Sunday, March 14, 2010
Hike 34: Stoddard Peak
Mount Baldy, from near Stoddard Peak
A short, six-mile hike out of San Antonio Canyon, this one tops out at a modest 4,624 feet above sea level. This makes it a good winter hike, particularly if you can pick a day that's clear.
The trailhead is at the start of Barrett-Stoddard Road. In fact, most of the trek is ALONG Barrett-Stoddard Road. To get there from the west, you take the 210 freeway, exit at Baseline, make a left on to Baseline, then a quick right up Padua. Take Padua north to a traffic signal (about two miles), then make a right on Mt. Baldy Road. Follow this road up San Antonio Canyon. On the way, you'll pass through two tunnels. Stoddard Peak overlooks them both. In fact, if you were to stop at the small turnout just south of the first tunnel and look to your east, you'd be looking right up at Stoddard Peak. Or, put another way, when you get to Stoddard Peak, look down to your west and you'll see San Antonio Canyon, Mt. Baldy Road, and the two tunnels you drove through to get here.
Less than two miles after the tunnels, you'll see the streetpole with a sign indicating Barrett-Stoddard Road, to your right. Turn right there, then make a quick right, again. You'll go down what is essentially a driveway that soon turns back on itself and enters a small dirt parking area with room for about eight cars. If this area is full, you can pull through the parking area and make a sharp right (right in front of you as you turn, you'll face a small fenced-off area enclosing an SCE generating plant). The pavement ends, but in about 100 feet, you'll see a large barren clearing with room for plenty of cars.
Some vehicles (particularly high-clearance vehicles) continue on this dirt road for a little over half a mile and park near a locked gate. However, there is very limited parking up there, and some of that may be occupied by reidents of cabins higher up the road. Regardless of where you park, you ought to have your Adventure Pass hanging from your rearview window.
Assuming you parked near the power plant, you want to follow the dirt road that heads east-southeast, NOT the old paved road that heads south. After a few hundred yards, you'll come to a bridge. On the bridge is a sign pasted on to the back of a road sign that says, "No Trespassing." It would seem to indicate that the road is private property, but it is not. The road IS open to public use, although, as noted earlier, there are some private cabins further up the road. There are other signs posted on trees off the road indicating no hunting and no fishing.
My Angeles National Forest map does not indicate inholdings nearby, so I'm pretty sure the no fishing part is just an effort by locals to keep the fish to themselves. I did notice several different people fishing in San Antonio Creek in this area. However, the no hunting part is consistent with forest policy in the area.
Continue along Barrett-Stoddard Road as you climb up and head to the southeast, rounding the bend of a hill. In less than a half-mile, you'll come to a fork in the road. The right fork has a sign that says, "Private Drive." You want to go left here.
In a few hundred yards, you'll pass near several small cabins. The one closest to the road looks a little like the place where the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books might live.
As you reach the first of these homes, the road crosses a creek (at least there was a creek there in March--it may be seasonal), then turns south. More cabins are to your right, and some parking areas are to your left. A few hundred more yards, and you come to a white gate.
Pass between the gate and the stone barrier, or duck under or climb over the gate. People and bikes can continue past.
There are plenty of oaks in this area, as well as some conifers, so your path is mostly shaded for another half-mile or so. But, eventually, you rise mostly out of the trees and into an area that was burned by the Williams Fire of several years ago. Looking back, you can see Mt. Baldy to the north.
About two miles into this hike, your path makes a sharp left turn, and you find yourself at Stoddard Flats. You quickly deduce this must be called Stoddard Flats because it's, well, relativley flat. Almost a meadow.
When you figure out you're at the Flats, you may also realize that you're no longer climbing, but descending. That's when you know you've gone too far.
Go back to just where the trail made its sharp left turn. In front of you is a faint trace of a trail heading into the brush. If you follow that path, you may see that the brush is not entirely impenetrable. It is far from open, however, and some of the plants have sharp points. At this point, you might wish you were wearing long pants.
This is where the trail that left Barrett-Stoddard Road heads up the hill. On the day I walked this trail, there was a small pile of rocks and a stick marking the point of entry into the brush:
From here, you follow the faint and broken trail steeply up the slope. This first hill has a clayish composition, with plenty of rocks embedded. It's pretty grippy and easy to scramble up the steep trace. When you reach the ridge, you continue more or less along the ridgeline, to the south. To your left, you can see Barrett-Stoddard Road continue below you, hugging the hills to your east, heading down towards Upland. To your right, you can see across and down into San Antonio Canyon. San Antonio Stream and Mt Baldy Road are down at the bottom. Hills and mountains (including Sunset Peak--see Hike 28) are higher up.
Meanwhile, your path runs up and down several hills. After the first one, most are pretty sandy. The second set of hills you reach feels like a summit. But when you get there, you'll look further to the south and note that the next hill has a metal stake sticking out of the top. You can't tell if it's any higher than the hill you're standing on, but, since it has the stake on top, you may conclude that the mountain with a marker on top is probably the actual peak.
When you get to Stoddard Peak, you've got a nice panorama. Baldy is to the north-northwest. Ontario Peak is to your northeast. Sunset Peak is across the Canyon to your west. On the day I was up here, haze mostly obscured eastern Los Angeles and western San Bernardino Counties to the south.
Return the way you came.
Mt. Baldy Road, at tunnels
Ontario Peak from near Stoddard Peak
Marker on top of Stoddard Peak, with Sunset Peak in the background