Place Name: San Bernadino County
Place Description: State: California
Elevation: 9,648 Feet
Prominence: 848 Feet
Elevation Gain: 2,164 Feet
Lists: Hundred Peaks Section
A Less Crowded Option In The San Gabes
The San Gabriel Mountains are a very busy range. Hiking from the south side at Ice House Canyon and Mount Baldy on the south side offer little solitude. What a lot of people don’t realize, there are extensive back country options on the north side of the range. Hiking the North Backbone Trail near Wrightwood is an awesome trail that has much less traffic.
- Nice back country
- Great views
- Lots of peace and quiet
- Dirt road approach
- Loose trail, narrow trail in spots
- Can be hot and exposed to sun
Every hiker in Southern California has heard of the Devil’s Backbone Trail over on Mount Baldy. That popular trail sees tons of people each day. However, on the north side of the mountain lies much less trafficked North Backbone Trail.
While this trail can be taken all the way to the Baldy summit, hiking it from the north also gives you a chance to bag three peaks – Pine Mountain (9,648), Dawson Peak (9,575), and Wright Mountain (8,505).
Making your way to the trail is much longer than driving up to the trails at Baldy Village. For starters, you will need to drive to the small resort town of Wrightwood along Highway 2.
From Highway 2, turn off at the large parking area at Inspiration Point and start driving down the Blue Ridge Truck Road. This road is mostly dirt and drives high up the slopes above Mountain High Resort and through the Blue Ridge Campground. After passing the turnoff to Guffy Campground, the road will eventually take you to the North Backbone Trail Head.
The road has some narrow spots and some with big drops to one side, however, it’s not very rough and anything with moderate clearance will get you through to the trail.
The North Backbone Trail is very cool! You will start out by passing the Sheep Mountains Wilderness sign and drop down a bit to a saddle. The trail then follows a ridge line for a bit.
Further along the trail, it does narrow. Although its never narrow enough that you need to balance or fall off a cliff, there are some loose rocky sections that will require hands use.
I probably would not recommend hiking this when its snow covered, the run outs would be bad!
After hiking along the narrow backbone, the trail heads into the forest for a bit and past a very ancient juniper tree.
This section of the trail is shaded and seemed much more moderate on the incline. About 1/2 mile past the tree, the summit area obtained. There is a rock pile and a summit sign that is has become pretty customary on Southern California Peaks.
Enjoy the nice views out to Iron Mountain, Baldy, and Mount Baden-Powell. Then prepare for the traverse over to Dawson peak.
The next peak in the chain is Dawson Peak, which is lower than Pine Mountain. There is a nice drop of about 500 feet down to the saddle before having to climb about another 400 feet to the summit.
Along the way, you will need to break left from the trail to hit the summit. The trail continues to drop into a deep saddle before having to climb up steeply to Baldy.
The view of Baldy from Dawson is very nice. You can actually see all of the people on the summit, looking like a line of army ants. Every so often the wind would carry the sounds of voices down to us, although we had this place all to ourselves! There is a little rock pile making up the summit.
After bagging the first two peaks, Wright Mountain is a nothing burger. We first had to reverse our course back down Dawson, up Pine, and down the Backbone Trail all the way to the road.
Wright Mountain is just a short walk south of the road. There is a sporadic use trail and old jeep road that gets you near the non-descript summit. The rock pile and rusted summit pole lie in the woods with no views. Had this not been on the Hundred Peaks Section List, I would not have even bothered.
The Final Word
After all was said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed this hike. The stats were pretty moderate mileage and gain wise, however, knocking off three HPS Peaks in an uncrowded environment with an amazing person is a day well spent.
If you are looking for a cool trail that gets you away from the crowds, gives you a kind of a Sierras vibe, and a good workout, look no further than the North Backbone Trail!