Originally known as North Baldy, Mt. Baden-Powell was named in 1931 after Lord Robert Stevenson Smyth Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement. It is one of the most popular peaks in the San Gabriel mountains, with stunning views of the Mojave desert, Mount Baldy, and the Los Angeles Basin (when it isn't blanketed in brown haze...). The annual Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run passes over the peak in the fall (see "Miscellaneous Info below).
The main trail from Vincent Gap is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and is well-maintained. You will pass through several ecological zones, from Yellow Pine forest through white fir, lodgepole, and finally limber pine forest. The limber pines are particularly picturesque, and feature a 2,000 year-old grove on the summit ridge. If it's solitude you crave, this isn't your peak, but if you're looking for a fine hike of moderate difficulty and rewarding scenery, then climb on!
By far the most straightforward approach to Baden-Powell is from the Angeles Crest Highway (SR2). Wilderness approaches from the south are possible, but those who are hardy enough to attempt that will be left to their own devices...
From the North/East
Exit Interstate 15 about 3 miles below Cajon Summit and take SR138 West about 5-6 miles to SR2. Pass through the town of Big Pines and continue on about 5.5 miles to Vincent Gap. There is parking here, and the trail up the north side of the peak (part of the PCT; 4 miles one way, 2,800' gain, and 41(!) switchbacks) is well-marked.
The trail from Vincent Gap is the shortest way up, but is heavily traveled. If you're up for a longer day and want to escape the crowds, you may continue approximately 13-14 miles further west on SR2 to Islip Saddle. There is a large parking area here, and pit toilets. The PCT leaves from the south side of the road, and continues for eight miles of gentle, well-maintained trail, passing close by Mts. Islip, Hawkins, Throop Peak and Burnham en route to Baden-Powell. This is one of the most scenic walks in the San Gabriels. From the summit you can either retrace your steps or descend the 4 miles to Vincent Gap.
From the South/West
Exit Interstate 210 in the city of La Canada Flintridge at the SR2/Angeles Crest Highway offramp. Head north on SR2 for about 39 miles to Islip Saddle, or 53 miles to Vincent Gap. This is a highly scenic drive, and well worth the extra time.
There are other means of accessing the PCT than the ones mentioned above. John Robinson's Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels (Wilderness Press, ISBN 0-89997-041-9) is useful resource. It comes with maps and detailed descriptions of other hikes that may be combined with the standard PCT approaches mentioned above.
Baden-Powell lies in the Angeles National Forest. No permits are required, but parking in the ANF requires an "Adventure Pass" which is $30 for a year or $5 a day. Passes are available at ranger stations and most sporting goods stores in the area. Last time I got one, a ticket for failure to display a pass cost $15. The FS is pretty relaxed about it, though. If you have an adventure pass, but forgot to display it, you can mail the ticket in with your pass number and they'll waive the fine. You can also just go buy a pass after the fact and mail it in with your ticket.
The peak can be climbed year round. Summer can get fairly hot, so bring lots of water. There is a small spring about 1.5 miles up the PCT from Vincent Gap, but there is no other water.
Winter access can be problematic. SR2 is closed in the winter at Islip Saddle and Big Pines. The timing of the closure (and spring reopening) depends on the weather, but once it closes, you'll have to wait for spring. The ANF web site has a link to current road conditions.
There is no camping in the immediate vicinity, nor are there reasonable places to camp on the main trail except for Little Jimmy wilderness camp some 10 miles away. The ANF web site has information on what camping does exist.
Thanks to tonyo for this addendum (it is trip #82 in Robinson's book):
"Another interesting side trip, that begins on the same road as the hike to Vincent's cabin, is the hike to the Big Horn Gold Mine. Stay on the dirt road (it becomes more of a trail at some points) for just under two miles. At this point there will be a gate. Go through the gate to the mine. You will have to climb through an old building to get to the entrance. The mine has been blocked by an old steel door, but the last time I was there someone had cut the lock. Bring a flashlight. About 100 yards before you get to the mine you can find the remains of the miner's camp. Here I have found many core samples, along with small blocks of wood with, I believe, depths marked on them."
And this from socalmtneer (Note that the mine is private property, and venturing beyond the entrance could be life-threatening):
"If you are going into this mine - be very careful. The mine is a multi-level maze of tunnels. Quite often these tunnels are supported by slimy beams. The beams, and all of the wood in the mines (ladders etc.) are soaked from water absorbtion so take care if/when using the ladders of the mine. A great deal of the levels of the mine that are below the elevation of the entrance that is down the trail from the main entrance (first visible, though usually inaccessable entrance on the hike up) are under water. Care must be taken not to fall into these shafts when exploring the mine. When you enter the mine from the main entrance, there is usually water on the floor (usually about 3 to 4 inches deep). This water can often hide the water filled shaft openings as your light source will reflect off of the surface. There are angles however that a hole becomes visible so be observant. It would be wise to bring multiple light sources and a helmet (if not a parakeet in a cage as well) to explore this mine. If there is a map (???) of the mine then get one. If not then you will have to have a good memory to keep a bearing on your location. The tunnels often loop. This can be a wet and clausterphobic experience. Frogs and mice are sometimes found in the most remote dead end shafts of this mine. Very different day out.
"I spent a whole day in that mine a few years ago. I have followed at least a few tunnels through a loop and have been on multiple levels of this mine. Mines are mentally challenging sometimes. The light source factor is important. Also let someone know where you will be and exactly when you plan to return. It is a good summer day deal because the temp in the mine is almost always the same. Nice and cool in the summer."
Scott M. points out:
"The trail up Baden-Powell from Vincent Gap (PCT) is also part of the annual Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run held in late September (third Saturday) each year. Vincent Gap is the 13.85 mile point in the race. The race misses the very top of the mountain by strictly following the PCT toward Islip Saddle. Approximately 130 runners participate each year with a start time in Wrightwood of 5 AM. Lead runners will leave Vincent Gap at about 7:15 AM. You may notice a permanent sign placed by race participants at the junction of the PCT and the final leg of the trail to the summit. Lead runners will take less than one hour to reach this sign from Vincent Gap."