Hikes #95 - 95.3 Baldy Notch to Thunder, Telegraph, Timber Mtns., Icehouse Saddle, Icehouse Canyon

Overview and Trail Description
Mileages and Altitude Gain/Loss
Hike Description Links and Other References

Overview and Trail Description

There are eight major variants on this hike, involving the direction of travel, the choice of trail in Icehouse Canyon and whether one takes the ski lift or not. The hikes 95 - 95.3 listed in the tables assume the Icehouse Canyon Trail is taken. If the Chapman Trail is taken instead, add 1.3 miles to the total mileage. In addition, there are two possible trails between Thunder Mountain and its saddle with Telegraph Mountain, as well as the option to visit the peaks of Thunder Mountain and Timber Mountain. In all, there are 64 variations possible amidst these options! The description below is from my 10/23/99 hike.

A free permit is needed since this hike enters the Cucamonga Wilderness Area. The permit can be obtained from the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. An Adventure Pass is needed to park at either trailhead.

From Manker Flat, the signed San Antonio Falls Road leads directly to San Antonio Falls after 0.5 mile. The Ski Hut Trail goes off steeply to the left at 0.9 mile, marked by a large cairn on the side of the road. At 2.0 mile a constricted water-carrying pipe makes sounds like someone is sliding down the scree of the hillside. A rare error on the topo map is made just beyond that point - the road switchback comes close to crossing under the ski lift, but doesn't actually do so as indicated on the map. At 2.3 mile you meet the pump bringing the water up that pipe. At 2.75 mile, near the Miners Bowl reservoir on the right, the road forks. The left fork takes you to Baldy Notch.

The easier route to Baldy Notch is to take the Ski Lift, operating weekends and holidays beginning at 9 a.m. in the summer. From Baldy Notch, continue past the top of the ski lift to the Desert View overlook, then head east on the road to Thunder Mountain.

At the first saddle on the road, a trail goes up the ridge, but the best course is to stay on the road unless you want to gain some extra altitude or do some exploring to see if that trail eventually rejoins the road on the next saddle on the other side of the bump in the ridge.

At the saddle just before Thunder Mountain, the ski resort has bulldozed a steep wide road up to Thunder, which is the only option I have taken. The topo map, and Robinson, indicates a trail veers off to the southwest, travelling under the ski lift, before junctioning with the bulldozed road to the peak of Thunder Mountain to the west of the peak. I saw no obvious traces of that trail at either end, but I didn't look closely for it since it wasn't the obvious way to go to the peak of Thunder Mountain.

Just before the Thunder Mountain summit on the steep wide bulldozed road, a ridge trail descends steeply to the Thunder - Telegraph Saddle. An easier trail, signed with "Telegraph Peak 1, Timber Mountain 2.5, Icehouse Saddle 3.25 miles" and "Easiest Way" is reached by continuing past Thunder summit to the west. That trail meets the steep ridge trail at the saddle.

The trail then switchbacks to a junction with a signpost that no longer says anything due either to delamination of the plywood or vandalism. Go left at that junction to Telegraph Peak, which will be marked at about the halfway point with a sign "7W06A"! Then return to that junction and continue on. After a brief uphill to cross the ridge, the trail switchbacks down to a saddle between Telegraph and the 8023' peak, then continues to switchback to the saddle between 8023 and Timber Mountain. The trail is not marked on the Telegraph Peak topo 1968 revision for this entire downhill section, but is in good shape and can't be missed. The trail marked on the topo to the west of 8023 is not accurate, being in the wrong location and sans switchbacks.

The trail contours to the west of Timber Mountain, staying 200' below the peak, then switchbacks to Icehouse Saddle. The trail to the peak of Timber Mountain begins at the first switchback going up from 8023 - Timber Saddle. The other end of the trail is at the high point of the trail contouring around Timber.

The Icehouse Canyon Trail descends to the west from Icehouse Saddle, and you have the option of taking the Chapman Trail 0.7 miles from the saddle.

For more details, and specific mileages along the trail, see my 10/23/99 hike writeup.

Mileages and Altitude Gain/Loss

Robinson's quoted altitude gains for these hikes are erroneous. The altitudes and altitude differences for various points along this hike are:

PlaceAltitude (')Minimum Altitude Gain Between Points (')
From Manker Flat
(read down)
From Icehouse Canyon Parking Lot
(read up)
Manker Flat~6,150  
Top of Ski Lift~7,7801,630 
Thunder Mountain8,587807407
Thunder - Telegraph Saddle~8,180  
Telegraph Peak8,985805185
Trail Junction to Telegraph Peak~8,800  
High point on trail just south of Telegraph Peak~8,880801,140
Saddle between 8,028' peak and Timber Mountain~7,740  
High point on trail rounding Timber Mountain~8,080340500
Icehouse Saddle~7,580 2,460
Icehouse Canyon Parking Lot~5,120  
Total Altitude Gain not using ski lift 3,6624,692
Total Altitude Gain using ski lift 2,0324,692

These are minimum altitude gains, since the trail has a few other sections with minor altitude gain, particularly in Icehouse Canyon. For example, Robinson quotes 2,600' for the altitude gain on the Icehouse Canyon Trail, compared to the 2,460' difference in the high and low altitude given above.

The mileages quoted by Robinson are also a bit off. Telegraph Mountain to Icehouse Saddle is ~three miles, not the two miles he quotes. I measured 3.0 miles on my pedometer, which is accurate to well within 10%. I measured 2.0 miles from Telegraph Mountain to the Telegraph - Timber Saddle, and another 1.0 mile on to Icehouse Saddle. There is a sign 0.1 mile below Thunder Mountain that implies it is 2.5 miles between Telegraph Mountain and Icehouse Saddle, taking into account the 0.3 mile trail each way to Telegraph Mountain. However, that sign probably refers to an older more direct trail, parts of which are shown on the topo map sans any of the switchbacks of the current trail.

The Icehouse Canyon Trail is 4+ miles, not the 3.5 miles apparently assumed by Robinson in his total. San Antonio Falls Road is actually 3.3 miles long, according to Topo! software, from Manker Flat.

Hence the total distance for hike 95 using the ski lift is 10 miles, and 13.3 miles using San Antonio Falls Road. (Since, like Robinson, I quote mileages in the tables only to the nearest half mile, I've rounded this to 13.5 miles in the tables. Trail mileages usually aren't known to higher precision.) Taking the Chapman Trail instead of the Icehouse Canyon Trail adds 1.3 miles, giving total distances of 11.3 and 14.6 miles. A side trip to Timber Mountain will add further mileage and altitude gain, depending on the path used to achieve the peak.

Hike Description Links and Other References

The date of the described hike is given in parentheses for each link.

Timber Mountain (8303') via Icehouse Canyon, D. Simpson (02Apr05)

Telegraph Peak / Thunder Mt. (8985'/8587'), D. Simpson (26May03)

Manker Flat to Baldy Notch, Thunder, Telegraph, Timber Mtns., Icehouse Saddle, Icehouse Canyon via San Antonio Falls Road and Chapman Trail, T. Chester (23Oct99)

Angeles Volunteer News

Trails of the Angeles, John W. Robinson, Seventh Edition, September 1998, #95, Baldy Notch to Thunder, Telegraph, Timber Mtns., Icehouse Saddle, Icehouse Canyon, p. 171. (??)

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Copyright © 1997-2005 by Tom Chester.
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Updated 9 April 2005.