September 2023
Hiking Yavapai
Stan Bindell

East Baldy Trail

Count East Baldy Trail among my favorite hikes. For those willing to make the scenic drive, it’s a slice of heaven.

At 11,409 feet Mount Baldy is the second-highest peak in Arizona, but unlike the tallest, Humphreys Peak (12,637), and third-tallest, Escudilla Peak (10,886), the Baldy Peak trails have water all along them.

East Baldy Trail has the East Fork of the Little Colorado River flowing along the beginning of the trail. The stream is not only beautiful but managed for the endangered Wild Apache trout. Brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout help make this a fisherman’s paradise.

Beaver dams in the East Fork are obvious and abundant, helping create the sounds of the cascading stream.

This is one of the most dense areas in the state for black bear. Mexican gray wolves are in the area as well, along with mountain lions, mule deer, elk and coyote.

Mount Baldy Wilderness is one of 90 wilderness areas in Arizona, and at 7,079 acres it’s among the smallest. There are three hiking trails: East Baldy, West Baldy and the Crossover Trail that connects them.

You cannot get to the top of the trail without a permit because it’s part of the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Please don’t try to do this because this land is sacred and should be respected. If caught you may be fined and your backpack confiscated.

East Baldy climbs from 9,200 to 11,350 feet before you have to turn around, and there are good signs so you know not to trespass on the reservation.

East Baldy Trail begins near a beautiful alpine meadow, but you quickly enter the forest, which includes Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir, Colorado spruce and quaking aspen on the upper elevations. Flowers are also plentiful during the summer.

This moderate hike is 14 miles long, but you can turn around at any point. You feel the elevation, but there are plenty of downed logs along the trail that are perfect places for snacks or lunch. The farther you go up the trail the more sandstone formations you find, and you get great views of the surrounding mountains.

This outing was hosted by the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, with some participation by Yavapai County Sierra Club members.

Jenny Cobb, a Prescott resident and active member of Great Old Broads, also served as the gourmet chef for the inexpensive and wonderful-tasting meals the group provided. They made the occasion festive and easier without having to provide our own meals. The drive from Prescott to Mount Baldy is more than five hours, but there are lots of trails, lakes and fun places to stop along the way. Lee Valley Reservoir is just a couple miles from Baldy and offers a serene place to fish, boat or hike.

Mount Baldy is accessible to all vehicles. Dogs are allowed but should be leashed. It’s very beautiful here, so remember to pack it in, pack it out, and leave no trace!

Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com