This past Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to hike up to 8,859’ Cucamonga Peak with my friends Amber, Julie, Sarah, and Cathy (as well as Amber’s dog, Kona, and Cathy’s pup, Taya). We carpooled out to the trailhead in Icehouse Canyon and began our hike at 7 a.m., early enough to evade the nasty afternoon heat that had been forecast.
Icehouse Canyon is a fun and very scenic hike that I have mentioned in multiple articles. The main trail through follows along a rushing creek and pushes through a habitat for many beautiful animals, wildflowers, and lizards. About a mile into our journey, we passed a rock that was covered in vibrantly colored ladybugs.
After 3.5 miles of steady but comfortable elevation gain, we reached Icehouse Saddle, a wonderful rest stop that acts as an intersection for multiple trails. After a 10-minute break to refuel, we continued east, down the trail that is clearly marked for Cucamonga Peak. Not a quarter mile past the Saddle, I spotted a very old rattlesnake, curled up on the trail. We walked around this beautiful but threatening creature and, thankfully, no harm was done.
The Cucamonga Peak trail dropped down a bit from Icehouse Saddle for about a mile before beginning a steep final mile and a half up the northern side of Cucamonga Peak. The winds were howling in parts of the trail in excess of 40 miles per hour, but we trudged onward, fueled by the anticipation of the storied summit. At 5.5 miles from the beginning of our journey, we passed three trees that each had an “i” carved into them; we were almost there.
Finally, we came upon the wooden “Cucamonga Peak” sign, marking the summit up shortly ahead. I felt a surge of adrenaline course through my veins. My unusually fatigued body experienced new life and our little band of hikers successfully pushed our way up to the summit.
The top of Cucamonga Peak is beautiful. It hosts a bit of plant-life, mostly in the form of chaparral, and offers phenomenal views of the distant San Gorgonio and San Jacinto peaks, the Inland Empire, and other San Gabriel hikes including nearby Bighorn and Ontario Peaks and Mount Baldy. We basked in our accomplishment for 15 minutes before beginning the victorious march back to the trailhead.
Hike At A Glance
Difficulty Level (1-10): 8
Distance: 13 miles roundtrip
Scenery: The scenery varies with the elevation of this hike. The first couple miles of the trail follow a rushing creek; the latter parts of the hike give stellar views of surrounding mountains, the Inland Empire, and even the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.
Best time to go: Late May to November. Can be hiked at other times with snow/ice equipment.
Trail condition: The trail is well maintained but does have some narrow and slick stretches.
Other considerations: Bug spray may be worth considering for the first leg of this hike, around water areas. Trekking poles work wonders for the steep descent from Cucamonga Peak. As always, be careful of the typical dangers that hiking in our local mountains present (e.g. rattlesnakes, bears, etc…). Also, one must obtain a free permit to enter the Cucamonga Wilderness. You can get this at the ranger station on the way in Baldy Village.
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).