Cucamonga Wilderness 5 Peak Day Hike

Cucamonga Wilderness 5 Peak Day Hike

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 34.22250°N / 117.5842°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 26, 2006
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Trip Statistics

Leader: Tom (Bechtt)
Travis Linds (Travis_)

Peak Elevation and SP pages.
Sugarloaf Peak (6924 feet). Route to Sugarloaf: Falling Rock Canyon
Ontario Peak (8693 feet)
Bighorn Peak (8441 feet)
Cucamonga Peak (8859 feet)
Etiwanda Peak (8662 feet)

Start time: 7:00 am
End time: 4:00 pm
Total Trip Time = 9 hours

Map of area. 1:24k Series
o34117b6 MT BALDY

5 Peaks Elevation ProfileElevation Profile:
GPS Track of 5 peaks hikeGPS Route:


Panoramic of Peaks Panoramic of Sugarloaf, Ontario and Bighorn (With Baldy in the background)

The name "Cucamonga" was derived from an old Spanish rancheria nearby. The meaning has been variously interpreted as "sandy place" or "place of many springs." That may describe the rancheria, but not the Cucamonga Wilderness, located at the east end of Southern California's San Gabriel range. The steep, rugged terrain rises abruptly from the urban San Bernardino Valley, ranging from approximately 5,000 feet to almost 9,000 feet. Most of the streams are intermittent and water is scarce, but the Wilderness offers a handy retreat to a beautiful sub-alpine setting on 18 miles of trails for the nearby suburban population. Numerous wildlife species do well in the area, including deer, bear, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep. The Cucamonga Wilderness is managed jointly by the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests

Sugarloaf Peak

Climbing Falling Rock Canyon Falling Rock Canyon

It was a cold, clear morning as Tom and I left the cars at the Icehouse Canyon parking lot. Whereas the city below was engulfed in clouds, we were well above the cloud layer and the sky was a bright clear blue that you only seem to see when the weather is cold. We started up the Icehouse Canyon trail, passed a couple of the cabins along the creek (commenting how I could live in one of these) and then diverted off the trail to intersect Falling Rock Canyon. There is no questioning how this canyon got its name, I even smelt that distinct smell of crushed rock at one point, indicating freshly falling rocks. The hike up the canyon was, in my opinion, the best part of the hike. Even though there was a lot of scree at the top, the class 2 and 3 sections were fun. We left the canyon earlier than we needed to in order to meet up with the saddle for Sugarloaf Peak. All we needed to do was stay straight when the canyon veered to the left to catch the saddle. Instead we ended up further up the ridge closer to Sugarloaf. From the ridge it was a simple walk to the summit, signed the very tattered summit log, enjoyed the beautiful views and went on our way to Ontario.

Ontario Peak

User Profile ImageOntario Peak "Summit Block"

We backtracked from Sugarloaf, past the point that we joined the ridge on our ascent and then descended to the saddle between the Peaks. From the saddle we followed the main ridge all the way to the top, just to the north of Ontario Peak. There is not much of a trail, but there are ducks almost all the way up the ridge. In my opinion, there are too many ducks. I like the feeling of accomplishment of finding your own route rather than following rock piles. Not to mention that it would be fairly difficult to lose the ridge. Anyway, we reached the top of the ridge at a peaklette just east of the summit, which prompted a discussion on what classifies a peak versus a peaklette (sub-peak, ridge spur, I am not sure which is the preferred title). A short traverse along the ridge and we were at the summit of Ontario Peak with an even better view than sugarloaf. We could not resist getting a summit shot atop of the “summit block” rock, even though it was not the true summit (and not a summit block either). The pen did not work in the register so we were not able to sign this one. On to Bighorn…

Bighorn Peak

Ice formed on Tree Ice Formations on Tree

We followed the ridgeline from Ontario East to another peaklette, false Ontario Peak (?). There is actually a register here, with working pens, so we signed this one in lieu of the true Ontario Peak. Our conversation regarding what makes a peak versus peaklette continued, wondering if today might actually qualify as a 6 peak epic hike. We were following the Ontario Peak Trail, which leads up the Icehouse Saddle, but left the trail to stay on the ridge about midway to Bighorn Peak. We followed the ridge to the summit of Bighorn Peak. The cloud level was rising and you could see that the saddle between Bighorn Peak and Cucamonga was engulfed in fog/clouds and it was blowing heavily across the saddle. Later, I was very surprised to see that the heavy moisture was actually freezing onto a tree branches, which formed interesting ice formations (see picture). We had a snack, I tried to force down some of my heavy Fig Cake from Trader Joes, had a couple of Tom's peanut butter crackers and continued on our merry way.

Cucamonga Peak

On top of Cucamonga Peak Travis on top of Cucamonga Peak
Cool Tree Near Cucamonga PeakCool tree near Cucamonga Peak

The trek to Cucamonga peak was tough. As you can see in the elevation profile, it is almost 1500 feet from Bighorn saddle to the summit and the accumulative elevation to the summit was now over 6500 feet. We were now following the Cucamonga Peak Trail and it was well graded, which seemed to help. We passed 4 other hikers during our ascent, the first we had seen throughout the entire day. The view from the top of Cucamonga was the best yet and we had been watching the battle between the clouds and the Mountains all afternoon. The clouds rose trying to engulf the mountains, but the mountains prevailed and fought down the clouds (so it seemed). At one point Cucamonga was covered in clouds, but now the clouds had receded and we were just above the thick cloud bank. This made for a real surreal atmosphere. But we had lingered today more that we both planned and had to finish our trek, so off we went once again.

Etiwanda Peak and Beyond...

Fire Damage from Etiwanda Peak Etiwanda Peak Fire damage along East face

Etiwanda was an easy hike from Cucamonga, only approximately 300 ft additional gain. We quickly made it to the top, surveyed the summit, took some photos and signed the logbook. The destruction from this year's fire was bad, the entire east face of the mountain was scorched. The destruction was depressing, hard to image that the area would ever recover. But then we discussed how fire is a natural process and we would be surprised at how quickly a burnt area can recover. I plan to be back and access the recovery for myself someday. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled line....(sorry, pink floyd lyrics popped into my head, see section below).

The journey back to the trailhead was uneventful. We had some additional elevation to get back up to the saddle at Cucamonga and well as to get to Icehouse Saddle. It was also getting colder, especially in the shade. It was clouding over and even started to look and feel like it could snow. I always enjoy the section of the trail through Icehouse Canyon that follows the creek. Very picturesque with the fall/winter scene, cold, clear water flowing and remains of old homesteads. Again my mind wanders and I image living in one of these old cabins, or possibly even repairing one of the dilapidated ones for myself. I can tell I am finally approaching the trailhead by the look and quantity of people I am now passing. Finally, after 9 hours, I am back at my car. A great hike. I realize on my drive home that a trip report has already been formed in my head, I think I am hooked on these damn things. Oh well, why resist.

Summit Video set to Pink Floyd - Time

Pink Floyd - Time
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but youre older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought Id something more to say


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-4 of 4
Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Nov 28, 2006 6:18 pm - Voted 10/10

Very Nice Report

I still have to pick up Sugarloaf and Etiwanda and Rockfall Canyon sounds fun. You've got a couple of great shots. I like the Pink Floyd lyrics.


Travis_ - Nov 28, 2006 6:21 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Very Nice Report

If you are viewing the TR at work you won’t be able to view the video, but it is a compilation of the 5 summit approaches set to Pink Floyd - Time, that is why I have the lyrics.



sierradiscgolfer - Nov 29, 2006 9:45 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Stuff

Wonderful Trip report.So much good info. I often wondered how it would be going up to Ontario from Sugarloaf. You give an excellent feel for the trip. I also plan to do Etiwanda someday(soon I hope)so again your insight is great. Thanks.


bajaandy - Nov 30, 2006 6:43 pm - Voted 10/10

Local knowledge

Nice to hear about our some of our local mountains. Great trip report.

Viewing: 1-4 of 4