Overview: A Contribution to the Theory of RelativityThis mountain has some character owing to (1) the navigational challenges in getting to it and (2) its role in the measurement of the speed of light in the 1920’s. Granted, it has a commonplace name. It first appeared on a U.S. Forest Service map in 1926 as “Baldy Lookout.”
It is reported that the first lookout tower in southern California existed on this summit between 1914 and 1927. So it seems that maybe it should be called Lookout #1. In any event, the lookout was subsequently removed to nearby Sunset Peak.
A Caltech professor and first American winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1907, A.A. Michelson, measured the speed of light by projecting a beam of light from a rotating mirror on Mt. Wilson, 22 miles away, towards a parabolic mirror constructed on the summit of Lookout and reflecting the beam back to Wilson. Yep, it turned out to be 186,000 miles per second. Apparently, Einstein acknowledged to Prof. Michelson that the latter’s experiment had paved the way for the Theory of Relativity.
All that remains on the summit of Lookout’s contribution to science are three concrete foundations which supported the parabolic mirror.
This peak is not easy to get to. The least difficult route is from Cow Canyon Saddle, a 4-mile round trip with 2,900 feet of gain. From the trailhead parking area, pass the gate going into Baldy Ranch and hike north up the road to a flat area where the road turns left and starts to go downhill.
Where the road goes left, you will see a ridge with a firebreak immediately in front of you.
As you approach the summit, the use trail will go to the right. You will now be climbing and traversing under the summit. Continue to a ridge that comes down the east side of the peak. Go left and climb up, or just below, this ridge to the peak’s main ridge. At this point, go left (south). Now, pick your way through any openings in the thick manzanita and buckthorn to the summit.
On a clear day, you can see the ocean and Catalina Island from Lookout’s summit. To the east, the uniquely-shaped Sugarloaf Peak, and surrounding peaks like Thunder Mountain, also provide superb scenery.
This route begins on the Bear Canyon Trail near the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center. The route begins by going to Bear Flat and then into the west fork of Bear Canyon. It eventually reaches a saddle north of Lookout and then you reach the summit by going south up through the brush. The foregoing is only a general reference to the route and is not intended as even a general description of the entire route. Although the route is only Class 1, navigation is difficult. This route is 10 miles round trip with 2,800 feet of gain. For a detailed route description see the Sierra Club’s HPS website for this mountain.
Like Route 2, this route also begins on the Bear Canyon Trail near the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center. You take the trail to elevation 4,800 feet where you leave it to embark on a canyon route that eventually joins up with the saddle at elevation 5,480 feet that is part of Route 1. The foregoing is only a general reference to the route and is not intended as even a general description of the entire route. Although the route is only Class 2, navigation is difficult. This route is 4 miles round trip with 2,600 feet of gain. For a detailed route description see the Sierra Club’s HPS website for this mountain.
Getting ThereFrom the 210 Freeway, exit at Baseline Road in the City of Claremont. At the bottom of the off-ramp, turn left (west) on Baseline Road and go to Padua Ave., the very next traffic light. Turn right on Padua and go north 1.8 miles to Mt. Baldy Road. Go right on Mt. Baldy Road and continue for about 8 miles to Glendora Ridge Road in Mt. Baldy Village.
For Route 1, turn left onto Glendora Ridge Road and in one mile you will be at Cow Canyon Saddle. The parking area on the right marked by the large Cow Saddle sign was, as of January 27, 2007, designated “no parking.” But there is plenty of parking along the opposite side of the road. From the parking area, the route begins past the gate into Baldy Ranch.
For Routes 2 and 3, continue on Mt. Baldy Road past the Glendora Ridge Road junction less than a mile to the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center on your left in Mt. Baldy Village. Park in the Visitor’s Center parking lot or along Mt. Baldy Road.
Routes 2 and 3 begin on Bear Canyon Trail. To get there, hike past the church on Bear Canyon Drive, which road is about 200 feet south of the Visitor’s Center. The road becomes Bear Canyon Trail. Be aware that the Bear Canyon Trail is called the “Baldy Trail” on the USGS topo Mt. Baldy 7.5 (1967 PhotoRevised 1988).
Red TapeAt this time, no permits are required for hiking any of the routes mentioned above even though this mountain is within the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area. However, you will need an Adventure Pass to park your car at Cow Canyon Saddle or the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center. You can purchase one ($5 per day or $30 for a yearly pass) at the Baldy Visitor’s Center on Mt. Baldy Road. Or you can buy a pass at most Southern California sporting goods stores.
The beginning of Route 1 is along a paved road that is on private property so you should have permission to hike this short section. The Sierra Club’s Hundred Peaks Section website for this mountain has available a “permission to walk” slip from Baldy Ranch LLC that you can copy and carry with you. Go to that link and hit "permission slip" under "Special Conditions" for Hiking Route 1.
CampingManker Flat is the closest campground in the area. It is, however, several miles away from Cow Canyon Saddle and the Baldy Visitor’s Center.
When to ClimbYear round, except that you may encounter snow and/or icy conditions during the winter months. Accordingly, come prepared with appropriate gear for the conditions.
Mountain ConditionsCheck the Mt. Baldy website www. mtbaldy.com for Mt. Baldy weather conditions.
Other InformationUSGS Topos Mt. Baldy 7.5 Mt. San Antonio 7.5
Particularly on Routes 2 and 3, an altimeter may be very useful in your navigation.
External LinksMt. Baldy website
Angeles National Forest
Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section website