Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bear Canyon Trail to Bear Flat

Bear Canyon trail is a nice hike along a small creek that will lead you to some stunning views of the surrounding peaks and the city below. The best part about this hike is the relatively low traffic compared to Ice House Canyon and other popular area trails.

From 210 freeway exit Baseline Road
Travel West 0.1 miles to Padua Ave Turn Right
Travel North 1.8 miles to Mt. Baldy Road Turn Right
Continue on Mt. Baldy Road until you reach Mt. Baldy Village
Make a Left on Bear Canyon Drive (travel through Mt. Baldy Village Church)
Continue up the road until you reach the gate and park on the right (there are about four spots, do not block the gate)
If the lot is full, Park at the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center and hike up the road.

From 10 Freeway exit Monte Vista Ave
Travel North on Monte Vista, it will turn into Padua Ave above the 210 freeway
Travel North 1.8 miles to Mt. Baldy Road Turn Right
Continue on Mt. Baldy Road until you reach Mt. Baldy Village
Make a Left on Bear Canyon Drive (travel through Mt. Baldy Village Church)
Continue up the road until you reach the gate and park on the right (there are about four spots, do not block the gate)
If the lot is full, Park at the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center and hike up the road.

View Larger Map
      Bear Canyon Trail is located in the middle of Mt. Baldy Village. It is a great trail that can take you to Bear Ridge or even Mt. San Antonio. You will be treated to some great views of the surrounding peaks and even get a bird's-eye view of Mt. Baldy Village along the way.

Old Glory, Pictures cannot capture the size of this tree.

     Before you trek down the trail, make sure you take the time to check out Old Glory.  Old Glory is the oldest and largest Bigcone Douglas Fir in Existence.  It is said to be 600-700 years old, 91 inches in diameter, and 173 feet tall.  Check out this entry for Bigcone Douglas Fir from the Forest Service.

     This is a great small hike, but it can turn into a 6 mile trek to Mt. San Antonio.  The hike to Bear Flat is still a formidible journey, with 1200 feet of elevation gain in 1.6 miles (depending on where you begin your hike).  So don't be fooled by the short distance of this hike, it still can present a great workout for you and your dog.  I would rate the hike as moderate difficulty.
Cross this bridge and you'll be at the trailhead
     The hike begins on Bear Canyon drive.  On your walk up the road to the trailhead, you will encounter a number of beautiful cabins much like Ice House Canyon.  Anytime from Spring to Fall will work for this hike depending on weather and snow fall.  In a year like this, there will be no snow on the ground even during winter.  So as always, check weather and conditions before you embark on your journey.
Bear Creek will serve as your soundtrack during the day

The official trail head for Bear Canyon/Mt. Baldy Trail
     After passing by a number of cabins on Bear Canyon Road, you will eventually reach the trail.  There will be plenty to see along the trail.  You will be under the shade of large conifers including Bigcone Douglas Firs and Incense Cedars.  When you're not under the big conifers, you will be shaded by oaks where you will even catch some ferns growing under the shade.  You will also encounter a portion of chaparral with Manzanita and Yucca.  The shaded areas will make for an enjoyable hike and the sun-lit areas are not numerous enough to make the hike unbearable.
Be prepared for some steep, rocky trails
     The trail is clear along the way, but there are not a lot of signs.  I didn't spot a mile marker on the way up.  The trail is rather steep and in some spots it is really narrow.  There really are no dangerous spots, but be sure to concentrate on the way up and down because there are some potentially slippery spots.  Also, be prepared for a lot of switchbacks.  Despite the short distance, be prepared for some work on the way up to the flat.  Keep an eye out for a few more cabins up here as well.  The cabins up her are built in some crazy places and it's amazing to think about the engineering and transport of materials to these remote areas.
Take the time to enyoy the Forest

Follow the trail sign to the right instead of traveling straight
     One of the few signs you will see along the trail is a Mt. Baldy Trail sign pointing to the right.  I suggest that you follow the sign.  You are able to travel straight and you will reach the creek.  Once you reach the creek you will be greeted by a bridge made of fallen tree parts.  After the bridges you will see a set of steep steps carved into the rock.  The steps are really steep and they don't seem like a good idea for a dog hike.  So follow the sign and turn right on Mt. Baldy Trail.
If you miss the sign you will see these bridges across the creek

Always take the time to view the surrounding peaks

On the south switchbacks be sure to look down at the view of the village
     As you exit the forest and enter the chaparral areas, be sure to enjoy the views below.  You will be treated to a great view of Mt. Baldy Village.  You can also look out through San Antonio Canyon for a view of Claremont and Upland.  Also, don't forget to look for the surrounding area peaks and see if you can identify any of them.

View of the foothill cities
     So what does the pup think?  There is plenty for you and your dog to see along this short hike.  I enjoyed the variety along the trail.  There are some opportunities for your dog to dip his feet, but there are not any large pools to swim in.  The trail is not highly trafficked, giving you an opportunity to have large sections of trail to yourself and your dog.  The few people I did see along the way did have dogs though, just a warning if your dog is overly aggressive.  The trail is relatively narrow, so be prepared to do some back-tracking to allow people to pass if necessary (remember that people travelling up the trail have the right-of-way).  If your dog pulls or has the tendency to chase squirrels, be very careful because you could get pulled over the edge of the trail and down a large hill.  Overall, Bear Canyon provides a nice little challenge for you and your dog if you are looking for a relatively short and quick day hike.
Travel through the chapparal of the sun-baked switchbacks

Oaks in a clearing, a few more steps to Bear Flat
     After leaving the last switchback, you will enter the shade once more. From here you will gradually climb to the flat. Half the distance takes place from here on out, but with no more switchbacks and a gradual incline it will take considerably less time. It does feel repetitive compared to the rest of the adventure, but you will reach the destination soon enough.
Bear Flat

     You made it!  There is not too much to see up here, but you can hike a little further to see some of the views.  Take a look to the east and see if you can spot any bighorn sheep.  If you have some time, use the clearing to set up a picknick and have lunch.  For the adventurous, you can continue up the trail to Bear Ridge.
Not so much a flat, just flatter than the surrounding area

Elevation Gain: 1200 feet
Distance:  3.6 - 4.0 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Around 2.5 hours total
Required Permits: Forest Adventure Pass
Where to Obtain Permits: Mt. Baldy Visitor Center (In Mt. Baldy Village 909-982-2829)  Buy a Forest Adventure Pass
Dog Approved: Yes!

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