Come to this SoCal party with the most epic views. But first you have to hike 4,000 feet

Six people, four older and two children, pose together for a photo on rocky ground.
The Super Hiking Twins with hikers from Black Girls Trekkin’ on Mt. Baldy.
(Mary Forgione)
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Want a chill party where you’re always on the guest list? Yes, please. On summer weekends, the top of Mt. Baldy, the highest point in L.A. County at 10,068 feet, becomes a site of an endless celebration where you’ll hear hollers and whoops — and sometimes groans of quiet exhaustion — as each person arrives. The views are epic and the company divine. You don’t need an invitation, but you do need the stamina to hike the steep 4,000 feet of gain to the top.

A narrow marker stands on a peak. In the background is another mountain with low green trees, and blue sky and clouds.
The route to the top of Baldy, by way of the narrow and wiggly Devil’s Backbone.
(Mary Forgione)

I arrived at the Baldy Bash on Saturday morning to find about 40 people on the summit. You could see thick clouds to the south, but it was a sunny, blue-sky day on top, where people were high-fiving, waiting their turn to take photos, talking about the uphill slog, eating snacks and just reveling in the shared experience of making it to the top. Views of the seemingly endless Mojave Desert rolled out to the north.


Baldy (officially named Mt. San Antonio) is a broad, rounded peak with half a dozen low rock shelters with dirt floors that serve as little conversation pits. Each one holds eight to 10 people. You just hop in, pull up a rock (I bring a cushy seat pad) and meet everyone around you. I’m a trail schmoozer, so I wander from shelter to shelter to chat with folks — and I’ve never been disappointed.

Last Saturday, I became such a fan girl after some A-listers turned up.

Photo of people sitting by a rock wall on top of a mountain.
Hikers with the Black Girls Trekkin’ team, from left, Sydney Farrell and Breonna Carter, both of L.A., Lesli White of Pasadena and Michelle Fulbright of Corona.
(Mary Forgione)

In the first shelter, I met a strong team of women from Black Girls Trekkin’ led by Breonna Carter. I follow the group on Instagram @blackgirlstrekkin, but I’d never been lucky enough to meet up with members committed to bringing more diversity to the wild. We gushed about the peak, girl power, the descent (they were taking the tough Register Ridge Trail down) and just the sheer pleasure of being on Baldy.

Off to a second rock shelter, I found @super_hiking_twins Matthew and Arabella Adams of Northridge. The pair have an impressive hiking resume — and they are 7 years old. They first hiked to Baldy when they were 3½. They summited Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet) when they were 4½. They’ve also finished eight of California’s peaks above 14,000 feet, including tough technical ones like Mt. Shasta.

Photo of two children with hiking poles on top of a mountain.
Arabella and Matthew Adams.
(Mary Forgione)

Parents Shaun and Nancy have been taking the kids on the trail since they were born. “As soon as they could walk, we would take them out of the carrier and let them walk,” Shaun told me. “At 2½, we got rid of the carrier and they were on their own.” The twins said Baldy was one of their favorite peaks (mine too!) and seemed completely unfazed by people lining up to meet them. Shaun, an engineer who has made handcrafted crampons for the children and taught them to use ice axes for snow climbs, says he collects photos of hikers with the twins throughout the year.


Yes, people were lining up for photos. On this day, Arabella was wearing her unicorn headband, which only comes out for peaks above 10,000 feet. What motivates these kids? Even after talking with them, I’m not quite sure, but it could be the Mountain Fairy who bestows gifts in their backpacks that they open on the summit.

I spent the rest of the hour-plus on top chatting with hikers and scarfing down snacks before meeting up with my posse and starting down. I hated to leave the party because I knew a whole new crowd would be arriving any minute.

A metal plate set in rocky ground tells the peak's elevation: "San Antonio 'Mt. Baldy' Elev. 10,064."
A spot for celebration: the metal marker at Mt. Baldy’s summit.
(Mary Forgione)

Want to join the Baldy Bash?

  • The best time to hike Mt. Baldy is between June and October, when the snow has cleared and weather isn’t treacherous (though I never rule out the occasional thunderstorm). I took the Devil’s Backbone Trail from Manker Flat (the most popular starting point) near Mt. Baldy Village. Toward the top, I saw old patches of snow off the side of the route, just enough for a nice alpine feel.
  • Train up because this is a hard hike. Do conditioning hikes to places like Mt. Lowe or Mt. Wilson in the Altadena/Pasadena area before you think about tackling this bad boy. There are many ways to hike up Baldy, each with its own charm — and difficulty. Pick a route from an app or trail guide that you think you can do; the shortest way is not the easiest. Check out one way (good for first-timers) on our list of the 50 best hikes in L.A. and SoCal.
  • Get a very early start, and plan to be on the summit between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. That’s the sweet spot when most people have topped out.
  • BYO everything — snacks, sandwiches, lots of water and energy drinks, sunscreen, the works — because there’s absolutely nothing up there but fun and the scorching sun.
  • Head down and continue the party at the Top of the Notch Restaurant at 7,800 feet in elevation. You can grab a beer or an Arnold Palmer, a victory T-shirt and a bite for a second celebration as you descend. From here, if you’re really done in, you can skip the last three miles of the hike and take the chair lift down to the trail head for $20. Sweet!
  • Not a partier? Go midweek when there are fewer hikers. You’ll find a more mellow vibe.

4 things to do this week

Photo of a fly inside a Venus fly-trap plant.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

1. Like plants that eat living things? Plan to attend this plant sale. Carnivorous plants may be more popular than you think. Yep, I’m talking about strangely shaped plants that eat living things like bugs (and much larger critters) and live on all continents except the Arctics, according to an L.A. Times story.


You could learn a lot from SCCPE (a.k.a. Skippy) — Southern California Carnivorous Plant Enthusiasts — whose members thrill to these exotics. “Half the people will tell you they love the ‘carnivory’ — turning the table on nature to where the plants eat the bugs — but others will tell you they love the variety,” according to the group’s president and co-founder, John Kim.

SCCPE is hosting a carnivorous plant show and sale from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 18 to 19 at Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. The show is free with $5 admission to the gardens (members and children 3 and younger enter free).

Triptych photo of two adult men and a book cover that has the image of a surfer on it.
Shaun Tomson, left, and Noah benShea wrote “The Surfer and the Sage.”
(Santa Barbara Maritime Museum)

2. Sign up to meet the Santa Barbara locals who created “The Surfer and the Sage.” Surfing teaches you more than just how to ride waves. That’s the thought behind a book by surf great Shaun Tomson and philosopher-author Noah benShea called “The Surfer and the Sage: A Guide to Survive and Ride Life’s Waves.” Tomson has been a longtime motivational speaker about navigating the ups and downs of life and has spoken about losing a teenage son in an accident two decades ago. The two will speak and sign their book at 7 p.m. June 16 at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Tickets cost $20; some members get in free. Register here.

A rectangular sign among trees indicates Canada is 2,277 miles away and Mexico, 373.
A stretch of the PCT.
(Mary Forgione)

3. Hike a pretty stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail near Wrightwood. The Pacific Crest Trail, a.k.a. PCT, spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and runs right through Southern California. At this time of year, some folks are passing through SoCal on their way to Canada. Last Sunday, on the trail between Inspiration Point and Vincent Gap, I met about 10 through-hikers from all over — Slovakia, Germany, England, France, Long Beach and Santa Barbara — who had about 373 miles under their belts and 2,277 miles to go. We didn’t chat long, but it was so exhilarating to meet people on such an epic quest. The hike is a good PCT sampler: 4.4 miles each way with a gain of roughly 1,000 feet in elevation. There’s a good showing of wildflowers right now, including Mariposa lilies, paintbrush and baby blue eyes. Note: There are two Inspiration Points near Wrightwood; start (or end) at the one mapped to Pacific Crest Trail Blue Ridge on the Angeles Crest Highway.

Illustration of people in a line with plants and birds surrounding them.
(Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

4. Celebrate pride at the Natural History Museum’s first Queer Family Day. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County invites all to “wear their favorite shade of green to show off your nature-loving pride.” Visitors will learn about third-gender communities — such as the Muxe of Mexico, and the Fa’afafine and Fa’afatama of Samoa — with items from the museum’s collections not usually on display. Join the Dino Dance Party (with Dakota the triceratops and Hunter the T. Rex), and check out Drag Queen Story Time. Events are free with admission; 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Buy tickets here.

Wild things

Closeup of a bumblebee on a flower.
(Photo by bigemrg / Getty Images)

Bees just got a big break, but it’s a little — no, a lot — fishy.

In 2019, four native California bumblebees were classified as endangered by the California Fish and Game Commission. That move was challenged in court, and a Sacramento judge decided the state’s endangered species law only applied to invertebrates living in marine habitats, species like fish.

Last week, an appellate court associate justice said: “Not so fast.” He ruled that “a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumblebee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Act,” a Sacramento Bee story said. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation says the protection is critical to keep the bees from going extinct. The group also points out that bees are pollinators that are vital to the state’s agricultural interests. So, in a way, bees became “fish.” The commission is set to vote Sunday on protection for the bees.

The must-read

Photo of a cyclist riding on red rocks in the desert.
A cyclist rides near Moab, Utah. The state’s neighbor to the south has a grueling bike race through desert-scapes: the Arizona Trail Race.
(Photo by GibsonPictures / Getty Images)

Ultra-endurance athlete Lael Wilcox in April completed the 827-mile Arizona Trail on bicycle with the fastest known time (FKT) of an astonishing 9 days, 8 hours and 23 minutes. This is undisputed. She had been trying since 2015 and wanted to inspire others by documenting her epic journey, according to media reports. But almost as soon as she finished, an asterisk appeared next to her achievement.

First, the route. The AZT 800, as it’s known, runs 827 miles across the state. There are grueling parts, like carrying your bike for 20 miles through the Grand Canyon. Second, the rules. The Arizona Trail Race tracks unsupported cyclists who set records on the route of the annual “unofficial self-supported bikepacking race with no entry fees, no prizes, and absolutely no support.”

It’s the “absolutely no support” that became sticky. During the ride, the race director said he had warned Wilcox about “excessive visitation” from her wife and posting photos of her adventure on social media, according to a story posted on In other words, moral support apparently broke the rules. The Singletracks interview with Wilcox about her amazing journey is well worth the read, especially when you figure out that it’s really not about the asterisk.


Postcard of a forest trail to Mt. Wilson. "Old Baldy" is seen in the distance.
A Mt. Wilson trail is pictured on a postcard from Patt Morrison’s collection.

I started this newsletter with a peak story and I’ll end it with more peak stories. Times columnist Patt Morrison took a deep dive into the names of local peaks in “Martyr, crackpot, tree-hugger and more — the people behind SoCal’s mountain peaks.” The story chronicles the offbeat reasons why a particular high point received a particular name — and why none of us remember these onetime hot shots.

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Click to view the web version of this newsletter and share it with others, and sign up to have it sent weekly to your inbox. I’m Mary Forgione, and I write The Wild. I’ve been exploring trails and open spaces in Southern California for four decades.

Mary Forgione