Mount Baden-Powell is one of the most prominent and popular mountains in the high country of the San Gabriels. At 9,399’ in height, Baden-Powell is the sixth tallest mountain in the San Gabriel Mountain Range. The majority of summit-seekers approach the top via the Vincent Gap trailhead and its seemingly endless switchbacks. However, there is a more desolate and enjoyable route just down the road.
This hike begins at 7900’ Dawson Saddle. Once leaving your parked car, head 100 feet east on the Angeles Crest Highway to the catawampus Dawson Saddle trailhead marker. For a half-mile, the trail ascends overlooking the adjacent highway – until topping out on a photogenic ridge. The trail continues to travel south and east around Throop (pronounced “Troop”) Peak and eventually meets up with the clearly denoted Pacific Crest Trail at around the 2-mile mark.
At this major trail saddle, you will turn eastward to venture along one of the most desolate trails in the San Gabriel Mountains. This section of the trail is more exposed than the previous portion, but the breeze that routinely resides here is cool and comforting. The trail continues on an upward trajectory, but the incline is so gentle that it would be easy to mistake it for being flat at times. To the south of the trail lies Mount Burnham; to the north lies an incredible view of the Mojave Desert and South Sierras.
Finally, after about 4 miles or so, you will come to another junction with a clearly marked sign indicating the summit of Mount Baden-Powell. This ushers in the steepest and most exposed portion of the hike. You will pass the oldest tree in the San Gabriels - the unusual and twisted Waldon Tree. The terrain also changes over from a soft dirt trail to a decomposed granite, more indicative of the San Gabriels. Before you realize it, you will have reached the large and bald summit of the sixth highest summit in the San Gabriels: Mount Baden-Powell!
Hike At A Glance
Difficulty Level (1-10): 7
Distance: Around 10 miles.
Scenery: This trail is entirely submersed in subalpine and alpine terrain. There is some shade along the trail, especially along the first couple miles.
Best time to go: April-November. Because the entire hike is above an elevation of 8,000,’ snow should be expected on the trail in the colder months.
Trail condition: This trail is very well marked and maintained, as are most sections of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Other considerations: You can also summit Mount Burnham on the way to or from Mount Baden Powell. It is an interesting summit with a wide array of burnt foliage and chaparral. Also, just like anywhere in the San Gabriel Mountains, be mindful of typical hiking hazards like bees, snakes, and bears.
Getting there: Take SR 2/Angeles Crest Highway north from La Canada. You will drive for about 50 minutes, past Newcomb’s Ranch, Eagle’s Roost, and Islip Saddle. Finally, you will reach Dawson Saddle, which is adjacent to a very large CalTrans storage unit. Park in the parking lot near the Dawson Saddle sign. The trail begins across the street, near the hunched over sign. Display the required Adventure Pass in your car (an Adventure Pass may be purchased from REI, most ranger stations, or many local sporting goods stores for $5/day or $30/year).