Companion blog: Adventures In Stoving

Monday, October 15, 2012

San Antonio Ski Hut

It was a beautiful fall day this past Saturday, a great day for a hike.  But where to go?  Well today I thought I'd head up to historic San Antonio Ski Hut built on the flanks of Mount San Antonio (10,064'/3068m) by the Sierra Club in 1937.
Historic San Antonio Ski Hut

Our journey starts at the trailhead on Mount Baldy Road in Manker Flat, just north of the town of Mount Baldy.  A word on nomenclature:  The official name of the highest peak in Los Angeles County is Mount San Antonio, but nearly everyone calls it "Mount Baldy."  When seen from a distance, particularly when snow-capped in the winter, the mountain does indeed appear to be "bald" (devoid of trees) when compared to the surrounding peaks.

The first part of the hike follows a paved road, suitable for all, including very young hikers.  I've quite literally seen people pushing baby strollers (perambulators) up the road.  This road, if followed all the way, goes to the downhill ski area at Baldy Notch.  Note:  The San Antonio Ski Hut is in a completely different area of the mountain than the commercial downhill ski area at Baldy Notch.
Ascending the paved road from Manker Flat

At the first major turn in the road, we're treated to this, a view of lovely San Antonio Falls.
San Antonio Falls, upper tier
San Antonio Falls, lower tier

San Antonio Falls is quite popular with canyoneers.
A canyoneer descending San Antonio Falls

After the first major bend, the road turns to dirt.  As one ascends, one comes to a junction with a trail that heads up hill to the left.  This is our route.
Junction of the trail to the ski hut (left) and the Baldy Notch road

The trail to the ski hut and the summit of Mount Blady that splits off from the Baldy Notch road is well signed...
Trail sign on the trail to the ski hut and the summit of Mount Baldy
...but the sign could be a bit misleading.  The trail with the name "Mount Baldy Trail" is of course another trail, the trail that goes from Mount Baldy village to the summit by way of Bear Flats.  This trail to the ski hut doesn't have an official name in the eyes of the USGS but is most commonly known as the "Ski Hut Trail" or the "Baldy Bowl Trail".  Perhaps the sign should read "Trail to Mt. Baldy" which sounds less like a name.

Soon after leaving the Baldy Notch road, one comes to a trail register.  It's been a while since my name has appeared in that register, and my daughter has never appeared in that register.  We quickly signed in, and...
Our names in the trail register en route to the ski hut
...I can now emphatically state that my daughter has appeared in that register!
Trail register en route to the ski hut and the summit of Mount Baldy

Shortly thereafter, one rounds the shoulder of a ridge, and one gets one's first look at the ski hut which appears deceptively close (particularly on maximum zoom on my camera).
San Antonio Ski Hut, zoomed in

The reality is that you've got a couple of miles (3km) and about 1400' (425m) of gain yet to go.
San Antonio Ski Hut, zoomed out

This little ridge is also an alternate route to the summit of Mount San Antonio.  In years past, the route was a true cross country route.  Now, the route has become so popular that a use trail has developed.
Junction of the Ski Hut Trail and the Register Ridge "Trail"

Looking back to the south, one starts to get some nice views of Ontario Peak and The Sugarloaf.  These views continue to improve as one ascends.
Ontario Peak (skylined) and The Sugarloaf (small peak in front of Ontario Peak)
The Sugarloaf

As one ascends further, Telegraph Peak begins to come into view.  The views to the east from the summit of Telegraph Peak are spectacular.
Telegraph Peak

The trail is in good shape and easily passable for the most part.  It's clear that recent significant maintenance has been done, perhaps by that most esteemed of groups, the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders, to whom all who pass here owe a debt of thanks.
Signs of recent (and very professional) trail maintenance

There are still three or four spots where the trail passes over rocks that might be somewhat difficult for backpackers carrying a full overnight pack or day hikers carrying a child.  I found myself glad to have trekking poles.

Climbing higher, we get better views of the Baldy Bowl.
The Baldy Bowl

The skiing in the bowl is excellent in season with many challenging chutes dropping in from the ridges above.  It is this bowl that inspired the construction by the Sierra Club in 1937 of San Antonio Ski Hut that sits just below the bowl.

As we approach the ski hut, the views get better still.  We can now see Cucamonga Peak, and if one looks closely, Bighorn Peak can be distinguished in front of Cucamonga Peak.
Cucamonga Peak (center, skyline) with Bighorn Peak just in front

We also come to some water, still running even now in late season.  
Water flowing just before the ski hut

There are three sources of water in and around the ski hut.  I've listed the details of that water in this companion post:  Water Sources at the Ski Hut

Looking up from the water, we see that we're nearly at our destination, the ski hut.
San Antonio Ski Hut, seen from just below

Also looking up from that seemingly tempting water, we see an outhouse.  
Ski hut (left) and outhouse (right)
Um, maybe you might want to check out that companion post of mine on water sources before you drink.  

Interestingly, I note that our historic ski hut from the 1930's has had some high tech upgrades.
Solar panels on the ski hut's roof
Presumably these solar panels provide power for lighting or perhaps even ventilation.

From the vicinity of the ski hut, one gets a better view of Telegraph Peak.  
Telegraph Peak (the leftmost summit)
In front of Telegraph Peak, one can see part of what appears to be one of the ski runs on Thunder Mountain.

Looking up, we get more views into the Baldy Bowl and the terrain that has lured skiers and winter mountaineers here over the years.
Looking up into Baldy Bowl

At long last, we arrive at the ski hut itself.
San Antonio Ski Hut as seen from the west
Estimates vary as to the length of the trip.  Tom Harrison lists the mileages at 0.9 miles from the trailhead in Manker Flats to the junction where the Ski Hut Trail takes off and 3.3 miles from the junction to the hut for a total of 4.2 miles one way.

The Sierra Club has been good stewards of the site, and there are many nice appointments in and around the hut such as this rustic log bench, which is quite popular with weary passers by as I'm sure you can imagine.
A most inviting spot to sit near the ski hut

There's also this one small picnic table with rustic seating, a perfect spot for a picnic.
A lovely spot for a little picnic

Looking around, we see that there are challenges aplenty for those inclined to the extreme, such as these pinnacles.
Pinnacles above Baldy Bowl

For those less extreme, there is still much to like.  My daughter found the front steps and entry of the hut to be a source of endless fascination.
The front steps of the ski hut

Of course, one could simply just take in the view.
The view to the south from San Antonio Ski Hut

So, whether your pursuits are extreme or prosaic, the ski hut is nice destination in a lovely setting.
The enchanting environs of the ski hut

Well, that's it for today's journey; time to head for home.
Descending from the ski hut

I thank you for joining me on a trip to the San Antonio Ski Hut on the slopes of Mount Baldy.



  1. Another awesome report Jim! I hope sometime next year your little girl can meet my little girl and go backpacking together.

  2. What a detailed photo report you have done here. Really appreciate the time you take to share these photos as well as the great story behind them. May I commend you on passing on the great outdoors to your child and teaching them the great values that come with all of this. I tip my hat to you as well.

    1. Thanks, Viscara. I wish I had time to do more, but now that I'm working again, it's tough.