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Pacific Crest Trail: Mount Baden-Powell

Tackle this Southern California bucket-list climb in the San Gabriel Mountains

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Day hike or backpack: 8.4 miles RT to Mount Baden-Powell

Starting about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the ascent up Mount Baden-Powell is a rite of passage for Southern California hikers. The 9,399-foot mountain, named for Lord Robert Baden-Powell, a British Army officer and founder of the Boy Scouts, is one of the most prominent peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains. The peak sits directly across the East Fork San Gabriel River Basin from 10,064-foot Mount Baldy, giving its summit vista a visual punch—much of the rugged San Gabriel Range is spread out at your feet.

Getting to the top requires a substantial 2,800-foot elevation gain, but the PCT’s dozens of long, meandering switchbacks make it manageable. Before you park your car at Vincent’s Gap, make sure you get a National Forest Adventure Pass and hang it from your car’s rear-view mirror.

From Vincent Gap’s southwest edge, follow the Pacific Crest Trail through a forest of oak, sugar pine, and Jeffrey pine, and as you gain elevation, lodgepole pine. Forty-one long switchbacks maintain a steady, moderate grade. The higher you go, the more interesting the trees—the ridge near the summit is a botanist’s delight, home to ancient limber pines. The PCT passes right by the gnarled Wally Waldron Tree, a more than 1,500-year-old limber pine named for a Boy Scout leader.

After four miles, leave the PCT and follow the short Baden-Powell spur trail on your left. The 9,399-foot summit is marked by a concrete and steel monument to the Boy Scout founder. From the top, you can see more than a vertical mile below you to the East Fork San Gabriel River Basin. Mount Baldy is prominent, as is the Mojave Desert, Catalina Island, Mount San Jacinto, and Mount San Gorgonio. On the clearest of days, it’s possible to pick out the mountains of the southern Sierra Nevada.

This wind-blown, desolate spot is the highest point along the Silver Moccasin Trail, a 53-mile-long hike that thousands of Southern California Boy Scouts have completed. Backpackers who want to spend the night can find a few campsites on the south side of the peak, below tree line. Expect plenty of company, especially on full moon nights.

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