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Monday, June 8, 2020

Mount Baldy Crossover Trail


Mount Baldy Wilderness.
Mt.Baldy Crossover trails moves through forests & meadows
Tethering the West Baldy and East Baldy trails that make grueling ascents to a saddle near the 11,403-foot summit of Mount Baldy at the edge of the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, the Mount Baldy Crossover trail No. 96 is much more than a means to an end.
Crossover Trail is in the Mt. Baldy Wilderness
The woodsy 3.5-mile connector route is often used as part of the 16.7-mile three-trail loop that traces the slopes of the extinct stratovolcano that’s been silent for 2 million years, but it also delivers a classic White Mountains experience when done alone as an out-and-back trek. It’s a great way to get acquainted with the high country terrain and acclimate before taking on the mountain.
Although this trail trifecta isn’t especially difficult in terms of technical challenge, the thinner, high elevation air can cause huffing and puffing that slows down progress. That’s a good thing, though, because you’ll want to take this one at a leisurely pace to enjoy the variety of scenery and rich biodiversity.
Delicate prairie smoke sprout feathery plumes in summer
Brilliant magenta American vetch flowers stand out underfoot
Forest and meadows collide on Crossover trail
Orange gooseberry shrubs are common on the route
Ferns grow hip-high in sunny spots
Marsh marigolds grow in moist areas on the Crossover trail
A feeder stream cuts through a meadow on Crossover trail
Many-flower stickseed is a fun find on the trail
Aspens flourish in sunny glens on the Crossover trail
False hellebore grows in wet meadows along the route
Rocky Mountain irises thrive in wet meadows
The quickest access to the Crossover trail is from the East Baldy trailhead where the route follows the East Baldy trail for 0.2-mile to a junction where it swerves north and away from the channel of nearby East Fork of the Little Colorado River.  Bouncing among various ecozones within the Mount Baldy Wilderness area in Eastern Arizona, the trail kicks off with a stroll through aspen glens with glimpses of mountain foothills. Soon, the aspens are swallowed up in mixed conifer woodlands of Douglas firs, Ponderosa pines and Engelmann and Blue Spruce. 
There's lost of scenic variety on the Crossover trail
Cloaked in a crisp atmosphere tinged with the smell of moss and damp earth, the forest is so thick in some places that sunlight barely lights the way, while in other spots, gaps in the tree cover let in enough sunshine to sustain spreads of ferns, wild strawberries, Canada violets and spotted coralroot--a complex and odd-looking ground dweller in the orchid family.  Interspersed throughout the hike are open-to-the-sky wet meadows replete with their own community of moisture-loving plants. Where the ground is mushy and damp, look for frilly bundles of false hellebore that sprout head-high flower stalks in summertime and the delicate blooms of marsh marigolds, aquatic buttercups, prairie smoke and berry-laden shrubs.
Spotted coralroot grow among pine needles on the forest floor
The route begins with a short hike on the East Baldy trail
A segment of mixed conifer woodlands  on the trail
Except for where fallen trees slumped over the trail require some mild scrambling to get over, the trail is easy to follow and, even with the diluted oxygen, not too much of a challenge. The trail ends at the junction with the West Baldy trail. Turn around here, or if you parked a shuttle vehicle at the West Baldy trailhead, head right and hike a half-mile to complete the journey.
LENGTH: 7.4 miles round trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 9,275 – 9,400 feet
From Pinetop-Lakeside, travel 20 miles east on State Route 260 to State Route 273 which is just past mile post 377 and signed for Sunrise Ski Area. Turn left and go 11 miles south to the East Baldy trailhead on the right.

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