My name is Mariam and welcome to my Ontario Peak blog. I’m someone who has lived all over the place in life. My dad’s job kept us moving a lot when I was little. Before California, we were living in Australia and before that in Texas. We took short trips to visit family in Lebanon and the UK too.
All that traveling is part of the reason why I like seeing new places and hitting new trails. But I didn’t start hiking until five years ago. I grew up in a strict Muslim household and even during high school I wasn’t allowed to be outside the house unless I was at school or had one of my parents with me.
My dad was the only one who was Muslim but until my parents’ divorce he ruled the house. One day when I was 17, after my dad moved out, I saw a picture on the Internet of someone hiking in a forest and it just resonated. I wanted to be that person and I wanted freedom – being alone in the middle of nowhere with no one stressing me out or telling me what to do.
For the first year or so I still couldn’t even hike the small local trails alone. My mom still didn’t feel comfortable letting me out of the house alone and would take me, along with my brother, to go hiking. I would run ahead and get an hour or so of solitude. I had to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to hike alone, and then had to fight again to be allowed to hike with friends my mom didn’t know. So far I have been to 20 peaks and 40 trails.
My favorite is Deep Creek Hot Springs. It’s a short trail and the springs are perfect. I have fallen asleep sitting in one. There will be naked guys and topless women at the springs sometimes, but that doesn’t bother me. My biggest goal on my to-do list is Mount Whitney. California is home to the tallest mountain in the lower 49 states (Alaska has us beat there) and I feel like I can’t consider myself an expert in California hiking until I summit it.
Ontario Peak, Trail with the Famous Dead Tree
When I saw pictures of Ontario Peak I knew I had to summit it. My inspiration was the massive dead tree marking it’s summit. A tree that tall and that perfect for climbing sitting on a mountain peak? There is no way I could pass that up. I knew being up in the air while being almost 9000 feet up was going to be awesome! This was my first and only time up it.
We started at the Ice House Canyon Trail. Soon after we started we hiked past old stone ruins and a stream. The trail goes over a river before taking you to a series of switchbacks. Halfway up you come to a fork in the path – it splits into five trails leading to eight different summits. A couple more miles towards Ontario and the views start to become truly spectacular.
We passed flowering bushes being pollinated by bees, stepped over fallen trees, and looked out at a view of the summits of the San Bernardino and Angeles National Forests. It took us about seven hours to complete the hike. When we arrived at the peak a feeling of relief washed over me, the same way it does every time I summit a mountain no matter how big.
The hard part was over and we could take a break and enjoy the view. The view took my breath away and stole my heart. No two summits are the same, even ones in the same mountain range. The view from Ontario was one of my favorites. On one side we could see out to Rancho Cucamonga and past it all the way to the mountains of Cleveland National Forest.
Biggest Challenge of the Hike: Elevation Gain
The biggest challenge of Ontario Peak was the nearly 4000 feet of elevation gain we had to undertake. Elevation gain has a much bigger impact on the difficulty than distance. Going down from a summit normally takes me less than half as long as it takes me to go up.
I struggled with elevation sickness on the trail up Ontario Peak, and with every mountain trail I do. I’m particularly prone to elevation sickness and have to take precautions that many other hikers don’t in order to deal with it. I had to take frequent breaks due to fatigue and I avoided eating breakfast or eating anything heavy on the way up so that I wouldn’t puke!
Tips for Hiking Ontario Peak
Rancho Cucamonga is a good place to base yourself if you are going to hike Ontario Peak. It’s the last city you would pass through before going into the mountains and it’s only a half hour drive from there to the trail. It’s a decent size and not much of a known destination, so there are plenty of hotels and it would be easy to find a room any day of the year.
Remember to leave no trace if you want to be eco-friendly. That means taking back everything you brought and never going off trail. Even if you have something organic, like orange peels, it’s still litter that isn’t naturally occurring in the area and you should pack it out. Don’t cut the switchbacks. Over time it will kill the vegetation, create a new trail and contribute to the degradation of the natural landscape surrounding the existing trail.
As a general tip, prepare for crowds and lines to take pictures with the dead tree if you go on a weekend. Since the trail isn’t far into the mountains and can lead to eight different summits, it’s an extremely popular trail for SoCal mountain hikers. If you want to avoid crowds, try to go on a weekday in the spring or fall. It would be the least crowded on a weekday in the dead of winter but then you would need to be prepared to hike in snow.