Distance: 8ish mile round trip
Time: 80 minutes to the summit, not sure of the total for the route we took back down
Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
Difficulty: fitness-wise, easy; terrain-wise, easy (on the fire road), moderate (on the firebreaks—includes scrambling!); navigation-wise, easy
Drive: 45 minutes (38 miles) from old town Pasadena, via the 210, Mt Baldy Rd, and Glendora Ridge Rd
Trails of the Angeles hike no. 90, or Modern Hiker here, for the basic there-and-back route (no firebreak excursion!)
The route up Sunset, the lowest of the Baldy Bowl peaks, is on a fire road, gradually gaining elevation relative to the road you drove in on, with northwesterly views across Cow Canyon to the High Country of Hawkins et al. right from the start. Keep left at the first fork, right at the second, and left at the third, but otherwise there’s not much to the navigation. The first section of the track is through shrubbery, the rest up to near the top through pines, and it’s all north-facing so plenty of shade (if you like shade). After about 50 minutes the fire road gets to a hairpin where there are San Bernadino views to the southeast for the first time, and then the trees start giving way to Spanish bayonets; we were at the top 80 minutes from the start.
The views from the summit are delightful: north to Pleasant View ridge, east to Baldy, south to the city sprawl, and west along the Front Range as far as Wilson and Strawberry.
I seem not to have kept notes on this expedition, which is annoying, but from the summit we decided not just to come back the way we’d come, but instead followed the firebreak trail along the ridge to the southwest: lots of fun up and down with excellent views all round. We stopped for lunch on one of the hot sandy knolls. Then at some point (about an hour from the summit, but that includes indeterminate picnic time!) we turned right (north-ish) onto a section of path (well, just another firebreak) heading back down into the valley we’d come from. This dropped down a narrow ridge that after half an hour led us back down to the fire road (just under 3 hours from the start, including lunch). Eventually we got back to the first fork we’d come to, approaching now from what would have been the right (sorry, no timings for this last stretch). It made a fun loop, but did involve some running down steep dusty slopes that may not be for everyone!
Sorry for the rubbish description. Maybe we’ll come back some day and do a better one. Meanwhile the pictures are good.
The start of the track up from the road.
Lovely northwesterly views right from the start.
Climbing up through the scrub.
First San Bernadino view.
San Gorgonio (SoCal’s highest peak) via the Mt Baldy Road.
Final stretch up to the summit.
Remains of a lookout tower.
The smog to the south…
…Baldy to the east…
…the Front Range to the west….
…and a panorama cos why not.
Heading west down the firebreak.
Bouncing down the hill.
Said hill from below.
A much statelier adventurer.
Our turn to the north.
Baldy from round the back.
Firebreak no. 2, with the fire road we’re aiming for down in the bottom right and the sharp kink of Baden Powell in the distance.
More firebreak fun, in sensible explorer mode…
…and less so.
And successfully reunited with the fire road.