Hiking Ontario Peak
High above the densely populated Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties spread a series of mountainous peaks and unique wilderness areas. These wilderness areas make up the Angeles National Forest which spans over 700,000 acres. The bulk of the Ontario Peak trail leads into the Cucamonga Wilderness. The Cucamonga Wilderness covers 12,781 acres with about one third of its land in the Angeles National Forest and the remaining portions in the San Bernardino National Forest.
Ontario Peak sits at 8,696 feet and features a trail that is just over twelve miles long. The adventurous day hike or overnight camping trip begins just past Mount Baldy Village at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead. This trailhead is a major trail that leads to a junction of many other peaks in the area including Cucamonga Peak. The bulk of Icehouse Canyon parallels Icehouse Creek and up past Telegraph Wash to Icehouse Saddle Junction. Along the way will be a series of old recreational cabins. The creek usually flows year round and is fed through a series of springs. There is a spring that crosses the trail just after the two mile mark. This will be the last area for water. Late in the year and in dismal water years, the spring can be unreliable.
The lower portions of the trail include an oak covered canyon. Higher elevations are a mixed conifer forest of Ponderosa, Jeffrey, and Douglas-Fir pines and Manzanita thickets. There are ample amounts of wildflowers with the later blooms lasting until late summer in the higher elevations. Wildlife viewing opportunities can include bird watching, bears, deer, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep.
On A Personal Note
The switchbacks through the Icehouse Canyon can be quite cumbersome. The good news is that the switchbacks significantly cease after the Icehouse Saddle Junction. The rest of the trail to Ontario Peak follows a ridge that divides San Antonio Canyon and Cucamonga Canyon. It’s also the dividing point between the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forest. This trail will require a wilderness permit or either an Adventure Pass or America The Beautiful Pass. Permit information can be found in the trail directions tab.
To be honest, I enjoyed this trail much more than hiking Cucamonga Peak. This peak is included on the list of the Southern California Six Pack of Peaks and in my opinion, makes a great alternate peak. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep along the way, I did see one while approaching Kelly Camp. Prominent points of interest that can be seen from the peak are Mount Baldy, Bighorn Peak, Cucamonga Peak, Telegraph Peak, San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, and the sprawling suburban cities of Southern California.
Have you recently hiked this trail? Leave a comment with recent conditions or feel free to share your pictures in the comments
- Overall Difficulty: 85% 85%
- Overall Views 90% 90%
Ontario Peak Trail Quick Facts:
- Elevation: 8,697 feet
- Elevation Gain: 4,207 feet
- Estimated Distance: 12.4 miles
- My Actual Distance: 14.3 miles (with Bighorn peak included).
- Estimated Time: 6-9 hours.
- My Time: Total time 7 hours 34 minutes; 6 hours 4 minutes moving.
Ontario Peak Trail Directions:
Ontario Peak Trail Pictures:
Who Ontario Peak Is For:
Advanced Hikers: This hike will be a challenge for advanced hikers. If setting out when there is ice or snow on the trail, make sure to have adequate equipment. To break this trail up into a shorter section, camping is an option.
Expert Hikers: Those who have a lot of experience hiking in steep unstable terrain should have no difficulty. While it is a tough hike, weather conditions can make it harder. If you have proper equipment, you’ll have no problem. For those wanting more of an overnight experience, there are camping options which connect to longer trails in the San Gabriel’s.
It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.
Best Time Of Year To Hike Ontario Peak:
In my opinion, summer is probably the worst time of year to hike this trail. Temperatures can be hot and just downright dangerous. That being said, in the beginning and end of summer there can be some cooler days to be found. Some species of plants bloom late into the summer at the peak.
It’s always a good idea to check the weather before heading out on a hike.
Ontario Peak Trail Conditions:
Icehouse Canyon to Icehouse Canyon Saddle
The trail begins leading up through Icehouse Canyon and parallels the adjacent creek. Almost immediately the trail begins winding up a series of switchbacks that lead up through the area. As the trail leads up the creek it passes by a series of old use cabins. Enjoy the views and the sound of the creek while you can. As the elevation gains the creek fades and will soon be forgotten and replaced by the fact that you’re still going up switchbacks.
The switchbacks lead up out of the canyon to a Icehouse Saddle Junction. The junction services other peaks that are in the range. Many people use this area as a pit stop before heading to their destined peaks. Some even use it to set up camp. However,the junction is usually the windiest part of the trail drawing in coastal air through Icehouse Canyon that splits between two different peaks. The Ontario Peak trail junction is directly to the right of Kelly Camp.
Ontario Peak and Kelly Camp
After leaving the Icehouse Saddle, the switchbacks are few and the trail becomes quite pleasant. The trail winds along the ridge above Icehouse Canyon and leads to an old wilderness hotel known as Kelly Camp. All that’s left are the aged and weathered stone foundations. This area is well sheltered and is a great spot for camping if an overnight trip is on the agenda.
After Kelly Camp the mixed conifer forest gives way into an old burn area littered with dead trees. From here on out the trail follows a ridge that divides both the San Benardino National Forest and the Angeles National Forest. One the south side of the ridge will be the cities of Riverside, San Benardno, and Los Angeles County. In the far distance San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Peak Can be seen. To the other side of the ridge will be Mount Baldy, Mount Baden-Powell, and the rest of the San Gabriel Mountain Range that sprawls to the coast.
Eventually the ridge terminates at the famous Ontario Peak tree – an old dead pine which now serves the purpose of a photo op. There are also a couple of wooden signs that other hikers have put up there for people to take their summit picture with. After enjoying the panoramic views of Southern California, you can head back down the ridge. Some people also include Bighorn Peak with this hike which will add an additional two miles.