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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Mount Baldy Loop, AZ

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1.4k 113 11
Guide 113 Triplogs  11 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Alpine > Eagar S
Rated
4.3
4.3 of 5 by 56
 
38
Statistics
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 17 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,368 feet
Elevation Gain 2,250 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,880 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 31.4
Interest Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
7  2019-09-21
Mt Baldy Super Loop
LindaAnn
54  2019-08-29
East Baldy Trail #95 to Hoodoo Overlook
hiking_arizona
6  2019-06-27 LJW
9  2018-12-17 vivisectvi
5  2018-07-21 arizona_water
18  2018-06-09 The_Driggs
22  2018-06-02 DixieFlyer
10  2018-05-12 LindaAnn
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 10
Author BelladonnaTook
author avatar Guides 12
Routes 9
Photos 1,291
Trips 58 map ( 568 miles )
Age 72 Male Gender
Location Lakeside, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:05am - 6:16pm
Official Route
 
6 Alternative
 
Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
A day well spent
by BelladonnaTook

Likely In-Season!
Mount Baldy is the second highest mountain in Arizona. However it's only the seventh highest peak as Mount Humphries has several named peaks. Unless you're a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe you can't go to the true peak on this hike, more about that later.


Officially, there are two trails to the pseudo summit: West Baldy #94 and East Baldy #95, each about seven miles long. But since there's also a connector, #96, that joins the two at or near their trailheads, I consider the entire complex one large loop and always hike it that way.

I start at the East Baldy trailhead located about midway between Sunrise Ski Area and Big Lake on State Road 273. Right at the sign-in kiosk the trail divides, with the left fork leading dirctly up the mountain. I usually take the right fork, which is the connector. This is an unspectacular but pleasant three mile amble through heavy, mixed timber, including some very nice old growth fir. The trail skirts three large meadows, prime elk habitat, they say, but I haven't seen a critter in any of them. The route is more or less straight and level with the elevation staying between 9,400 and 9,600 feet.

After about two and a half miles, the trail descends rapidly and emerges from the woods on the bank of the west fork of the Little Colorado River. It crosses the stream and intersects the West Baldy Trail about a mile and a half from its trailhead. For the next couple miles the trace parallels the creek through long meadows, but gradually moves farther away from the streambed and higher up the canyon side, and eventually reenters the forest, now predominantly spruce. Apparently Mount Baldy has not experienced a large fire in a very long time, so there are single aspens here and there but few aspen groves and none along the trail. This will change in a few generations, for now the trail traverses a large area - maybe 200 acres - where all the trees (spruces) are dead. The trees are beginning to fall of their own accord, and one can imagine this becoming, soon, a large meadow and later an aspen grove, perhaps in our lifetimes.

Click to Enlarge Map Having crossed the dead zone, the trail switchbacks and ascends steeply to the ridge top, and here affords the first long views of the hike, first looking north down the canyon one was recently hiking up, and then east to Escudilla and beyond. From here its another mile slog on to the top - or the highest point of the route. But the top isn't really the top, because at the intersection of the West and East Trails a sign announces one's arrival at the boundary of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, and nontribal members are invited to venture no farther. The summit lies somewhere beyond that sign. So we turn east and descend the East Baldy Trail along a ridge, again in heavy spruce timber. About a mile on, the track enters an open area where the remains of an airplane are clearly visible. This was a military plane that crashed here 50 years ago, apparently creating an instant meadow in the process.

A couple miles further along the trail emerges again from the woods to cross granite formations that are interesting in their own right but also offer broad views to the east toward Big Lake and the Blue Range. Shortly thereafter the way descends steeply into the drainage of the east fork of the Little Colorado River. Here again we are among old growth firs - some real brutes five and more feet in diameter. Gradually the forest recedes, and the trail enters a large meadow for the last mile and a half back to the trailhead.

Note
Group size limits are 12 for hiking and riding and 6 for camping.

2012-09-27 anonymous wrote
I was able to obtain permission from the White Mountain Apache Tribe to travel to the summit. I was asked to submit a polite letter declaring the day, the purpose, and the location of my intended travel, along with my name and some personal information. The permission is granted on a case-by-case basis, and it's guaranteed. Call the Chairman's office at (928) 338-4346. They were very helpful.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.


Lightning Kills
Stay off the mountain when thunderstorms are forecasted. July and August are notorious for quick unexpected storms. Lower the risk by being OFF the mountain before 11am on a clear morning. Stay safe, read the NOLS Backcountry Lightning Safety Guidelines.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2002-10-17 BelladonnaTook
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent of 24 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I had thought about doing the Baldy Loop from Greer for a few years. I mentioned it to Linda on one of our local hikes and to my :o she was interested and ok with a early start time! Joe B jumped on board and it was a go :y: .
    The departure time, cache set up and hike start time went great. We started a few minutes before the planned time of 5am. We walked down the middle of main street for our first mile and not one car interrupted our stroll :) . We started on East Fork and crossed the LCR without incident . Headlamps were only needed for another mile. The Aspen in the burn area are up to 15 or 20 ft. now. We heard the first of the Elk bugling in this area and it would continue off and on the rest of the hike. The second half of East Fork is overgrown with grass. The grass was no bother to our legs and Route Scout kept us on trail. We saw our first of many Elk on this section and one Coyote.
    We grabbed our cache and headed up East Baldy. A nice section. The hoodoos with the Aspen and the views for miles our my favorite part of the East Baldy side. Only a couple down trees on this section. The climb with the Altitude hit me more then I thought it would :( . My pace slowed and by the time we got to the East/West junction I didn't have a summit in me. Joe and Linda wouldn't do it without me so we took a break and got ready for our next section. The Loop itself was our main objective.
    West Baldy is a little chewed up on the top half mile from runoff. After that the trail is pretty good and only has a handful of downed trees in the (tree dead zone :scared:). The grassland along with the LCR on the lower section are my favorite on the West Baldy. This was my first time on the section between the crosscut and West Baldy trailhead. We grabbed our cache here, took a break and were ready for our final section.
    Once we got on trail the West Fork was easier to follow then the East Fork. Once we started hitting open grass areas the Elk sightings would really pick up. It was very 8) to see a herd of cow Elk follow a big Bull Elk around with his every move. We saw this several times :y: . There were a few smaller bulls mixed in here and there as well. The bugling continued as well. This section was our shortest but we were tired so it seemed a little long :? . We finished before dark which was another goal as well :D .
    The weather was great and the company top notch! Thanks to Linda for doing all the driving and Joe for making sure she was awake for it. Like Haz, you two rock!
    I also want to thank you for putting up with my bellyaching! A lot of Hazers have joined me or let me join them on some epic hikes and backpack trips. Thanks to all of you. The bellyache is gone in a day but the memories :) :D :y: !!!!
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We started at West Baldy and went counter clockwise this time. Hardly saw any people heading up, but there were a few at the intersection with East Baldy and many throughout East Baldy on the way down. We met the new chairwoman for the White Mountain Apache Tribe at the summit, which I thought was pretty cool.
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I arrived at the West Fork trailhead around 11a.m. on a Saturday morning in July. The West Baldy Trail had crowds of people: picnicking, hammocking by the creek, and hiking to the "summit." My goal was to complete the loop, starting with an ascent up the West Fork. I was impressed by how beautiful this forest and creek are. However, I was disappointed how difficult it was to find the turnoff for the true summit. I intentionally did not download a route scout track for the hike because I expected the intersection would be more intuitive. I was still able to catch some great views from the Mount Thomas ridgeline.

    Descending the East Baldy Trail was fine, but less exciting than the West's ascent. The east trail was noticeably quiet. I didn't see a single person until I got all the way to the creek, only a mile or two from the East Baldy TH. The connector trail was not enjoyable, but I had made good time and I was thankful to be be hundreds of miles from the Sonoran Desert in July.
    Overall, I really enjoyed this and I'm glad I did the loop. I'm not much of an-out-back hiker if I can avoid it.

    After Baldy, I drove just a few minutes away to one of my favorite places in Arizona. There's a really cool waterfall between Baldy and Mcnary on the North Fork of the White River. Access only requires a WMAT hiking permit.
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Did this as an overnight Backpack trip with my father. Was a perfectly gorgeous scenic hike with wide variations in terrain. Open meadow fields to deeply forested paths to scrambling over ridiculous amounts of downed dead trees. We took the East Baldy trail first up to the connection and set up camp near there in a small meadow. Spotted a brown bear while topping off at the spring but he was quick to mosey in the other direction from where we wanted to go.

    Made the connection to the west trail early next morning and headed back down ( didn't have permission so didn't attempt peak). This section was probably the most difficult because it switch backed through the dead cauldron of trees for a few hours. We must have climbed over a few hundred and some were more than 5' in diameter. Like a giant box of pick up sticks dumped on the mountain. We hit the first water crossing from the junction shortly after the dead forest section, saw a gorgeous fat wild turkey taking a sip and topped off our own water.

    Took the crossover trail that connects right before you get to the west trail head at Sheppard's crossing and this leg was probably the most difficult. You wander up and down some small hills cutting south east and you're already terribly tired and ready for a nap. This segment felt forever long. I was practically skipping once i made the connection back to east because of how close we were to the truck. Gorgeous hike, green and flowers and sweeping views.

    Wildflowers
    lots of the small little scrub type flowers in the higher elevation but not many in the meadows.
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Shocking, but I had never been to this part of AZ despite living here my whole life! Hiking up Baldy is very cool, with interesting rock formations and mossy forests going up the East trail. Going down along the West Little Colorado is a bit more difficult, more treefalls and narrow trails. Camped at the first field you get to on the West trail (33.931518, -109.551462), amazing to have creek right next to campfire ring. Elk calls kept me up all night, but the low was 'only' 40 F. On the hike out, we found that other people had already claimed the campsites in the bigger field, so I am glad I stopped when I did! Seriously, do this hike ASAP before it gets any colder and the trees loose their leaves completely!

    Foliage
    High elevation aspens are fully yellow and some are dropping leaves. Low elevation the aspens were halfway between yellow and green
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Baldy Horseshoe
    I opted to skip the Saturday ascent with Lee and chose to join Claire and Lizzard on Sunday instead. We went up East, which I think I enjoy much more as a trail in general than West. The only downside is that those lower miles on West just drag on and on at the end of the day. We shuttled to skip the crossover and save the 2 extra miles which we were all pretty happy about.

    There were a handful of people on the trail, but I was surprised at how few we encountered being a holiday weekend. There were endless raspberries that were perfect ripeness, and at the top of the mountain quite a few strawberries that were absolutely delicious. :y:
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Hike was great. We started with East Baldy and went up to the saddle. As we approached there was a noticeable amount of snow for about 1-1.5 miles. This made it very challenging. IO would not try this unless you have poles and a gps to find the trail. Its the only way we didn't get lost. Not only was the snow an obstetrical but because the forest service had not cleared the trail there were many downed trees. The rest of the hike was beautiful and I would recommend this direction when taking the hike. I really enjoyed walking out next to the river on West baldy on the way out. Saw some cow elk, deer and one speed goat. lots of birds.
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Spent a nice couple of nights in the White Mountains with my bud Steve . . .

    We left the East Baldy Trail trailhead parking lot at about noon in the soaking rain . . . time to try that parka for the first time! Didn't know it rained in Arizona . . . :scared:

    day 1
    Got breakfast at Baker's Ponderosa Cafe in Heber. Ber-y nice. Hiked through the crossover trail and stopped for lunch in that nice little meadow at the junction of the crossover trail and the West Baldy. Steve never misses a chance to stick his face in the creek :lol: What a pristine hike! Really enjoyed the crossover. Then we hiked to the last crossing of the West Baldy trail and the Little Colorado river (as adenium mentioned in his last post). Found a nice fire ring. Too bad we couldn't start a fire to save our lives!!!! Good thing we didn't need one to save our lives--the temperature didn't dip below 49 or so. Not the most comfortable dinner I've ever had--but bearable.

    day 2
    We hiked up the West Baldy trail on this fine Saturday morning. We got our asses out as early as we could manage (7:30am . . . impressed?), and were passed by a couple through hikers. We were trying to follow the advice to not be on Mount Baldy after 11am, but some of the hikers on the trail called bullhonky on that. They didn't seem to think the lightning was that b of a d? Oh well. We huffed it to white man's summit (~11,200ft yahear?), and there wasn't a sign there telling the imperialists to stay back . . . ? Seemed like Steve and I were the only ones hiking the mountain that day that didn't risk a day in Indian jail. Oh well--my pride remains intact. Hiked down to the meadow-y area just shy of 2 miles from the East Baldy trailhead and spent a very enjoyable afternoon chillin. Later on in the evening, we got to chillin a little more literally. Couldn't start a dang fire there either!!! Extremely frustrating. I've heard steel wool suggested. I'ma gonna need something. Shivered our way through watching Patriot Games on my iPhone screen :)

    day 3
    Hiked out. Ate lunch at The House in Show Low. Wow! very nice

    It was a great weekend trip--only had to hop a few felled trees. It's God's country up there . . . enough to make a man consider Bonanza a template.
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This was one of the most lovely, easiest hikes I've had the pleasure of doing in Arizona. The weather was perfect; if it topped 80 degrees I'd be surprised. Did not rain once, though it threatened to. The only downer is that the only mammalian wildlife I saw were squirrels and chipmunks, so I guess the money I spent on bear spray was wasted :)

    Day One:
    Had a big, fat breakfast at Biscuits in Gilbert, which pretty much carried me through til dinner. Bade my wife and child, who both eschew backpacking, goodbye and headed east on the 60. I arrived at the East Baldy Trailhead and struck out a little after noon. It was maybe in the upper 70s with a cool breeze. I turned onto the crosscut trail and entered that state that those of us in the low deserts sometimes experience... you know that weird sense that not every place is hot and hard and unforgiving. Made the West Fork Trail in no time and headed up the hill. I wanted to camp in or near one of the big meadows I'd seen on Google Maps, but apparently so did everyone else that was out this weekend. I continued on, remembering the campsite described by another HAZ member... right before the last stream crossing before heading up the big hill to the summit. I had that marked on my GPS and I found the spot unoccupied. There was a stage one burn restriction on the Apache-Sitgreaves so a campfire was out of the question... I therefore tried anyway but everything was WET. Good thing for the burn restriction. Had to settle for a cigar, which by the way, shoos off the mosquitoes nicely.

    Day Two:
    I awoke late and broke camp fairly quick and headed up the long, unending hill. At the East-West trail junction, I decided to head up toward the summit as far as I could go. I was going off the boundary in my GPS, which seemed to be pretty close to reality. The catch is that there is no marked boundary for the rez, no sign whatsoever, just a couple of cairns at the probable boundary which would form a line perpendicular to the trail. So, I walked to within 3/10 mile of the summit and turned back. On the way down the east side trail I stopped at the plane crash, made my way up to the fuselage through dead fall and bramble. Having added some desert pin striping to my legs I continued on and at about 2pm I found myself in the last big meadow on the east side, roughly a mile from my car. This had to have been one of the prettiest spots I've visited in Arizona. I decided against continuing on to the car and camped there for the night.

    Day Three:
    Being about a mile from the car, I was up early and out early... no need to filter water or bother packing my pack neatly. The trip was done. I got down to the car about 6:30am. Having some extra time to "kill" I drove over to Big Lake and did some geocaches in that area. I reluctantly headed home about 11, but I'm already thinking about a return visit.
    Mount Baldy Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    There is Pie at the End of the Trail
    Our second day of hiking in the White Mountains dawned fairly clear. It had rained hard during the night. At breakfast we discussed possible options for the day. We all wanted to try the West Baldy Trail, but the idea of getting caught in an afternoon thunderstorm (60% probability according to the weather guessers) appealed to no one. We decided to reconnoiter the Baldy trailhead, but picked some shorter alternate hikes along the way as backups. Off we went armed with what we considered a reasonable plan.

    The sky looked pretty promising when we reached the western trailhead. Apparently the night’s rain had taken some of the punch out of the forecasted storms. With cautious optimism we headed up hill. I’ve never hiked Baldy before, but within the first mile I knew this trail was going to make my favorites list. The entire contingent was in high spirits.

    The trail is in really good condition and has an easy grade as it climbs alongside the West Fork. We were all “oohs” and “aahs” at the beauty of the surrounding forest and the gurgling of the water. Views across the canyon were spectacular. The sky was mostly blue with friendly white puffy clouds. Total smiles all the way around the group.

    We passed a few casual hikers, as to be expected on this popular trail, and some backpackers. Two young men had a large very distinctive looking dog. I thought I might have an idea as to his heritage and an inquiry proved me right – half malamute, half wolf. Bosco turned out to be very friendly and well mannered. He was also not above expressing his desire to share in your jerky snack. We’d bump into Bosco and his companions throughout the day. Bosco never lost his friendliness nor his memory of who was transporting jerky.

    Around three miles we reached a long sloping meadow. The trail here was just a narrow wet ditch, quite the contrast from the near perfect trail conditions so far. But it didn’t last long enough to dampen our enthusiasm for the hike. Soon we were back in the shaded forest. At fourish miles we hit the only real obstacle in the trail. There are several significant stream crossings, but each has a nice bridge over a culvert, all but this one. The bridge had been washed away at some point. Parts of the concrete and stone abutments remain. The pipe can be seen father downstream where it became lodged. The side creek is a bit wide to jump and too deep to wade with your boots on. After a quick scan of the still inviting sky and yet another council, we opted to attempt a crossing and continue up. We each chose logs that had fallen across the creek as our method to navigate the obstacle. Such is our divergence in what constitutes a suitable makeshift bridge that three different logs were chosen by our group of four. No one took an impromptu bath however, so we must have chosen wisely.

    At five miles we stopped to again consider the sky and our individual conditions. We’d begun the hike with the idea of going up until we wanted to come down, weather and our own level of effort being the deciding factors. Both of those considerations were good, so we decided to press for the saddle or the first hint of thunder, which ever came first. The grade here increases somewhat, but is still quite friendly. Wild raspberries grow in abundance along the trail. We munched handfuls of the little red motivators as we ascended. Kelly and I were computing distance and elevation remaining, the numbers getting encouragingly smaller. With a final push we reached the saddle and the intersection with the East Baldy Trail. The summit was so close, so tempting. Angela said she was staying put if we went up. Kelly looked like a kid awaiting the arrival of Santa. Mary Jo just said, “I’m going,” and left. Kelly took off after her and I dropped my pack and asked Angela to watch it “for a few minutes.” I’ve heard the views from the Baldy summit are spectacular!!!

    The hike down was slow but so very, very satisfying. We’d planned to drive over to the Bear Wallow Café in Alpine for dinner. They are renowned for homemade pies. “There is pie at the end of the trail,” became our rallying cry. Angela had her heart set on strawberry rhubarb. Kelly was feeling some blackberry in her future. Mary Jo was too happy to have made it to the top to care much either way. I could go for any of the pies they had, but chowing down in a place called Bear Wallow was just more of a perfect ending to a perfect day than this particular bear could imagine. Not even the log creek crossing seemed an obstacle at this point. It actually isn’t too wide to jump over I discovered. After a quick stop for showers at the cabin, we descended on Bear Wallow and immediately demanded that the poor proprietors of this little piece of heaven on earth set aside a slice of exactly what each of us wanted just in case some far less worthy mortal dare take the last of it.

    Permit $$
    None


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    Paved - Car Okay

    To East Baldy Trailhead
    From Phoenix area take highway 87 to Payson, then 260 to Sunrise junction, then State Road 273 about 10 miles to turn off for East Baldy Trail. On topo it is between Gabaldon Horse Camp & Lee Valley Reservoir.

    Start at the paved lot.

    Note
    Highway Department typically plows Highway 273 past the ski area until December 31 but after-which road is gated till often mid-April. Contact Springerville highway department office at 928-333-4495 for the latest info.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) - 3 h 58 min (223 miles)
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) - 4 h 29 min (233 miles)
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) - 3 h 8 min (187 miles)
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