Devil's Backbone Trail

Third Hiker Dies This Year On Dangerous Southern California Trail

A 45-year-old man fell to his death over the weekend on a hiking trail near Mount Baldy outside Los Angeles, marking the third death just this month in the area.

In addition to the three deaths, rescue crews came to the aid of at least 16 hikers who became injured. The hiker who died most recently was walking along the Devil’s Backbone trail, which is only about a foot wide with a steep drop-off. The trail can be icy in the winter and even though the man was reportedly wearing crampons, he still slipped.

According to the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office, he fell more than 1,000 feet. A Sheriff’s Department helicopter performed a daring rescue, which required placing its rotor blades just 10 feet from the cliff face. They were able to transport the man to the hospital, but he succumbed to the injuries. 

Earlier in the day another man hiking on a different trail in the same area fell and slid about 900 feet before hitting a tree knocking him unconscious, according to the LA Times. The trails in that area had been closed on Feb 8 following the deaths of two hikers in the span of a week, but the area was later reopened.

A San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department told NBC Los Angeles that the weather can be deceiving for some hikers. They might head out and the weather is warm and sunny but by the time they get up in the elevation, things can change.

“When you get on the backside of those mountains, those trails are only about a foot and a half wide,” said Mike Ells. “They take one bad step, there’s nothing to stop them.”

Photo credit: A look at Devil’s Backbone trail in summer.