Ski Hut-Devil’s Backbone Loop

Connecting the Ski Hut Trail and the Devil's Backbone Ridge is one of my favorite SoCal hikes—in either direction. This time my son and I ascended from Manker Flat and descended via the ridge, finishing at the Mt. Baldy resort and an easy ride down Chair 1.

The big advantage of starting at Manker Flat and finishing at the Mt. Baldy lot is you don't have to skitter and slide down the 1700 vertical feet of steep, loose ground between Baldy's summit and the ski hut. The Devil's Backbone offers a much more gradual descent grade.

You can also grab a snack or late lunch when you reach the Notch, or just refill your water bottle in anticipation of the grueling ride down the chairlift to the parking lot. Either way, this is a strenuous but outstanding local hike that covers a surprising amount of terrain.

The Ski Hut Trail gains about 3900 vertical feet in a short four and half miles, making for a very brisk up; in contrast, it's about three and a half miles to the Notch (7800') from Baldy's summit.

Many of you have probably hiked this at least as many times as I have, but it just doesn't get old. Each time I do it, I'm reminded of how special the San Gabriels are. This is a big, bold, and beautiful range.

For the video we used my Hero 8 Black, which really shines when it comes to portability and hand-held tracking shots. I wanted, as much as possible, to evoke a sense of the whole hike, start to finish, as if you were there yourself. Hopefully you'll enjoy the result.

— June 9, 2021

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Bill June 10, 2021 at 6:30 am

So happy to see you posting vids again. Also, thank you for mentioning what camera you used to film. I'm dabbling a bit in posting vids. I've got a Hero 3 but the audio sucks. Your audio really good quality.
Was you audio from the stock GoPro mic?

Joseph Gregory June 10, 2021 at 6:44 am

Andy your son has gotten SO TALL. I last remember seeing him in one of your ski videos, I think when you were all training the kids. Love that you guys are getting out. My dad and I spent some very important time in the mountains together. I always love seeing fathers get out with their kids.

It is also good to watch a detailed video of Baldy from your formidable videographic perspective. I was also shocked (but not really) by seeing how cruddy the Girly Man looks when bare.

And then there's Baldy... I moved out of state a few years ago. I climbed Baldy 35+ times from 2009-2019 from Ski Hut Sunday rush hours to quiet solo trudges up Register Ridge for weekday summit sunsets. It's like seeing a video message from an old friend. It's nice to see improved signage along the route too.

It's very encouraging to see you back in fine form! Cheers!

Andy June 10, 2021 at 10:25 am

Bill for audio I'm using Stephen Reid's Mod:

So yes it's onboard audio, but with those little fuzzies attached. It makes a HUGE difference in wind but it preserves all the convenience of keeping things stock. At some point I intend to start writing about cameras again, and how I use them (ie, backcountry photography tips) as well as doing more tutorials on how I use Vegas Pro to edit video:

Joseph I'm glad I got to share some happy memories for you. Baldy's summit at sunset is incredible. The whole hike is incredible. How time has passed. My son is just under my height and fast approaching. Every day in the mountains with him is precious. :)

Bill June 11, 2021 at 8:05 am

Thanks for the tips Andy. I super appreciate it. I'm hoping to take the fam to Les 2 Alpes glacier here in France this Sunday. They've finally got lifts running. It's got the longest glacier run in France and is one of the few places left with summer skiing post climate-change. I've never skied a glacier (knowingly). That leads me to another point. Man your kids are soo good and seem to really enjoy skiing with their Dad. Mine, it's like pulling teeth. I mean fer jeezess-frickin-christenum-dag-nabbit we're in France. Ski areas have been closed for over a year. And nobody wants to ski a glacier at 3,600 meters at the end of June? Maybe you need to start a ski camp for kids since you seem to be able to teach them to love the sport. How do you do it?

Andy June 12, 2021 at 8:51 am

Bill my kids have reached the age where you start realizing how little control over them you have anymore. :) But their love of skiing is something I'm very proud of. Skiing was always just a part of life in our home, year-round, from the time they could walk. And as they got older, I realized they *loved* skiing with their cousins and friends, so I tried to create those opportunities as much as I could. Enjoy that glacier! It sounds incredible.