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Monday, August 24, 2015

WEST BALDY TRAIL #94

WEST BALDY TRAIL #94
Mount Baldy Wilderness Area
West Fork of the Little Colorado River flanks trail #94

Arizona's second highest mountain* is an ancient stratovolcano that last erupted around 2 million years ago. The genesis of Mount Baldy began roughly 9 million years ago with multiple lava flows that gradually built up the mountain to an estimated 13,000 feet. Although this massif's initial geological history mirrors that of the Ring of Fire volcanos like those found in the Pacific and along the west coast of the Americas, its present form is due to mostly to the work of glacial ice. If you want proof that enormous ice sheets once slid
through Arizona, just take a hike on West Baldy Trail #94. The scoured mounds, gaping scoop-shaped valleys, and fields of errant boulders are actually cirques and moraines that formed during three periods of glaciation lasting hundreds of thousands of years. Today, these ice-born features form the headwater basins of the West and East Forks of the Little Colorado River that continue to shape the mountain's character and feed water all the way to the Salt River outside of Phoenix. Unlike the chiseled peaks of Flagstaff, the chain of bulbous, volcanic mounds that make up Mount Baldy present a tamer alpine experience.
Two trails ascend to near the top. West Baldy Trail #94 follows the West Fork of the Little Colorado River and is the route of choice for those looking for a green, water-themed trek. East Baldy #95 is somewhat less shaded and more exposed. In between, the 3.5-mile Mt. Baldy Crossover Trail provides a handy link to make a 17.5-mile loop hike.
West Baldy Trail #94 starts out as an easy stream side walk. Alpine meadows, thigh-high wildflowers surrounding the river and magnificent views define the hike's first 3 miles. Instead of being smacked with an abrupt vertical ascent, the arduous climbing part sort of sneaks up on you, turning serious near the 4-mile point where the trail enters a tract damaged by the 2011 Wallow Fire. Here, charred tree trunks teeter like fragile matchsticks poised to topple downhill at the behest of summer storms and winter snow. The relatively short haul through the destruction is mitigated by the promise of impending high-point vistas and a sense of accomplishment. The "summit" is actually ridge line with 3 distinct peaks. The tempting one in the middle--11,403' Baldy Peak-- is within the White Mountain Apache Tribe boundary and is open only to tribal members. Please respect this sacred area by not trespassing.
LENGTH: 14 miles roundtrip (up and back)
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 9,000' - 11,200'
GETTING THERE:
From Pinetop-Lakeside, travel 20 miles east on State Route 260 to State Route 273 (signed for Sunrise Ski Area just past milepost 377). Turn left and go 8.4 miles south to the West Baldy trailhead on the right at milepost 386. The East Baldy trailhead, is 2.5 miles farther south on SR 273.
INFO: Springerville Ranger District, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Agassiz, Humphreys, Fremont, Abineau, Rees and Doyle are all PEAKS on San Francisco MOUNTAIN-- AZ's highest. Just as Baldy Peak and Mount Ord (not the one on AZ87) are PEAKS on MOUNT Baldy---AZ's 2nd highest.
MORE PHOTOS: