Lord Baden-Powell, a British army officer who founded the Boy Scout movement in 1907, is honored by a fine trail and a high peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. Scouts of both genders will enjoy dragging their fathers (provided dad is in decent shape) up the 41 switchbacks to the summit of Mt. Baden-Powell for a Father's Day celebration that will long be remembered. Next to Mt. Baldy, the 9,399-foot summit is probably the most popular peak in Southern California.
The peak was once known as North Baldy, before Southern California Boy Scouts lobbied the Forest Service for a name change. Mt. Baden-Powell is the terminus of the scouts' 53-mile Silver Moccasin Trail, a rugged week-long backpack through the San Gabriel Mountains. Scouts who complete the long trail earn the Silver Moccasin Award.
The well-engineered Baden-Powell Trail, grooved into the side of the mountain by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s, switchbacks up the northeast ridge to the peak. The trail follows a moderate, steady grade to the top of the mountain. Near the summit, you'll meet those venerable, ancient survivors, the limber pines, and be treated to superb views across the Mojave Desert and down into the dramatic East Fork of the San Gabriel River.
Directions to trailhead: Take the Angeles Crest Highway (2) for 53 miles from La Canada to the Vincent Gap parking area. The signed trailhead is at the northwest edge of the parking area. If you're coming from the east, follow Interstate 15 to the Wrightwood exit. Proceed eight miles west on Highway 138 to its intersection with Highway 2. Bear left on Highway 2 and follow it for 14 miles to the trailhead. There's plenty of parking.
The hike: The trail immediately ascends from Vincent Gulch Divide, a gap which separates the upper tributaries of the San Gabriel River to the south from Big Rock Creek to the northwest. You begin switchbacking southwest through the Jeffrey pine and fir. The Scouts have placed many mileage markers (computed to 1/100 of a mile) alongside the trail, so you may measure your progress (or lack thereof). After one and one-half miles, a side trail leads 100 yards to Lamel Spring, an inviting resting place and the only dependable water on the trail.
With the increase in elevation, the switchbacks grow shorter and steeper and the vegetation changes from fir to lodgepole pine. Soon, even the altitude-loving lodgepoles give way to the heartiest of pines, the limber pine. One half mile from the summit, around 9,000 feet, the first of these squat, thick trunked limber pines comes into view. Shortly, you'll intersect a side trail to the limber pine forest.
A tiny sign points right (southwest) one-eighth mile to the limber pine stand.
Back on the main trail, a few more switchbacks bring you atop the ridge, where Mount Baldy can be glimpsed. You walk along the nearly barren crest and intersect the Pacific Crest Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail swoops off to Little Jimmy Spring, but you continue past some gnarly limber pines to the summit.
Return the same way.
Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell summit: eight miles round trip; 2,800-foot elevation gain.