Killing a Day At The Mountains Near Los Angeles

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USA-Buckhorn Lodge-Mt.Brady Rd (California)

Killing a Day At The Mountains Near Los Angeles

Every time I visit LA my return flight is always at night, therefore with the hotel standard check –out times, there is always a whole day to kill until my return flight.

With so many 24 hour visits, in last few years I have been hiring a car and exploring.  Prior to this website launch, I drove around Hollywood and had a few great meal and drinks in Malibu at Moon Shadow, saw Venice beach, saw Santa Monica, even drove out to Santa Barbara and San Diego.

One thing has always intrigued me though; this comes from having a window seat as you fly in to LAX – that large mountain range in the east that really shows how huge LA is really is in terms of space.


Please note these picture were not taken during this visit as they show snow capped mountains, which wasn’t the case.


I know it’s where the locals go Skiing in the winter, making LA the all-round place beach and Ski possible lifestyle. So I decided on this trip to spend my free day before my evening flight and check these mountain out. Some small research indicated Mt.Brady was the closest place to go and it is where the highest peak is.

Looking at cities to stay nearby it seemed the city of Chino was a good location to stay, really because the road the hotel was located on leads directly all the way straight up to the Mt.Brady Road.

Chino is famous for its Prisons. The city has the typical US atmosphere of a new city, large lots everywhere of main highways with super markets, large stores etc. Rather dull and no as such like walking main town area (like Santa Barbara), at least that I could see it seemed everywhere you need a car.

It was a long drive from LAX, around 1.5 hours away. I hired, well choose the Jeep Renegade, I wanted a SUV to get up the mountain. It was ok of which fortunately had an excellent sound system so I was entertained for my driving experience with my music.

So the next day I woke up late as shattered since I flew from London, via Manilla. I put Mt.Brady in the GPS and off I went. It took about 30 minutes until I got closer to the mountains, even in Chino, whilst looking at google maps it looks relatively close to the mountains but during the day light, the mountains seemed miles away.

Mt. Brady road I heard is the road to the peak where my objective was to have a beer at the Top Of The Notch Restaurant (insert link) ; the restaurant on the top. So the road winds and turns through the dry California terrain, which shows scattered thin forest and dry rocky lands.

You drive thru some tunnels and the road is quite fun with some stunning landscape scenary en route.

USA - Mt.Brady-Road (California)

USA - Mt.Brady-Rd-View (California)

Eventually you arrive at the town of Mt. Brady. This small little town consists of a post office, restaurant, small store and information centre. The wooden cabin style buildings look unchanged for over 50 years, it gave a feeling of going back in time which was nice. So I stopped at the visitor information centre where I got my Mt. Brady magnet and was clearly directed by the enthusiastic old man as to where this top of the mountain restaurant is and ski lift. He even was encouraged to show me all the hikes to the top.

Beyond Mt. Brady town, is when the road becomes the most fun, it winds with tight incline up bends round and round, and this is when the x4 wheel drive SUV really coped well. I mean any car would have got up there as this was spring with dry roads but I am not sure about small cars in the winter. There was a lots of road signs warnings of ice and mandatory chains on wheels so if you come in the winter prepare for this. The roads are quite tight, with not much places to stop, but if you’re lucky and no one is behind you you can stop and get a photo out of the window.

Finally, I made it to the ski lift. There is a small porta cabin with car parking of which just sells clothes so was pleased I got my magnet in Mt. Brady town as there is nothing in the way of souvenirs at this place. This is where you have the option of hiking up there (3.5 Miles) or be like me and be lazy (also I was against time) and take the ski lift. The ski lift costs quite a lot I thought, round trip $25. But it was fun and worth it, if you don’t want to hike.

USA - Mt.Baldy Ski Lift Sign (California)

I love ski lifts, since never skiing before I am new to them and love how you just hang there.  It’s my 2nd time, last time was in Krasnoyarsk Siberia and the route up to the restaurant takes about 15-20minutes. It was the end of April and warm in the car parking area, so I thought nothing of staying in t-shirt and boarded the ski lift but as I ascended I noticed how many people coming down on the opposite side had coats and wrapped around there face, a couple different people coming down screamed to me “bro its freezing up there” I guess highlighting the fact I as in a T-shirt only and yes the higher I got ascends the freezing winds lent chills thru my body. However not much I could do now, but anyone going up I would highly recommend a hoody even in summer, as its this high wind that is freezing.

USA - Mt.Brady Ski Lift (California)

As you see in the above picture the landscape is kind of unusual, its obviously so dry from the drought that has been damaging this state, but it’s like very rocky, dusty with the odd pine tree, bush here and there.

There are walk ways below as I watched some of the hikers doing the various routes, some easy, winding but longer routes with slower incline and shorter like below the ski lift that had high inclines, I saw a few doing this one from my lift, they looked experienced both of which had climbing sticks. Either way when you get up it looked as though you will be tired and this I would not say is for the non-healthy un-recent exercised like myself. Also not for young children.

Arriving at the top you land right by the restaurant, the people that warned me were right it was freezing up there a wind that blows freezing ice chills- even the ski lift guys have scarves covering their mouths with overhead hoodies. I even noticed on the mountains nearby snow still existed in patches and there I was in a T-shirt.

USA - Mt.Brady Ski Lift (California)

I headed straight to shelter to the famous restaurant ‘Top of The Notch’ after looking at the signage outside, confirming that it is over 10,000ft now.   A map shows the route to the actual summit is about 3.5 mile walk away, I was disappointed I didn’t have time and a jumper to do this but it simply was too cold to stay outside for more than 15 minutes. The Ski lift going up was painful enough and I was dreading the descent with winds ploughing face on at you.

USA-Top-of-the-notch-restuarant mountain map (California)

The restaurant is sort of bar cafeteria range. It’s simple, nothing special really just the view being the highlight and all the bar food reflected very high calorie junk food, burgers, hot dogs, the sort of food you would find at a dive bar. The bar tender explained people don’t want salads after they have climbed 7 miles, they need high calorie food to retain their energy.

Overall a burger will set you back $14 and appetisers like fries are $8 so it’s not that cheap but to be fair you in a unique location and the price reflects that.

Apparently a cafeteria is usually in operation but wasn’t when I was there.

Other than the bar/restaurant there is not much else, some sort of shop with hoodies (I was tempted but at $45 I thought they were over priced). There was no staff at the shop either and sort of seemed not in operation as all clothes were disorderly.

I wasn’t sure what to eat so went with the bar tenders advice and took chilli cheese fries. It was a mess to eat and quite heavy but was enjoyable with a beer.

USA - Chilli-Cheese-Fries Mt.Brady (California)

So I finally achieved my objective and had a beer outside looking over the view, which was stunning.

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After my beer, it was time to be brave and head back down on the ski lift. Certainly it was a struggle in the T-shirt but hey the view was so amazing that I just absorbed the atmosphere and allowed my arms to freeze up. Obviously the lower I got the warmer it became so once down at base, it was fine to be in a t-shirt.

USA- Mt.Brady- Ski Lift Down

On the drive back down the mountain I noticed more things like this awesome looking bar called Buckhorn Lodge, shame it was closed as it had a real old authenticity about it. Looked like an interesting place to stay if I ever came back.

USA-Buckhorn Lodge-Mt.Brady Rd (California)

At one point on the drive down I stopped for a photo, which really showed the different landscape ground from the top, which incidentally isn’t snow but rock and rumble to green pastures and forests.

USA - Mt.Brady Landscape Photo (California)

So that was Mt. Brady. Worth it for a day out of LA if you’re staying in the city and want some time out from the glitz to see some nature, as well as Ski if your there in winter. Don’t expect the Rockies, in Colorado but nonetheless a fun drive up, amazing view and interesting landscape. It was a day well spent finally seeing those mountains.

If you’re like me and need to get to LAX after expect 2-2.5 hours’ drive at the least from the bottom of the Mt. Brady road.  This maybe because I did this at 5pm in rush hour.

My GPS back to Alamo car rental in Inglewood took me off the interstate for some reason on to Slauson Avenue for 7 miles taking me thru the cities of Vernon (the smallest city in the LA metropolitan area) and Huntington park. Avoid this road if you can as so much traffic and took 1 hour to do 7 miles since so many traffic lights. However, it was interesting an area of LA that is far from the glitz, factories, poverty & derelict buildings. With the Sun slowly going down, it did feel a bit like the movie ‘Training day” as I drove past these neighbourhoods.

USA - Slauson Av. Huntington Park City (California)

This area of LA seems like the Mexican part of the city as there is so many taco places and shops in Spanish. It was interesting to see; making the wait in traffic I suppose better than be gridlocked on the interstate.

I liked this Alloy place that I drove past. Overall a nice day out and made my flight to Manilla.

USA - Miranda Tyres- Huntington Park City (California)



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