Olmsted Point is a turnout viewing area located in Yosemite National Park, off of the Tioga Road which offers a view into Tenaya Canyon and the northern side of Half Dome. We stopped there for a brief visit after our impromptu and extended hike of May Lake, also in Yosemite.
It’s a nice place to check out the views and stretch your legs. There is a huge sloping rock formation that you can walk on and you can see Half Dome clearly in the distance. even though it’s not that close. You can always try to put Half Dome in the palm of your hands and take a picture like Kim was able to do thanks to expert guidance from me on where to place her hand.
There’s also a few hiking trails that start at Olmsted Point. The information sign at the trailhead warns hikers of dangerous hiking trails beyond but does recommend at short .2 mile walk to an overlook with spectacular views. Unfortunately, we were so stuck on getting pictures with Half Dome that we forgot to check out the overlook.
By the way, the site was named after father and son duo Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), and his son Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Both were landscape architects and the senior Olmsted was the designer of the world famous Central Park in New York City. Olmsted senior was also chairman of the first commission to manage Yosemite Valley and his son was a member of the Yosemite Advisory Board.
It had been quite a while since I’d hiked the Claremont Hills Wilderness Trail, also known as the Claremont Loop. So I scheduled a hike with the Lazy Ass Hiking and On The Move Inland Empire hiking groups for Wednesday, August 27, 2014, rounded up fellow hikers Kim, Aska and Nora, and off we were.
We arrived about 15 minutes before the official 5:30 pm start time. It was a hot day, probably around 90 degrees and there was a barricade posted at the entrance gate warning of mountain lion activity.
A few members of the hiking groups were already there and before long the whole group minus a few who were running late had assembled just past the entrance gate for a group photo. Then I started my hiking tracker and headed up the Cobal Canyon Mtwy trail.
There’s a fork in the trail about 600 feet in, where the Cobal Canyon trail intersects with the Burbank Mtwn trail. Both trails connect with the Johnson’s Pasture Rd thereby creating the loop. The Cobal Canyon trail is on the right and the Burbank trail is on the left. You can take either one, but the Cobal Canyon trail is steeper. And that’s the route we took.
As we passed through the tee lined shaded area, I was surprised to see how withered and thinned out the once lush tree canopy had become. This area used to be quite dark even during the middle of the day and now it seemed like partial shade at best.
I was hindered a bit on the hike by an ill-timed cold and a banged up knee, so most of the group hiked up ahead. Once out of the shady areas, the blazing sun bore down on us once again. I was sweating like a pig and fortunately had remembered to bring my bandana. Soon enough, it was just me, Kim and one of the group hikers named Mike hiking together well behind the others. They were waiting for us, however, at the ramada at the top of the Claremont Loop.
Once reunited with the group, I took a short break and just I was getting ready to take a another group photo next to the Claremont Loop Ramada, two hiker gals named Emily and Louise charged forward and joined the group. They had arrived late and had hurried to catch up, saying they didn’t want to get kicked out of the group on their first hike. I gave them kudos for their efforts.
We took a group photo and then set off down Johnson’s Pasture Rd toward the Burbank Mtwy. By now, the sun was creeping below the hills and it had cooled down considerably, thanks in part to a nice breeze.
On the way to the Burbank Mtwy trail, Kim and Nora followed me and another hiker named Andreas up Extra Credit Hill for a short but very steep stairmaster type of climb.
Extra Credit Hill is a slight shortcut up the face of one of hills that you would otherwise have to walk around. It actually doesn’t shave off much distance, but it’s a nice workout for the legs. The top of the hill dumps off onto Johnson’s Pasture Rd and after the arduous climb up, we found ourselves right behind the group who had taken the fire road all the way around. So much for the short cut.
Eventually, the group pulled away once again. These hikers didn’t mess around. They were way up ahead when I noticed a small group had stopped in the middle of the trail. Remembering the mountain lion warnings, I was wondering if they had seen one near the trail. As it turned out, they had stopped to take pictures with a tarantula that was occupying a spot mid trail.
After taking an obligatory pic of the hairy little creature, we headed back down the rest of the way and took one final picture near the parking lot as I clicked off my hiking tracker. According to the tracker, we hiked 5.09 miles in 2.02 hours with a 915 feet elevation gain. Not a bad little conditioning walk.
For a very detailed description of this hike including stats, park hours and just about everything you want to know about the Claremont Loop, be sure to check out my full length hike description:
Just added a new hike description page covering the details of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Trail, aka the Claremont Loop. Since I’ve done this trail many times, you will note that the hike description is very detailed including the hours of operation, waypoints, etc. I’ve also added a Claremont Hills Wilderness Trail Hike Report covering my experiences on my last hike there.
Hike Date: August 3, 2014 With our Bluesapaloosa wrist bands still on just in case we got back early, Kim and I decided once again to take a hike. This time in Yosemite. We didn’t have much time, so we got a map and looked for a short one.
The map showed a nice easy hike called May Lake and said it was only 1.2 miles one way so we figured that would be perfect. We rolled up to what we thought was the trailhead and the sign said 2.7 miles one way. We started off with half a bottle of water and both of us were wearing regular cotton clothes and tennis shoes. After all, this was a short hike, right?
After about a quarter mile, I decided to go back to the car to fetch my backpack which had two full bottles of water and a few supplies. And then we started over again.
Before long, we were both huffing and puffing and realized we were on a real hike. Kim hiked up ahead, glaring at me from time to time. Sort of like the time her, Aska and Nora (fellow Lazy Ass Recon hikers) were giving me the eye on an exploratory hike to Two Trees Box Springs Towers when we got way off trail and ran out of water.
As the terrain got worse, we realized tennis shoes weren’t the greatest choice but we figured the sign had the correct mileage of 2.7 miles to the lake. So we plodded on higher and higher, eventually reached a crest and then started descending fairly rapidly toward a clearing. We both expected to see the lake once we got to the bottom, but encountered a very large meadow instead. Nice to be sure, but still not a lake.
By now, it was very overcast and we were wondering where the heck this lake was. We continued onward past the meadow for several minutes and came upon a cabin that turned out to be some type of snow shelter. It was locked and posted No Trespassing. After taking a couple pictures, we continued onward uphill again and finally reached a clearing where we saw a…parking lot!
Turns out, this was the real trailhead for May Lake. So we still had to continue up the damn hill to get to the fricken lake. Oh well, we were already sweaty, might as well continue. So up we went, dodging ridiculous amounts of bear scat and thinking the lake better be worth it.
Finally, we arrived at the lake. To be honest, it was pretty dang anti-climatic. Maybe due to having seen the pristine aqua blue waters of Big Pine Lakes a couple days prior. But in any case, we drank some water, had a snack and chatted with a group of backpackers who were headed for the John Muir Trail.
Then it started to rain and everyone started to scatter. No problem, I had my emergency poncho in my backpack, right? Wrong, I had forgotten it. Kim wanted to duck under a tree, but I said let’s make a run for it. Fortunately, it stopped raining fairly quickly and we eventually made it back to the car, slipping and sliding on the rocky areas due to our now very slick tennis shoes.
Overall, we had fun and in a very gentle sort of way were reminded of basic hiking protocol. Once back to the car, we guzzled water and then headed out to Olmsted Point for a look at Half Dome. All in all, a nice quick and easy introduction to Yosemite.
This was pretty much a goof-off day. After hiking the Big Pine Lakes area the day before, my friend Kim and I met some other friends at Shcat’s Bakery in Bishop for coffee & pastries before saying goodbye and heading up to Convict Lake.
Once we got to Convict Lake I decided to check out the hiking possibilities and discovered an actual hiking trail called Convict Canyon that went around the lake to the mountains. That’s where we met a hiker named Steve, who was gearing up for some backpacking up the mountain near Lake Dorothy. As it turns out he regularly hiked with our friends Alden & Mika, who had led the Tahqutiz Peak Lookout hike. What a small world.
Though I was tempted to hike the trail for a ways, we decided to just kick it around Convict Lake where we took pictures and wading in the cool lake waters. This is a jewel of a lake located in front of Mt Morrison, about three miles or so west of Hwy 395 near Mammoth Lakes and sits about 7,850 ft above sea level. We enjoyed the views and took a walk on a potion of the boardwalk before heading up to Mammoth for the Bluesapaloosa festival.
The first thing I thought of when I saw the spectacular photos of my friends Jim and Arden standing to the side of a milky turquoise lake in front of the wildly majestic Temple Crag was, “where is this and when can I hike it?” They told me it was the Big Pine Lakes North Fork Trail and that they would happy to return there for another hike.
I mentioned it to the Lazy Ass Hiking Recon Team and Kim said she’d join me. Jim and Arden agreed to lead the hike and a couple of other friends, Chris and Rocio said they would be camping in the area a couple days before the Mammoth Bluesapaloosa Festival, and might join us for a portion of the hike. So we all decided on a July 31, 2014 hike date and off we were.
I’ve always enjoyed the long and scenic Highway 395 so the drive up from Southern California was pleasant, even though we ran into a windstorm south of Lone Pine and a light rain in Lone Pine. Kim and I stopped at the Visitor Center in Lone Pine to pick up a map of the Big Pine Lakes area. A few hikers bound for Mt Whitney were being advised by staff not to hike Mt Whitney due to the weather. They said they were going anyway.
Kim and I continued on to Big Pine and hung out with the rest of our friends at the Big Pine Creek campground for several hours before calling it a night.
We all met at the North Fork Trail trailhead the next next morning around 7:50 am and promptly started our hike. The weather was slightly cool and pleasant but we knew it would warm up fairly soon. Before long, we climbed up a couple of switchbacks and saw impressive looking mountains off in the distance. We weren’t sure if one of them was the Palisade Glacier or not. The Palisade Glacier is the largest glacier in the Sierras with the Palisade Crest rising above 14,000 feet. We soon crossed the wood bridge at First Falls.
About halfway between First Falls and the junction with the Baker Creek Trail, Arden decided to go back to the campground, as she just wasn’t feeling it that day and had already done the hike a few weeks prior. Chris and Rocio went back with her to keep her company. Jim said he would stay with Kim and I so we continued up the trail. Our goal was Second Lake. Before long, we left the shady coverage of the trees and found ourselves on an exposed wide open trail.
Just beyond the Baker Creek Trail, Jim pointed out a distant waterfall, Second Falls, saying we would be hiking right next to it. The trail getting there didn’t even look passable, just a massive craggy wall of rock curving in huge arc. However, by this point, the trail had leveled off bit, allowing me to catch my breath and trudge forward at a decent pace until we climbed up a few more switchbacks and reached Second Falls, where we took a short break.
Once past Second Falls, the trail meandered through a shady, tree covered area called Cienega Mirth and eventually we came across the cabin that had been built by movie actor Lon Chaney in the 1920s. Now it’s owned by the U.S. Forrest service and it was locked. A group of backpackers were lounging in the shade of the veranda and said they had been forced to spend the night there last night due to a fierce rainstorm.
Back on the trail, we passed the junction to Black Lake and just when we were wondering where the heck these fricken lakes were, First Lake popped into view on the left. Pictures are one thing, but seeing these milky turquoise colored lakes with your own eyes is a real treat.
We hiked to an area between First and Second Lakes and took picture after picture. There was a funky looking narrow footbridge spanning the narrow boulder walled channel between the lakes, about 15 feet above the raging whitewater. We took turns going across the bridge and I took a video as I crossed back over.
After a well deserved lunch break, we hiked down to Second Lake and hopped across some rocks to a boulder sitting in the lake, where we took more pictures. I hike with Kim quite often and typically our peak bagger’s custom when we bag a peak is for me to cradle her in my arms for a picture. Since we hadn’t really bagged a peak (despite feeling like we had), we did the pose on a boulder just inside the water of Second Lake with the majestic and ominous looking Temple Crag in the background.
Finally, we felt a few rain drops and decided to head back. The way back was obviously a bit easier since we were mostly going down hill. We met some backpackers at the junction with the Black Lake Trail and took a photo before continuing on.
Eventually it started to rain pretty good just as we crossed the Baker Creek Trail. Fortunately, we made it back into a tree covered area before getting too wet, and made it back to the trailhead. Arden was waiting for us and we all returned back to the campsite where we rewarded ourselves to a couple of ice cold beers.
This was definitely beautiful territory with fantastic views along the way. Admittedly this hike was tougher than I expected, but certainly worth the effort. The pictures probably don’t do it justice, but we already a group of our friends expressing interest in this hike based on the pictures.
Distance: 10.14 miles; which includes a couple short side trips near Lon Chaney’s cabin and across the rickety footbridge.
I had always heard that hiking Baldy via the Devil’s Backbone Trail was the easiest way to bag Mt Baldy, so I scheduled a group hike for July 13, 2014 for my Lazy Ass Hiking group. But since I’d never before ascended Baldy via the Backbone, and heard reports of a washout on the trail necessitating a rope, I decided to do a pre-hike one week before the group hike to check out the trail.
I had twice before hiked up the Baldy Bowl Trail to the summit and hiked DOWN the Backbone, and figured the Backbone Trail would be relatively easy. Needless to say, I was in for a rude awakening…
The Recon Team Pre-Hike Up Baldy
The pre-hike was on July 6, 2014. I rounded up a couple of my Lazy Ass Hiking Recon Hikers and knowing that the actual hike started at the Notch, not from Manker Flats, we used our Groupon vouchers to ride the chairlift up to the Notch. It was a ridiculously hot day and our arms and legs were feeling the blazing sun, even on the chairlift ride up.
Is It Cheating To Take The Chairlift To The Notch?
I’m aware that SOME hiking snobs will call the chairlift to the Notch cheating, But that just shows ignorance of where the Devil’s Backbone Trail actually begins. Sure you COULD add the extra 3.6 miles and 1600 feet elevation gain walking up the long and tedious fire road from Manker or from the Ski-Lift parking area if you wanted to. Sure you COULD start from Icehouse Canyon and do the Three T’s on your way to the Notch and THEN hike Baldy. Heck, why not do Everest?
But that wasn’t our hike. Our hike started at the beginning of the Devil’s Backbone Trail, just north of the Notch. And that’s the trail we took on both the 7/6/14 pre-hike and the 7/13/14 group hike.
Where Does The Devil’s Backbone Trail Run?
The Devil’s Backbone Trail starts just north of the Mt Baldy Notch and runs all the way to the summit of Mt Baldy. There are four distinct sections of the Devil’s Backbone Trail:
The tedious wide path that resembles a fire road or truck trail
The breathtaking Devil’s Backbone ridge
The single track traverse around the side of Mt Harwood
The nasty east slope of Mt Baldy
The Fire Road Section
There’s a lot of confusion about exactly where the Devil’s Backbone Trail actually begins. There are no signs pointing anywhere and when you step behind the Top of the Notch Restaurant and look out, you see two different fire road styled paths leading up. I’ve read about this and knew there was actually a third fire road path located to the right, out of view from the restaurant area. All three paths eventually merge so it’s not that big a deal which one you take.
On the pre-hike, we took the steep rocky path on the left and on the group hike we took the one farthest to the right which is the actual start of the Devil’s Backbone Trail. Either way, I was huffing and puffing and sweating almost immediately.
As you might expect, I found the road portion of the hike the least interesting. I mean, who really enjoys hiking on a fire road? Aside from the altitude, we might as well have been on the Claremont Loop. Fortunately, the closer we got to the Devil’s Backbone Ridge, the better the views got and we also bumped into a couple of hikers along the way named Shane and Arturo who we kept on encountering on the trail. Before long, Arturo surged ahead and Shane was pretty much hiking with us.
Just when I was really starting to get tired of the fire road, we finally emerged onto the obvious beginnings of a mountain ridge and encountered Arturo on his way back down. This is where the Devil’s Backbone Ridge starts. Arturo looked like he had just run a marathon and said he had gone up to the summit with his denim jeans and one small bottle of water. It was agreed that Shane would hike with us to the summit and Arturo would find a shady spot to rest.
The Devil’s Backbone Ridge
The Devil’s Backbone Ridge is located about 1.3 miles from the Notch and is only about seven-tenths of a mile long. In my opinion, this is where the fun begins. It starts off with an immediate steep climb up the ridgeline and then another climb up a somewhat more rocky ridge before leveling off a bit toward the knife-edged ridge with the breathtaking views that everyone associates with the Devil’s Backbone.
Because it is a knife-edged ridge with somewhat sketchy sections of trail, we gave reasonable care when crossing the backbone. Although the Devil’s Backbone is especially treacherous during foul weather or when snow or ice are present, this is not a place to get careless on even in the best of weather.
There is a picturesque outcropping of rock (shown above) that suspends over the north end of the backbone that many hikers take pictures on or in front of. Both Kim and Aska love climbing up rocks, so it wasn’t long before they were both perched atop the rock. I took their pictures and then took my turn on the rock. This is not something I recommend others do, just something we did on the pre-hike. On the group hike, I stayed off the rock and took photos of hikers standing in front.
The Traverse Around Mt Harwood
Once you pass the Backbone, it’s just a matter of getting around the side of Mt Harwood to the saddle between Mt Baldy and Mt Harwood, about 2.6 miles from the Notch. There are again some sketchy sections of trail here as you climb above the backbone. The trail isn’t the greatest but I didn’t encounter any washouts or ropes.
This portion of the trail changes in character from loose and rugged to fairly level and smooth the closer you get to Baldy. Having hiked down the east Baldy slope, I knew what was in store for us on the other side of Mt Harwood and took my time so as to rest up for the nasty climb ahead. Kim, Aska and Shane hiked ahead of me.
Before long, the massive east slope of Mt Baldy popped into view and we got our first glimpse of what we were facing. It wasn’t very encouraging, but we stuck with it getting closer and closer to Baldy.
The Nasty East Slope of Mt Baldy
Finally, we reached the saddle between Mt Harwood and Mt Baldy and took a good look up. My initial reaction was, “Oh, HELL No!” We could see hikers snaking their way up looking like ants. This was gut check time and we were here to hike Mt Baldy. So after giving ourselves a nice little rest, we started up the hill. It was even tougher than it looked. I had to stop every 20 to 30 feet to catch my breath. The girls and Shane creeped further ahead of me, ever closer to the top.
The Mt Baldy Summit
After trudging up the hill for what seemed like forever, we finally made it to the top and took our obligatory pics at the Baldy plaque. We congratulated Shane on his noteworthy accomplishment. He had only planned on taking a short walk around the Notch with his buddy and ended up bagging Baldy instead.
We took a well deserved break on the Baldy summit and leisurely took in the views. And after drinking plenty of water, we headed back down the way we came, taking our time knowing that cold beers waited for us at the Top of the Notch Restaurant.
Once back to the Top of the Notch Restaurant, we got our cold beers and had a nice lunch before riding the chairlift down to the parking lot.
Mt Baldy Via The Devil’s Backbone Trail Summary
All in all, this was an enjoyable but tough hike. Probably the toughest 2400 foot elevation gain hike I’ve ever done. And it didn’t help knowing I had another hike in just two days to Tahquitz Peak in the San Jacinto Wilderness and then would be right back to Baldy for the group hike a few days after that. But like it or not, I was back on the Devil’s Backbone Trail to Mt Baldy with the Lazy Ass Hiking group one week after the pre-hike.
Fortunately for me, my friends Jim and Sylvia, fresh back from bagging Mt Whitney, joined me on the group hike and led all the fast paced hikers up the hill. I stuck with the slower hikers and though we were way behind Jim and Sylvia’s group, we still managed to shave almost and hour and half off the hiking time. It wasn’t any easier though.
Hat’s off though to all the first time peak baggers on the hike who marched up Baldy like they owned it. Way to go team!
After hiking this beast of a trail twice in one week, I don’t think the word “easy” should ever be associated in any context when talking about this trail…
It was my mountaineer friend Mika’s day off. But unlike Ferris Bueller and his pals, Mika wanted to go hiking instead of carousing through town. I suggested the Tahquitz Peak Lookout since neither one of us had been there and I wasn’t looking for anything hardcore after bagging Mt Baldy via the Devil’s Backbone Trail two days prior. She cheerfully agreed and after resting a couple days from bagging three fourteen thousand foot mountains in the High Sierra’s, we all met at Humber Park in the Idyllwild area. We were joined by a few other hikers and off we were to Tahquitz Peak… Continue reading →
A group of my friends led by Jim and Sylvia will be heading out to Lone Pine this weekend to bag Mt Whitney. I wish them the very best and hope to share their story, experiences and photos right here on Lazy Ass Hiking.
This will be the second time for Jim and Sylvia, they bagged Whitney last year on a one day permit in about 16 hours. This time, they will be camping out at Trail Camp and hiking up to the summit the next day.