Distance (round-trip)

7.9 mi

Time

3 hrs

Elevation Gain

1401 ft

Season

Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter

Weather

The hike to Sunset Peak is a winding fire-road hike to one of the front peaks near the Mt. Baldy Area. This is the longer but less strenuous of two routes and offers outstanding, panoramic views of the Baldy Bowl and – on clear days – the seemingly never-ending sprawl of the foothill cities. On the peak’s summit are the remains of an old fire tower that burned down years ago.

The Baldy Bowl may be my favorite hiking area in the entire San Gabriel Mountains. Sure, there’s the prominent namesake peak, but there are also the impressive “Three Tees” – Timber, Thunder, and Telegraph, the twin sentinels of Cucamonga and Ontario, and many more miles of wilderness trails on the north side of the mountains. For this trip, I set my sights on the least tall of the Baldy Bowl Peaks — Sunset Peak.

Located on the western side of San Antonio Canyon, Sunset Peak promised to offer some great views of both the mountains and the cities below, and — with the recent precipitation we’ve been blessed with — some snow-covered alpine scenery, too. From the exit off the 210, I could already see that Ontario Peak had a healthy dusting.

Unfortunately, it didn’t look like I was the only one attracted to the snow that day. The closer I got to Mount Baldy Village, the more congested traffic got — not exactly the thing you look for when you’re driving that far away from Los Angeles. But instead of continuing toward the ski resorts, I turned off onto Glendora Ridge Road, passed the first trailhead at Cow Creek Saddle, and pulled off the road near a Forest Service road.

The view from the trailhead was already impressive — as the Sprawl Cities lay to my south and Lookout Mountain and a large chunk of Baldy guarded the north. 

The trail is on this Forest Service road, which slowly and deliberately winds its way to the summit. While I was hiking up, I didn’t pass anyone but did see several hikers’ trails in the small bits of remaining snow, along with a fair share of dog and horse tracks.

While the trail itself was not very interesting, the views were outstanding. Like I mentioned before, the rain gave some (sadly) artificially huge visibility ranges — I could make out peaks as far west as Mount Wilson and the bat-ears of Strawberry and Josephine.

The trail starts off at the end of the scrub range, and as it winds its way up, starts to move through the Jeffrey Pine in the higher elevations. It’s one of the shortest and easiest ways to experience one of the major landscape shifts in the Angeles National Forest.

Most of this trail is on the north face of the mountain ridge, which means it’s more shaded and generally cooler than the rest of the nearby terrain. For me, this meant I was trudging through snow for most of the way up. And not the fun, powdery stuff, but the crusted-over, tough, icy snow. It wasn’t too bad, but it did decrease my hiking speed a bit.

At about the 2.7 mile mark, the trail circles around a small ridge just to the northeast of Sunset Peak’s summit. Here, the fire road meets up with a small firebreak / use trail that ascends from Cow Creek Saddle. It is an alternate route to the peak, but is much, much steeper than the fire road route I describe here. I would have taken it, had it not been completely iced over. Steepness and ice are not two things you want to mix if you don’t have the proper equipment.

Instead, I took in the views from this area, which encompasses a nearly 360 degree view of the San Antonio Canyon and Baldy Bowl. The view from the actual peak will be better, but this is still pretty impressive when you first lay eyes on it. The long, sloping ridge of Baldy dominates to the left, with Thunder, Telegraph, and Timber in the center, and the north slope of Bighorn on the right.

From there, it’s just a short (or, very short if you take the use-trail) trip to the summit of Sunset Peak. The fire road swings around to the south of the summit and continues away from the peak. Here, there is a very easy-to-spot trail that will take you north toward the summit, where you can fully get that full 360 view you’ve been longing for — as well as spot a few leftovers from a burnt-down lookout tower that used to crown the peak.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.





Dog-Friendly

Historical Interest

Multi-Use Trail

Views / Vista

Trail Map

24 Comments

Anthony Jan 30, 2018 23:01In reply to: Casey Schreiner

I'm gonna hit it this weekend! (I've approached Sunset Peak from the east via the fire road, but not this side).

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Casey Schreiner Dec 18, 2017 11:12In reply to: Stefanie

This trail can be hiked year round. If we have a wet winter, there is likely to be snow, but it's still doable if you have snowshoes.

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Stefanie Dec 16, 2017 08:12

What time of year did you hike this trail? (Sorry if I missed that in your post)

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Linda Frost Jan 25, 2017 03:01

This is my favorite hike. Its views of the ocean, as the sun sinks toward the horizen turning the water to molten mercury, are spectacular. The sight of Catalina and other offshore islands floating in this silvery pool is a poet's delight. The shorter trail provides exquisite sunset vistas, especially in the fall. Alas, tales of biting insects in the summer months are true. By the way, it's Cow Canyon Saddle and sits at the head of Cow Canyon.

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Janice Lee Aug 29, 2016 08:08

I realized today that one should avoid this trail during the summer. I thought it was just a wrong day to go several weeks ago when I went on a sunset hike and started to attract a lot of gnats at the first fork. Then went again last night and it was a hundred times worse. I was literally swarmed the whole way to the top by what could have easily been 50 gnats around my head, buzzing in my ears and trying to fly into my nose. My poor dog had so many on his eyelids, I had to periodically brush them out with my hands. Once the sun went down they disappeared. I will try this hike again when the weather dips below 70F.

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Mike P. May 31, 2015 19:05

Hiked Sunset Peak from Cow Canyon Saddle today. Took the ridge line trail up with very little relief from the sun. It was especially hot today but a fun trail with a little scrambling. A lot of flies out the whole way up as well. Took the fire road down which is semi-uneventful. About 5 miles roundtrip.

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Ana Jan 22, 2015 21:01

Hiked this trail yesterday with the directions and descriptions from your blog and its spot on! No snow this time, but relatively easy to find and stay on the trail and great driving directions. Started in the late morning, didn't have to battle any crowds for parking, heads up--they are doing maintenance on cow canyon road. I even convinced two friends that are not hikers to join me and they are hooked! Thank you for the info and your pictures! I would have never known about this little gem without your help.

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Casey Schreiner Dec 23, 2014 11:12In reply to: Riah

Glad you enjoyed it! That's a great hike for wonderful views with a reasonable amount of effort.

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Riah Dec 22, 2014 12:12

Did this trail yesterday. The trail was snow-free but had great views of snow on Baldy. We went up the fire road and the steeper offshoot trail, and then made a loop on the way down via the firebreak trail. The firebreak was a little hard to follow and steep in places, but definitely made us feel like we were having an adventure. Great hike - thanks!!!

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Modern Hiker Feb 12, 2012 16:02In reply to:

Glad you enjoyed it! That peak has some pretty amazing views, doesn't it?

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