Iron Mountain hike had been on my list for quite some time, and as the days were getting warmer, it was either I do it now or wait till it’s cooler again. Since I hiked Mt. Baldy just less than three weeks ago, I knew there would be either less or no snow at Iron Mountain. In fact, it was the heat that I was more worried about on this Iron Mountain hike. It was about time to put my trail running shoes on and drive to Bridge to Nowhere Trailhead before the temperature further rises.

HOW TO GET TO BRIDGE TO NOWHERE TRAILHEAD

If you are coming from the Greater Los Angeles area for Iron Mountain hike, it is very likely that you would take I-210 E/Foothill Hwy and then take CA-39 N/San Gabriel Canyon Rd. and E Fork Rd. to the parking lot, which is located at the end of the road. 

If you are on I-15 N or CA-60 N to get to I-210, you will take I-210 W for a bit before taking CA-39 N/San Gabriel Canyon Rd.

Note: However, it isn’t unusual to get to the trailhead by taking Glendora Ridge Rd. to Glendora Mountain Rd. You take Mountain Ave. exit and drive on it till it meets Mt. Baldy Rd. You turn right here and continue on Mt. Baldy Rd. (as you would drive towards Baldy Village) till it meets Glendora Ridge Rd. Turn left here and continue drive till you reach Horse Canyon Saddle, where you will turn right. The road is Glendora Mountain Rd. It merges into E Fork Rd. and you continue to the parking lot.

This is the route that hikers take when shuttling back and forth between Bridge to Nowhere trailhead and any of Baldy trailheads. Some hikers do Iron Mountain hike and continue on San Antonio Ridge to summit Mt. Baldy. and then exit via Manker Flats, Icehouse Canyon or even Mt. Baldy Trailhead, aka Bear Canyon Trailhead.

WHEN TO HIKE IRON MOUNTAIN

All year-round. However, when there’s snow, you will have to bring proper winter gear. Otherwise, it’ll be mostly hot, so try to avoid extreme hot days.

ITEMS YOU MUST BRING

  • Plenty of water (3.5L or more) – I saw hikers turn around this day and also heard next day that other hikers turned around due to lack of water. It gets quite warm in the afternoon, and without any breeze, it could get very bad. Please, bring more water than you think you need.
  • Headlamp – For Iron Mountain hike, if you want to start in the dark, which is a great idea to avoid the heat in the afternoon, seriously consider it. I ran into a guy coming down even before I reached the halfway point and was told that his buddies and he started at 3 am.
  • GPS
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Adventure Pass day or annual pass or National Park pass

MY BIG BAD IRON MOUNTAIN HIKE

My drive to Bridge to Nowhere Trailhead for Iron Mountain hike was straight forward. It was quite dark while driving on the freeway but was getting brighter as I was pulling into CA-39 N/San Gabriel Canyon Rd. Although I could not see the sun rise because the trailhead is located in the canyon, it was imminent. 

I started recording my Iron Mountain hike at 6:26 am.

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Heat Flats Trailhead

Once leaving the parking lot and walked down a bit windy East Fork Road for a half mile or so, I reached Heaton Flats Trailhead. If you keep going down on this road, which turns into East Fork Trail, you will hike to Bridge to Nowhere. There’s another restroom facility here at Heaton Flats, so if you didn’t use it at the parking lot, you can use it here.

For Iron Mountain hike, at first it is a gradual uphill walk starting with a few short switchbacks that turned into a bit of windy trail. Soon I arrived at a wide open junction where I could go either right or left. (Lat: 34.24251, Lon: -117.74849)

And you want to turn left here.

I actually saw from the Sheep Mountain Wilderness sign a group of young hikers did turn right here. Later I was told that they realized that they took a wrong turn, retrieved back to this junction and started hiking up the right trail but eventually had to turn around because of lack of water.

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Sheep Mountain Wilderness sign

About 500 feet up the trail from the junction, Sheep Mountain Wilderness sign welcomed me.

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The sun light started touching the mountain sides as it rose higher and higher.

As the sun rose above the mountain line, it was quite magical. It made me stop and cease the moment when the sunlight hit the slopes that were like velvety creases of fabric. As the light kept flashing down the canyon, I started making things out of the dark shadows.

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Wildflowers were everywhere

Wildflowers blossomed quite a bit and I saw many wild cucumbers in lower elevations.

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Wild cucumbers were mostly at lower elevations

Although wild cucumber, a vining weed (aka marah, manroots, or Old man in the ground), was medicinally used by Native Americans, they are not edible, I learned.

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This is the beginning of the long ridge line hike all the way to the top.

This is a first part of the ridge incline before the halfway point. I thought I was able to see some of mountain peaks from here, but it was not high enough, so all I could see was ridge lines.

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These climbs mostly consist of steep inclines.

And there’s another ridge top that I had to hike up to.

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Basically it was a matter of climbing a ridge top after another.

After the steep incline, I turned around to see how high it was, but again it was not a much of elevation gain.

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Rattlesnake Peak looked good

However, once I got higher incrementally, Rattlesnake Peak grew taller and Shoemaker Canyon Road that goes around the peak at the bottom was more visible.

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When I reached the top of this bump, I found a swarm of bees waiting

I reached the first prominent ridge top of Iron Mountain hike and got greeted by a swarm of bees. I had to duck down a little bit to avoid any direct hit. I didn’t want to upset them by getting in their way either.

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This was the first time seeing Mt. Badly here

And then I caught the first sight of Mt. Baldy. It was quite encouraging to see Mt. Baldy from here already. But obviously, Iron Mountain summit was not visible from here because of several ridge bumps in the way.

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Halfway point

I reached the Iron Mountain hike halfway point (Lat: 34.25626, Lon: -117.72368, Elev: 4,708 ft). Considering the fact that I started at 2,059 ft, my gain up to this point was just under 2,700 ft.

The NAVD88 elevation of Iron Mountain is 8,010 ft, and my Gaia GPS recorded 7,991 ft. Either way I still have to gain about 3,300 ft elevation to reach the summit. If you look at the graph under the map in the Gaia GPS page, my speed dropped to a crawl after this halfway point, except for those couple of downhills.

And now I was able to see Santa Catalina Island and Santa Monica Mountains from here. That was quite impressive.

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Coldwater Canyon winding down to join Cattle Canyon at the end

I looked down and saw Coldwater Canyon snaking down the floor of the canyon and joining Cattle Canyon. And quite surprisingly I could hear the gushing sound of the water running down the narrow canyon even from up here.

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Before I left, I took a quick shot of my foot touching the stacked rocks at the halfway point

I took a snap of my mark at the halfway point before leaving.

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After a quick downhill walk, I found these dead Yuccas, marking the point where the steep incline to the next ridge top begins

The dip in the ridge at first seemed like nothing. But once I was at the lowest point of the dip, I had to go up again, and when I looked up at the ridge top, it seemed really high. It turned out it was just the first of the two major inclines from this point.

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Looking down in the direction of the halfway point and the dip that I hiked down first and climbed up to the point where I was standing

My struggle was mostly due to the cramps I had in my legs. Also, carrying my full frame camera with a 16-35mm lens weighing about 3.4 lb in my hand was not the best way to charge up those hills! When it was a too much of uphill battle, I had to put it away and hoped nothing spectacular would catch my eye.

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Twin Peaks East was peeking over Rattlesnake Peak for the first time! It was quite cool

Once I reached the first major ridge top after the halfway point and turned around, I noticed Twin Peaks East peeking over Rattlesnake Peak. It was its first sight of the day, and I actually got more excited about it than I did with the sight of Mt. Baldy earlier, frankly. It was probably because of the fact that I had never been up there.

Twin Peaks East (7,762 ft) is not higher than Iron Mountain and the elevation gain is a lot less than Iron Mountain hike’s, but it is high enough to give one a great vantage point to see the west San Gabriel mountain range. The adjacent Mt. Waterman (8,038 ft) on the other hand is a few feet higher than Iron, so it’ll be interesting to hike both there. People hike both of them together due to their close proximity.

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Manzanita flowers

Although I normally do not appreciate Manzanita because short Manzanitas scratch up my legs when I hike in shorts, but here the flowers blossomed, and although they were not the prettiest flowers in the San Gabriel mountains, I loved how the sun light hit the leaves and they became translucent.

The light passed through a bit but also some of it bounced off these leaves and brightened things up as fill light. Loved how well bokeh was rendered with these translucent effects, well mixed with pink flowers.

Joy can be found in small things. Rather unexpectedly.

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Santiago Peak loomed in the distance

As continuing up the trail on this Iron Mountain hike, I caught the first glimpse of Santiago Peak in Ortega mountains rising over the ridge line on my right.

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Mt. Baldy

At this point I was high enough to see the north side of Mt. Baldy clearly. It was such a great day to hike, but also it meant it was getting warm a little bit. No clouds to diffuse the sunlight. Several spots shaded by trees and a little bit of breeze helped, but the temperature was definitely rising.

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Clear view of Mt. Baldy and Ontario ridge line

As I was getting higher in elevation and making progress in distance, the Ontario ridge line still covered with snow at the top, came into view with Mt. Baldy. Such a great view it was. Some views just make me stop and stare at them in awe.

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This guy was quite big

I came across this guy. There was a plenty of lizards as usual, but this big guy was well composed. He didn’t dart away like others did, as I got closer and closer to take photos. Definitely he was not camera shy.

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Taking a break and enjoying the view

The cramping never went away unless I took short breaks. This is one of my favorite spots where I found myself under a tree enjoying the view of the west San Gabriel mountain range.

I trail run in my Altra Lone Peak 2.5 trail running shoes occasionally, and they are my go to shoes that I put on whenever I go out for photography because I’ll never know how slippery the surface may get, either standing on rather wet breakwaters, walking rock beaches or climbing up and down canyons.

Although as much as I love my Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX hiking boots, and they were great when I hiked Mt. Baldy in snow less than 3 weeks ago, every time when I put them on, my toes were hurting on my way down, regardless how tightly I tied the shoes ties.

With this huge toe box of the Altra and Injinji 2.0 Men’s Liner Crew Toesocks, an extra pair of socks, that I put on, my toes were no longer hurting. At least, that was my experience on this Iron Mountain hike. I think that it works quite well for me, considering the elevation gain and loss is just under 7,000 ft each, according to my Gaia track.

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Looks like this was the last steepest incline that I was going to do

After a short, resting break, I was ready to make the last ascent effort to reach the second major ridge top of Iron Mountain hike after the halfway point, and somewhere up there after that, lied Iron Mountain summit.

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After the second major steep incline, the rest to the summit was just steep but short inclines like this

These last two steep but short inclines to the summit reminded me of a part of Bear Canyon Trail quite a bit.

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The view that I’ll never forget!

After the last incline, there it was. Iron Mountain summit.

All the huffing and puffing finally paid off.

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View of Iron Mountain summit and Mt. Baldy in the background

After gaining just under 7,000 ft elevation gain according to my Gaia GPS recording, or 7,200 ft elevation gain according to other blog posts, I was rewarded with this terrific view of the north side of Mt. Baldy.

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Mt. Baldy looked great with a bit snow still left at the top

Throughout the entire lunch break I was taking at the summit on this Iron Mountain hike, I couldn’t stop admiring the view of the north side of Mt. Baldy and kept looking down at San Antonio Ridge that goes all the way up to West Baldy.

Especially when I was told earlier by a guy descending that his buddies actually continued on San Antonio Ridge to Mt. Baldy, I kept asking myself when I want to do it. Some of my friends have done it. As long as weather permits. It’s just a long hike.

Okay, strenuous, I may add.

Ansd I gotta get my leg cramps under control first.

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Mt. Baden-Powell, Throop Peak and South Mt. Hawkins Peak looked great, with Twin Peaks East and the higher Mt. Waterman in the far distance.

I looked northwest. From Mt. Baden-Powell to Throop Peak to South Mt. Hawkins, the mountains looked great. Twin Peaks East and Mt. Waterman have prominently risen behind them.

This view wasn’t new, of course. You see it from Mt. Baldy summit, too. But today’s view was a lot closer.

Actually if you look at the following photo, you will see what I mean.

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View of Mt. Baden-Powell, Troop Peak and Iron Mountain from one of the shelters, which is located on the way to Dawson and Pines Peaks

The photo above was taken from one of the shelters at Mt. Baldy summit, when I did the Baldy hike. The sunlight shone through the clouds and imprinted a couple of slivers of light on West Baldy. Behind it, Iron Mountain was peeking out.

You will have a far better view of Iron Mountain if you are at West Baldy summit.

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It was time to sign in

I was the 6th person summiting Big Bad Iron this day.

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Westbound view of Iron

It was time to descend. I took the westbound view of Iron for the last time. I could see as far as Santa Catalina Island and San Clemente Island, which looked more like short thin lines than anything else. Nonetheless, I was quite impressed how clear it was!

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Some wildflowers along the trail

My sore legs hammered by nonstop cramps on my way up to the summit were not quite happy going down, but these wildflowers helped me forget it momentarily for sure.

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This Tiger Swallowtail butterfly posed for quite a bit. Guess this little was quite busy working

I saw Tiger Swallowtail butterflies near the halfway point a few times and tried a couple of times to capture it but they were flying too far and/or too fast. Then this guy was so busy working on flowers as if I wasn’t even around. I took a couple of snaps.

I talked about Tiger Swallowtail butterflies in my Wind Wolves Preserve hike post. Check it out if you are interested in butterflies.

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Clouds rolled in and blotted out the sun for a bit

I was glad that the clouds rolled in. It was overall quite a warm day.

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East Fork San Gabriel River near Heaton Flats

When I got back to the parking lot, I totally forgot to stop recording my track while drinking the water that I kept in the car. It was a bit after 5:30 pm when I stopped it.

I paused recording while on my first short snack break on my way up and lunch break at the summit.

The following is the stats;

14.4 mi Distance

6 hrs 32 min Moving Time

40:00 min/m Pace

9 hrs 36 min Total Time

3 hrs 3 min Stopped Time

2.2 mph Moving Speed

1.5 mph Avg Speed

6927 ft Ascent

6903 ft Descent

Iron Mountain hike turned out to be a good experience for many reasons.

Once again, when I go for long hikes in San Gabriel mountains, it is an absolute must to bring a plenty of water. I mean, a lot of water.

As I hike peaks and immerse myself in learning about them after, I feel more connected to them than ever before. It is no longer just about bagging another peak and having a bragging right (if anyone allows me to speak it). It is very much in line with the idea of paying proper respect to each and every little thing that comes with it.

Definitely I will keep hiking in my Altra Lone Peak as long as there’s no snow. They were super comfortable even for long hikes. At least Iron Mountain hike proved it for me.

No wonder it is considered of the best by many. But don’t take my word for it. I only speak for myself. You try them on and see if they work for you too. Finding the right boots or shoes is one of the key factors to have a great hiking experience, as you may well know. I was quite happy that my toes weren’t hurting.

If you plan to do Iron Mountain hike, please make sure to start early and bring a lot of water. This is a strenuous hike. Know your limits.

How was your experience in hiking Iron if you have done it? Have you done hiking Iron and Baldy together? What was it like? How long did that take you? What other hikes do you find more strenuous than Iron Mountain hike? Maybe Skyline hike? C2C hike? Villager and Rabbit Peaks hike? What did you learn from hiking Iron Mountain?

Thanks for reading.

[Update: 2016.4.12] I learned that Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly is a state butterfly of Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Wish I were younger and could be able to take this hike! Beautiful pictures and love your descriptions of where you were and when. My family had a cabin in the San Bernardino Mts. and we could see Mt. Baldy clearly from where the cabin was near Blue Jay, CA. I have heard about the San Gabriel Mts., San Bernardino Mts. and also the Cleveland National Forest for most of my life and have seen “vistas” from the roads for many years but seeing them from your camera lens sure does give a new prospective. Thank you so much for a great blog!!!

    • Kathryn, thank you for sharing your story. When I first came to LA to go to school, I never hiked for any longer than a few miles. And even when I left and returned and started hiking more actively, I couldn’t tell what the difference between San Gabriel mountains, San Bernardino mountains, including Mt. San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto mountains, etc. then. To me hiking Mt. Wilson (14 miles) was a big deal. Then, joined more hiking Meetup groups and made other hiking friends, which helped me a lot hike more. (You know, like when you were a kid, you enjoy things more because you do it with friends.) Then, slowly I grew my own appreciation in hiking high mountains, long trails, wilderness, and most all, relationships with mountains and the rest that comes with it.

      When you hike high elevations, seriously it gives you totally different perspective. Yes, we’ve seen all the amazing photos of the Apls, Colorado Rockies and Canadian Rockies, but hiking a mountain and earning that right to appreciate at the top of the mountain is incompatible to almost none. I used to be one of those who wondered why people climb Mt. Everest. LOL I don’t know if I ever will, because I have so many other interests, but I really do understand it now. To a degree, of course. If I may, let me quote John Muir’s famous words believe to be said at San Jacinto Peak – “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!”

      On the age thing you mentioned. I am not as young as other younger friends in their 20s and 30s who hike super fast, but I also have a fair amount of friends who are a lot older than me. My true inspiration was when I met Marilyn (72), Peggy (74), Danny (72) and Ellen (mid-60). Especially Peggy started hiking in her 60s and has already been in Nepal 4 times. They hike the aforementioned mountains in and around SoCal like me or the hikers in 20s and 30s. Of course, not as fast (except Danny), but they are strong hikers, and they made me believe that I could hike in my 70s as well when my mom who is in mid 70s always complain about joint pains and what not. Don’t get me wrong we hiked frequently when I was young. But it is no longer her interest. It’s not the age. It’s what your heart desires, like anything else in life as you know. If you’re not interested in hiking high mountains, that’s good enough for you, and that’s all that matters. Everybody is different, and what makes them happy is all different, right? I am glad that my photos and stories give you just a tad bit different perspective and will be grateful if they inspire you just a bit more to hike more. Thank you for staying in touch. 🙂

  2. Great trip report and pictures! Thanks for sharing your experience. This hike is on my list to do. Thanks also for the suggestions on water and starting early.

    • You’re very welcome and thanks for stopping by!!! Yes, starting as early as you will help you a lot on your way down. And now it’s getting warm, unless you choose a lot cooler day, you will need a lot, a lot of water. Let me know how it goes!!!

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