3 Local Hikes to Prepare You For Half Dome or Mount Whitney


The trek up Half Dome and Mount Whitney can be challenging, particularly for those who haven’t trained their legs, lungs and mind. Even those who have will experience an uphill battle that tests your endurance and unleashes a fear of heights you never knew you had.

These are some of the tallest peaks in the West and while the climb up to their summits can be brutal, they are doable. Drive 50 miles east to the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest and you’ll find a wealth of challenging hikes with an almost identical distance and altitude. Sure, the drive is a trek in itself, but the views will not be a disappointment.

1. Mount Wilson via Chantry Flats

MtWilson (1).jpg

Where (Latitude, Longitude): 34.35860, -117.7636
Distance: 13.5 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 4,200’
Summit Elevation: 5,710’
Time: +/- 7 hours (round trip)
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
Notable Features:
     - Astronomical views
     - Idyllic streamline campsites
     - Covered, thick forests

Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles and Orange County’s Crystal Cove have a reputation for good views and modest workouts, but the steady elevation gains and short distances are just that - moderate. A series of six challenging hikes up the tallest peaks in Southern California, dubbed the Six-Pack of Peaks, will help build the stamina and muscle needed to conquer Half Dome and Mount Whitney. As hikers climb their way through the Six-Pack of Peaks, they will notice that the mountains become increasingly taller and exhaustingly longer. Mount Wilson is the lowest of the peaks, but it won’t fail to put those glutes to work. It’s also home to the Mount Wilson Observatory, an astronomical center that houses two historically important telescopes integral in the discovery of dark matter.

2. Cucamonga Peak via Icehouse Canyon


Where (Latitude, Longitude): 34.35860, -117.7636
Distance: 12 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 3,800’
Summit Elevation: 9,399’
Time: +/- 6 hours (round trip)
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
Notable Features:
     - Expansive views of Orange County, Inland Empire and Apple Valley
     - Alpine scenery

Cucamonga Peak is a beautiful, but tough hike. From the summit, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Saddleback mountain range, Mount San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and Mount Baldy. The first half of this 12 mile round-trip hike consists of a well-forested trail that parallels Icehouse Creek.
After Icehouse Saddle, the crowd thins out, but the trail is steep, dry and exposed.

3. Baden-Powell Peak

Where (Latitude, Longitude): 34.3733760, -117.7521970
Distance: 8.7 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 2,900’
Summit Elevation: 9,406’
Time:: +/- 4.5 hours (round trip)
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Notable Features:
Never-ending switchbacks
    - Spectacular views of Angeles National Forest,  high deserts and the               greater Los Angeles basin
   - Steady uphill climb

Nestled deep in the Angeles Forest lies the fifth highest peak in the range. Named after the founder of the World Scouting Movement, Baden-Powell is usually less crowded and offers an equally spectacular view of its counterparts (Mt. Baldy,  Mt. Wilson, Cucamonga Peak) and the expansive wilderness between them. The 8.7 mile round-trip hike offers stunning views throughout the hike and the final stretch of the trail to the summit is rewarding. Your legs may start to feel a burning sensation, but it’s well worth the unobstructed views of the Mojave Desert and Mount Baldy.