The Mt Baldy Notch Trail, also known as the Baldy Notch Service Road, is a no-nonsense dirt service road that runs from the San Antonio Falls parking area at Manker Flats to the Mt Baldy Notch. Although it is just a service road, the trail serves an important role in maintaining access up and down the mountain when the ski lift is not functioning.
The first 0.6 mile of the trail between Manker Flats and the San Antonio Falls is a paved asphalt road and the rest of the trail is dirt.
The Mt Baldy Notch is the saddle like clearing that serves as the base for the Top of the Notch Restaurant and the approximate starting point for the Devil’s Backbone Trail to the Mt Baldy summit. The Notch is also the typical end point for the Three T’s hike even though the Three T’s Trail actually ends at Thunder Mountain.
Distance: 7.2 miles
Duration: 3-4 hours
Elevation Gain: 1642 feet
Mt Baldy Notch Trail Description
As mountain trails go, the Mt Baldy Notch Trail is not that exciting. Although it is certainly more picturesque than the fire road trails found in foothill locations like the Claremont Loop and Potato Mountain, it is nevertheless just a fire service road in the mountains.
This trail often gets lumped together with the Devil’s Backbone Trail as one of the routes to the Mt Baldy summit or as the back door route to the Three T’s Trail. When hikers debate whether riding the chairlift to the Notch is cheating to start a Mt Baldy or Three T’s hike, this is the trail you would have to hike up if you didn’t ride the chair.
Although the trail is mostly known as the Mt Baldy Notch Trail or Baldy Notch Service Road, it’s also referred to as the Manker Fire Road, the Ski Lift Maintenance Road or simply as Baldy Road.
Cardiac Hill Shortcut Trail
You can shave off about 1.25 miles in each direction by simply parking at the Mt Baldy Ski Lift parking lot and walking up the very steep and rocky dirt trail located at the west end of the parking lot. The trail is wide enough to be a truck trail and generally follows a wash straight up the mouth of a canyon for about 0.4 mile before it joins the Mt Baldy Notch Trail.
The downside is that this trail is incredibly steep, gaining almost 500 feet in that 0.4 mile! Not quite as steep as Register Ridge, but still worthy enough for some hikers to refer to it as Cardiac Hill.
If you are doing a special event like the Full Moon BBQ Hike which requires you to purchase or activate your ticket at the Mt Baldy Ski Lift shack, it wouldn’t make much sense to then jump in your car and drive back down to the San Antonio Falls parking area just so you could hike up from Manker. In most cases, you would simply hike up the shortcut trail to the Notch Trail and then continue on to the Notch.
Once you get to the Notch, you can either grab a cold beer or bite to eat at the Top of the Notch Restaurant, or continue onward to the Devil’s Backbone Trail or Thunder Mountain Trail.
Once you’ve accomplished whatever goal you were seeking, you can then walk back down the Mt Baldy Notch Trail to your vehicle. Or ride the chair lift down.