Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hike 76: Cucamonga Peak

Hiked on Weds., July 21. Down to just one or two hikes a week. It's funny how some weeks will just disappear. This week, the only hike I managed was yesterday. And because I've got someplace I need to be on Friday, it looks like either this will be my only hike, or I'll only manage something short on Friday morning.

The first 3.5 miles of this hike are the same as for the trips to Timber Mountain and Telegraph Peak, and will also be the same when I head up to Ontario Peak (probably next week). You stop in Mt. Baldy Village to get the wilderness permit, park in the Icehouse Canyon trailhead, and head east to Icehouse Saddle.

For Timber and Telegraph, you go from the saddle to the northwest. To go to Cucamonga, you go southeast. To go to Ontario, you'll go southwest.

The other difference is that it's a lot drier now than when I went to Timber or Telegraph. All the snow is long gone, although there are still several places were you need to cross seeping water on the way to Icehouse Saddle. Most hikers turn around at Icehouse Saddle, and that's not a bad hike. It's pretty steep (from 4900 feet to 7,500 feet over those 3.5 miles), and if you only had three hours for the day, sure, why not? Also, despite the altitude, it's actually hotter at the Icehouse Canyon trailhead than it was in upper Claremont.

The thing about Icehouse Saddle is, between the mountains that rise on either side of the saddle and the trees, there's not much of a view from the saddle. But it is usually windy, which makes it comfortable in the summer. Nonetheless, taking any of the trails rising away from the saddle is quickly rewarding. In the case of the trail to Cucamonga, this trail gives you a clear look north in short order. I-15 and a lot of desert are there to be seen.

After a very brief gain in altitude, you spend a lot of the next mile or so giving away altitude. That means the gross altitude gain between Icehouse Saddle and Cucamonga Peak is a lot more than the 1,200 or 1,300 net difference. Most of this trail is also pretty narrow, and often along crumbly dirt or rock piles. It feels pretty solid, but I'm sure it's migrating downward in the long run.

As the trail winds around what I assume to be Bighorn Peak, you need to really crane your neck to look up towards Cucamonga, to your east. On the other hand, you also get a nice, "backside" view of Ontario Peak and the spines of adjoining hills. It's quite impressive.

It's also a long haul, which means that, for many, it will feel like more than 2.4 miles. But if you take it slow and avoid giving yourself a pounding headache, the trail is actually relatively easy. Only the last 1/10th of a mile or so (from when you hit the worn-out sign pointing you to Cucamonga Peak) is steep.

The view from the top is pretty grand. As from many tall peaks in the San Gabriels, you can see Mt San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio off to the east. Baldy is, of course, visible to your west. Northwest is Telegraph Peak, with the shorter Timber in front of it. To the north and northeast is the Mojave Desert, with I-15 easily visible. Southwest is Ontario Peak. South is Ontario or Upland, but clear skies that way are somewhat rare. On the day I went, it was mainly the marine layer that cut visibility down. If there were a Santa Ana wind, the view would have been clearer, but the tempertures would have been much higher.

I think it was about 7 hours of total out of car time on this trip, from 10:30am til 5:30pm. Obviously, some would walk much faster, while some might be slower. On the return, I was tired enough that I was too lazy to take the detour to Cedar Grove. That's about a 1.7 mile detour that would run north of the regular Icehouse Canyon trail I've taken several times, now. The splits from the Icehouse Canyon trail just .6 miles down from Icehouse Saddle, then runs higher and to the north, before dropping back down to rejoin the Icehouse Canyon trail shortly before the trailhead. I still don't know what it looks like, and I'm not sure when I'll feel like taking the detour.


  1. Hi! I was at Cucamonga Peak that same day and reached the summit sometime after you did. I took a picture of the summit register (pictured here: and, upon viewing my pictures at home, stumbled across your URL. Very cool stuff!

  2. Small world. :D

    I don't always bother writing in the summit registers, but on the tougher ones, I can't resist, even though I always figure no one ever looks at those things.

    I wonder what they do with those little notebooks when they're full?