High Altitude, Remote Wilderness Experience at Mt. Baldy – California’s Angeles National Forest

In a remote place with no cell phone reception, you can step away from the demands of a busy city life, and just breathe! Although there is a lot of scientific research to support the claim, it’s no big secret that active adventuring, surrounded by nature, is good for the mind and the body.

Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts, Inc. refers to time spent on the California mountain, as a “high altitude, remote wilderness experience”. For $25 roundtrip, the Sugar Pine Chair Lift will take you up 1300 feet, giving you access to miles and miles of hiking trails, including a route across Devils Backbone, to the mountain’s summit.

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The 2-person lift moves slowly up the mountain, allowing you time to take in the scrubby scenery & vast pine forest, and scan for active wildlife. The trip up the mountain is about 17 minutes, and travels about 1 mile, from your car or RV in the parking lot, to its singular stop, at the door of the Top of the Notch Restaurant. The restaurant is vegetarian friendly, and boasts about its drinking water, from local springs and wells.

 

Once you make it to the restaurant you are at 7800ft, and you’ll have a chance to take in an incredible view, while you sip a glass of wine on the overlook!

I was visiting late in the day, and just made the last trip up. Being just about the only visitors to the lift’s turnaround point, it was nice to take a moment to soak in the environment, so different than what I’m used to in Central Ohio. It was quiet, and vast. Colors and textures blanketed the surrounding land, and I wished I had a week to hike, and camp, and sit quietly looking out at the view.

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The isolation, from the rest of the bustling world below, and from constant access to technology, was welcomed! If necessary, you can get cell phone coverage in Mt. Baldy Village, at the Fire Station, for 911 calls only. The lift’s website warns visitors that they “are geographically located a substantial distance from advanced medical care, and rescue efforts may be complicated by rapidly changing weather.” In the mountains weather concerns are always present, temperatures drop quickly as the sun goes down, and weather patterns can shift unexpectedly.

Warning:  Hypothermia Danger and Altitude Sickness Danger

Chairlift 1 transports passengers an elevation of 1300 vertical feet into alpine conditions where extreme cold can be dangerous, especially for young and older guests.  Warm multi-layered, winter clothing, hats and boots are essential to the safety of everyone being transported on the lift and participating in activities in an alpine environment.  Mt Baldy Ski Lifts Inc reserves the right to refuse service for safety concerns. http://mtbaldyskilifts.com/faq/

But if you are up for an adventure, remember to pack your hiking boots, and are not bothered by a fear of heights, then the scenic trip on the lift is worth the cost, if you make a day of it. Even when it’s not ski season, a day of hiking is very rewarding. I was there until just before sunset, and the lift operators offered to take us down in a company van, to speed the trip, as the temperatures dropped. But I declined, wanting to prolong the time I had on the mountain. And I’d paid for a roundtrip experience!

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Plan your trip wisely, and be careful not to enjoy too many glasses of wine before boarding the lift for the return trip down to the parking lot. In the facility’s FAQ, under “altered mental states”, visitors are firmly cautioned – “Persons should not use alcohol or any intoxicating substance and consult their doctor regarding prescription drug use.” Noted. You wouldn’t want to slide out of the lift seat!

Dogs are not allowed on the lift itself, but hiking access for pets with their two-legged companions is easily found. I’m not sure you’d want to attempt bringing a dog on the lift in the first place. Canines, no matter their size, cannot typically be trusted not to bound, swing, or engage in horseplay, which posted warnings caution against.

There is also little more than a restraining bar, lowered across your lap, to keep you on the lift. These generally can’t be guaranteed to keep you in your seat, and you’d better have a good hold on your cell phone, if you’re planning to lean over the edge to snap a photo. It would never survive a fall onto the hard rocks below.

A few other cautions:

While rare, encounters with black bears do happen.

Storage of food or food waste should be considered hazardous.

Campfires are NOT permitted.

All over the state of California signs alert travelers and locals alike to the current level of risk for wildfires, distinct from controlled burns, from “Low” to “Extreme”. Since 1944 Smokey Bear, a conservationist figure and educator of young children, has campaigned to prevent these fires, caused by human carelessness.

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Smokey was brought to life in 1950, in the form of a stranded bear cub, trapped in the middle of an out of control New Mexican fire. The cub survived the fire, by climbing high into a flaming tree, but his little paws and hind legs were badly burned – rescue efforts brought him much needed medical care. As the living symbol of Smokey Bear, the cub found a home at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, where he inspired outdoor enthusiasts for 26 years. (Smokey website)

The beauty of the mountain, the forests, and the trails has attracted its share of visitors, but as you drive up into the area civilization slips further and further away.

Mt. Baldy Lodge Restaurant is in the center of Mt. Baldy Village, surrounded by oak, pine and bay trees. Open year-round, you can choose between quiet time on the patio, breathing in the fresh pine air, or sitting fireside indoors, with a warm drink. Those who desire an overnight stay can rent a cabin. Although they are within an hour of L.A., the cabins too are free of internet and WIFI, which is a blessing.

The lodge comes with its own warnings: “Please do not sleep on the floor. Regardless of how much spraying we do, it is the mountains and we do have spiders!” (lodge website)

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This rustic restaurant is built of wood, there’s a moose on the wall inside, and a puppy on the porch outside. Visitors seem in no hurry to eat their food and move on, but linger.

The atmosphere on the mountain is refreshing, the views are spectacular, and the biodiversity would only be lost on those who have no appreciation for what California has to offer. If you get there, take a few minutes and enjoy the view. Pause. Just look around, and realize the scope of what you are seeing.

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Perhaps I’ll return for a visit on my next birthday, this June, and stay in the area for a few nights! Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts offers a free ski ticket or scenic chair ride on your birthday! (Documentation, in the form of valid identification, is strictly required.)

Join me on my next adventure,

~ Kat

Related Links:

Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts, Inc.: http://mtbaldyskilifts.com/

Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts, Inc. FAQ: http://mtbaldyskilifts.com/faq/

Mt. Baldy Lodge & Restaurant: http://www.mtbaldylodge.com/

Smokey the Bear – “Only you can prevent wildfires.”: https://smokeybear.com/en/smokeys-history/story-of-smokey

One comment

  1. Such grand adventures you have in the line of work. I’m envious! Keep the stories coming. I loved the detail you gave of the origin of Smokey the Bear–I had no idea that a trapped cub provided the model. See you on the road sometime!

    Like

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