In times like these when the San Gabriel Valley is roasting in intensely hot temperatures, I tend to reflect on past hikes where the weather around me was much colder. One such hike was last spring when I made it up to the top of Timber Mountain.
My friend Tony and I arrived to the Ice House Canyon parking lot near Mount Baldy at 9:00 a.m. The temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees and the forecast was calling for cold and damp conditions in the mountains. Therefore, we brought plenty of warm and rainproof clothing.
The relatively cool temperatures and the lull of the adjacent stream created a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. We hiked our way through the immensely popular Ice House Canyon trail and enjoyed a relatively flat first mile and a half. After that, however, the trail began a steeper ascent, away from the aforementioned stream and toward a more characteristic alpine environment. The well-maintained dirt trail below our feet cushioned each step we took.
Finally, after 3.5 miles, we reached 7550’ Ice House Saddle, a great picnic stop. In the middle of our break, Tony pointed out the thickening clouds and falling temperatures. At this point in time, the air around us was around 40 degrees. We rested our tired legs for a few minutes before following the sign indicating 1-mile away Timber Mountain.
As we ascended the consistently graded trail towards the top, the air temperature definitely dropped and we began to see interesting ice and snow formations on the trees around us. There were a couple of slick spots on the trail but most of it was easy to track across. We crossed long switchback after long switchback until we had finally reached the 8300’ summit of Timber Mountain (formerly known as Chapman Mountain, as noted on the tree on the summit).
At this point, the precipitation was in the air and a light snowfall began to drop down from the sky. Tony and I took a long breather at the top of Timber Mountain and basked in the beauty and peacefulness around us before beginning the 5 mile trek home.
Hike At A Glance
Difficulty Level (1-10): 6
Distance: 10 miles
Scenery: The view includes a beautiful stream for the first couple miles. After that, it becomes drier and surrounded by alpine forest.
Best time to go: April to November are typically best. The other months are ok too but may require snow equipment.
Trail condition: This trail is easy to follow for the most part.
Other considerations: Timber Mountain is often combined with Telegraph Peak and Thunder Mountain; together, these mountains are known as the “Three T’s.” Also, just like anywhere in the San Gabriel Mountains, be mindful of typical hiking hazards like bees, snakes, bears, mountain lions, and ticks.
Getting there: Take the 210 to Mountain and go north. Follow Mountain all the way into Baldy Village. Turn right about a mile or so past the Village onto the street marked “Ice House Canyon Road." Be sure to display your Adventure Pass in your parked car ($5 for a day or $30 for a year at REI or most other sporting goods stores).