baldy, bear canyon,

Our plan was to start as early as possible and go up via Bear Canyon and come down on the Devil’s Backbone to Baldy Notch and then come out via Maker Flat. Hence, shuttling was part of the plan, and my friend Brena and I decided to meet up at the Manker Flat parking lot, leave one car there and drive back to Baldy Village.

We began our hike at 5:17 am from the church parking lot.

Bear Canyon was closed for a whole year till late August this year due to the severe flood damages back in July last year. I still remember seeing all the damages in the trail. Because some parts were completely washed off, it was a bit challenging to cross. Many short bushes and plants near Baldy Flat were either completely disappeared or severely destroyed.

As we were hiking up the trail, I noticed that the parts washed off were restored with dirt and rocks, thanks to all the volunteers.

sunrise, sunrise glow, mt. baldy, baldy, bear canyon,

The sunrise glow started filling the sky. The darkness dissipated gradually, and things began to be seen in colors again.

Mt. Baldy, baldy, bear canyon, sun rose, sunrise, warm,

And soon the sun rose above the skyline of the mountains. It was going to get nothing but warm from this point on.

bear flat, mt. baldy, baldy, bear canyon, bear canyon trail,

There are many reasons why I love hiking Baldy via Bear Canyon, but one of them is definitely the views from this point. I believe that the part seen in these two photo above and below is called Bear Flat (but I could be wrong about this) and this is the part that gets me excited every time I hike via Bear Canyon. This is where I start seeing clearly Santiago Peak looming in the distance.

bear flat, mt. baldy, baldy, bear canyon, bear canyon trail,

Frankly hiking Baldy isn’t as exciting as hiking San Gorgonio or San Jacinto, let alone all the trails in the Sierra Nevada. It isn’t as high as the other two peaks, and it is extremely exposed, so it gets quite hot if one doesn’t start early.

But it is located half the distance away from my place (which is the reason why it is very popular among hikers), compared to the other two peaks. And unlike other trails, such as Baldy Bowl a.k.a.. Ski Hut, Register Ridge, or Fire Road, Bear Canyon provides quite a bit of scenic views. And it is steeper than most of the trails to Mt. Baldy summit (a.k.a. San Antonio Peak), which means it is shorter in distance.

bear flat, mt. baldy, baldy, bear canyon, bear canyon trail, This is one of the most easily recognizable landmarks on Bear Canyon.

The dead tree has stood there for who knows how long, but those who are familiar with the trail knows that he/she has 1/3 of the distance left to go to reach the peak once the tree is in sight.

run to the top race, trail running race, summit, mt. baldy, baldy,

Brena and I reached the summit within a couple of minutes apart around 8:30 am. The thing is that there shouldn’t be many hikers, or at least not as many as seen in the photo, at the time. But there they were.

Who are these people?

Soon we learned that there was a race happening!

Run To The Top. One of the local trail running races to Mt. Baldy summit from the ski lifts parking lot.

run to the top, trail running race, map,mt. baldy, baldy,

7 plus miles with 4,000 feet elevation gain!

run to the top race, trail running race, summit, mt. baldy, baldy, first runner darting toward the finish line,

While we were having ‘lunch’ and getting ready for a descent, we saw the first runner darting up the hill toward the finish line. People, mostly race organizers, volunteers, and some hikers, cheered as he crossed the finish line.

1 hour and 12 minutes

Pretty impressive.

And a few minutes later, the second and the third were charging up the hill. And other runners soon followed.

By the way, I was also told that the record is still being held by a 11-year-old boy at the time whose time was an hour and two minutes.

run to the top, trail runners, running up the hill, mt. baldy, baldy,

As we were heading down the hill while appreciating the view of San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Peaks in the far distance, more runners were coming up – some still running and some barely hiking up the last stretch of the hill.

run to the top, trail runners, running up the hill, mt. baldy, baldy,

This portion is notorious in that it gets extremely difficult to climb when it is very hot. Of course, it was not even 10 am, and the strong breeze blew across the ridge, so I had a feeling that they didn’t find it too hot. But I am pretty sure that it must’ve been extremely exhausting.

run to the top, trail runners, running up the hill, mt. baldy, baldy,  Later I realized that I also took a shot of the winner of the race whose bib reads 2 (2nd in blue top from left) when I was aiming to snap a shot of our friend walking up the hill.

Brena and I actually ran into one of our hiking friends who was running the race that day. She recognized us first but passed us by and kept running, which happened so fast, so I couldn’t take a single picture of her running towards us. Instead, I took a couple of shots from behind as she was ‘cat walking’ up the hill.

After the Devil’s Backbone, the runners were thinning out, and by the time we reached Baldy Notch, there were no runners coming up, other than those who were returning to the notch after reaching the summit. Some, like our friend, headed straight down the fire road back to where it all began – the ski lift parking lot. She caught up with us this time while we were walking down the fire road back to Manker Flat and caught up with each other for a bit. It was good seeing her.

She is the type of hiker who enjoys not only hiking but also trail running such as the race that day. She has already done R2R2R, which I’d love to try once my marathon dream comes true.

What is your favorite trail to Mt. Baldy summit and why? Have you hiked Mt. Baldy via Bear Canyon? Have you ever run the Run To The Top race?

Thanks for reading.

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About H Peter Ji Photography

I am a photographer. My photos have been sold on EyeEm, Adobe Stock and ShutterStock and also featured on ViewBug and G+ Landscape Photography Community, and via Death Valley National Park Instagram and Facebook. My work is the natural byproduct of my love for outdoors - backpacking, hiking and camping in nature.

2 responses to “Mt. Baldy Hike via Bear Canyon and Run To The Top Race”

  1. Yann Gourvennec says :

    Very nice pictures. Great story.


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