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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

Guide 125 Triplogs  13 Topics
  4.4 of 5 
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1.5k 125 13
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
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30  2020-10-20
Thomas Baldy
DixieFlyer
9  2020-09-20 kyleGChiker
17  2020-08-25
East Baldy Trail #95
Oregon_Hiker
8  2020-08-02 azlaurie
20  2020-07-11
Mt Baldy Super Loop
jacobemerick
25  2020-06-25 LJW
13  2020-06-12 LindaAnn
2  2020-05-27 markyarch
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Author BelladonnaTook
author avatar Guides 12
Routes 9
Photos 1,291
Trips 58 map ( 568 miles )
Age 73 Male Gender
Location Lakeside, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:33am - 5:30pm
Official Route
 
8 Alternative
 
Water


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Oct 9th to Dec 31st
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 directly 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 visible. This was a military plane that crashed here 50 years ago, apparently creating an instant meadow in the process.

A couple of 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.

    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.

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

    Google Maps Search: East Baldy Trailhead, Greer, AZ

    Tip
    The East Baldy Trailhead can still be found on some maps under its former name of the Phelps Trailhead.

    Alternative
    Very unusual but if the lot is full please there is a secondary unpaved trailhead next door at Gabaldon Campground. It is reserved for horse camping but there's a small dirt area for general parking. The trails merge within a quarter of a mile of their respective starting points.

    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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