The lowdown: 9,399 feet, 8.25 Miles round trip, 2,834 feet of elevation gain.
Mt. Baden Powell is known as a training ground for Sierra peaks and ultra trail runners. It is easy to see why – the relatively steep trails gets you up in elevation fast, almost 3000 feet of elevation gain in 4 miles. The trail is close to home, about 45 minutes from Riverside, meaning you can get up and down in time for a late lunch in Wrightwood.
I have hiked Mt. Baden Powell in every season. In the Summer the north facing slope stays cool even on the hottest SoCal day. In the fall you can start to feel the crisp mountain air in your lungs and look forward to a warm cup of coffee and a slice of pie in the town of Wrightwood once the hike is over. But by far the best season to hike Mt. Baden Powell is the winter. All that is needed is a good pair of micro spikes – snow shoes are helpful but a strong pair of glutes will do the trick as well.
Every hike starts with a small but very real protest from your body. Your legs are tight your breath quickens and it’s not until after the first few switch backs that you start to find your rhythm. After that point it does not seem to matter how hard the hiking gets, the course is set and you have to continue forward until you reach the summit. The start of the hike follows a well worn trail with hard packed snow making the hike up relatively easy until the last few miles where the travelers before have spread over the mountain slope, picking their own way up the deep powder. From this point onward the way is slowly forged straight up the mountain, the snow muffling the sounds of labored breathing. This is where those snowshoes would come in handy, for every two steps forward the feet slide back one. Sinking up to the knees in perfect fresh powder and I curse myself for not bringing my skis. The last few hundred feet of a climb always seems the hardest, but cresting that first rise near the top of Baden Powell gives you spectacular views of the final ridgeline that leads to the peak. the ridge brings to mind a backbone, ribs of ice and rock leading down to the valleys below. The robin’s egg blue sky frames the edges of the white mountains. The view from the top of Baden Powell make any struggle worth the effort, and a winter summit of Baden Powell is a particular beauty draped in her coat of white. Thick misty clouds blanket the low valleys only leaving the tops of the mountains sticking out. With the trails hidden under snow it is easy to feel completely alone on the summit, the only person in the world. After staying on the summit long enough for a cup a tea and for the wind to start nipping at the bones it is time to descend. The way down is much faster, glissading down the steep grade, feeling like a kid playing in a snow storm. The snow in its white uniform fluffiness gives me an overwhelming desire to lie down in it, to wrap myself up in a cocoon of white power and wait for the spring sun to melt me out. I love the snow. Snow makes a straight forward hike a little more exciting, it changes the landscape, the trail disappears and you are able to pick your own way up the mountain.
Mt. Baden Powell is my favorite day hike in all of Southern California and I highly recommend it. If you are lucky enough to catch the mountain after a snow storm it is truly magic.