Named in honor of Lord Baden-Powell, the British Army officer who started the Boy Scout movement in 1907, massive Mount Baden-Powell stands higher than any other mountain in the San Gabriel Mountains -- except for the Mount Baldy complex to the east. Baden-Powell's summit is the last major milestone on a 52-mile Silver Moccasin hiking route whose completion is a rite of passage for L.A.-area Scouts.
If you want to climb Mount Baden-Powell in the most interesting way, try this one-way, nine-mile hike from Dawson Saddle to Vincent Gap. Both trailheads lie along Angeles Crest Highway west of Wrightwood, and the shuttle between the two, five miles by road, can be done on a bicycle or with the use of two cars. This year's light snowfall has melted and the upper-elevation skies are clear and sunny, so now is a great time to go.
You begin where the Dawson Saddle Trail meets Angeles Crest Highway, mile 69.6, just east of Dawson Saddle. There's parking space on the north side of the highway. On the trail you switchback up through pines and firs to gain the top of a long, gradually ascending ridge leading toward the main crest of the San Gabriels at Throop Peak. About halfway up the trail, lodgepole pines dominate the forest, but keen eyes will spot a few limber pines. Look closely at the needles: lodgepole pines come in bundles of two needles each, while limber pines have bundles of five needles.
At 1.8 miles you join the Pacific Crest Trail. Head southwest on the PCT, then (optionally) climb cross-country about 300 yards to reach the summit of Throop Peak. A hiker's register can be found here, as well as on the next two peaks ahead.
Return to the Dawson Saddle Trail junction and continue northeast on the PCT, which follows the main ridgeline. You descend to a saddle, then ascend to Mount Burnham's north flank, where switchbacks take you over to Burnham's east shoulder. Optionally once again, you can make an easy side trip to Burnham's summit from the east shoulder.
After bagging Burnham, continue east, climbing a breathless 400 feet more, to reach the impressive Boy Scout monument on Baden-Powell's summit. Weather-beaten lodgepole and limber pines dot the summit area, one of the latter identified by an interpretive sign.
Return by way of the trail descending Baden-Powell's northeast ridge. After 40 switchbacks and 3.8 miles of descent, you'll reach the large Vincent Gap parking area (mile 74.8 on Angeles Crest Highway).