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West Baldy Trail Overview

The West Baldy Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the state. It is reminiscent of many alpine hikes I have done in the mountains of Colorado. The trail follows the Little Colorado River most of the way and the sound of trickling water complements the gorgeous mountains and grasslands. Even if you’re not completing the full 7 mile hike, there are many places along the first segments of the trail that provide great picnic spots and day lounging areas. Summertime hikers will bask the multitude of multi-colored flowers that fill the meadows. Those who climb the mountain in autumn will enjoy the golden aspen leaves that highlight the trail.

Logistics

From AZ 260, take the AZ 273 south for about 7.5 miles. The parking lot and trailhead will be on the right (the pin at the map below marks the trailhead parking area). The well-defined trail is about 7 miles one way.  The first portion of the hike gradually climbs next to the meandering Little Colorado River. The majority of the elevation gain comes later on with switchbacks climbing through dense forest. After a 2,000 ft climb, East Baldy trail joins the West in a saddle below the summit of Mt. Baldy.

Technically, the summit of Mt. Baldy is off limits—it is on the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s land.  Some websites and trail guides warn that your backpack and gear might risk confiscation if you are found on that trail. I’m not suggesting confiscations may not have occurred at some point in history, but it is easy to just get a permit from the tribe and do it legally; see the Mount Baldy post for details.

If you’re looking for a bit longer hike, consider tackling the West Baldy and East Baldy circuit via the crosscut trail. If you are hiking in summer, beware of fast-building monsoon storms. Get below treeline if lightning threatens.

There are a multitude of options if you want to camp in the area. For a developed campsite with flush toilets and showers, check out the Rainbow Campground at Big Lake. If looking for a more rugged camping experience, the Gabaldon Campground is immediately adjacent the East Baldy Trail. A path connects the campground to the East Baldy Trail and the crosscut trail can be used to reach the West Baldy Trail.

Gear and Gadgets

If you’re staying in the area, this can easily be a day trip. Check out my Day Trip Gear Guide for some ideas on what to bring.

Further Reading

Day Trip Gear Guide

Outdoors & Wilderness First Aid

Leave No Trace Principles

Mount Baldy Trail

About The Author

Jeremy Meek is a native Arizonan with a passion for adventure and discovery of unique experiences. Whether exploring Arizona or setting out on an adventure abroad, Jeremy is constantly scouting truly great adventures and experiences.

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