Little Adventures on the Little Colorado: Backpacking the Mt. Baldy Wilderness

Recently I have decided to be less of a wierdo.

Mostly this means I will try being nice to people. But also, since no one else in the world likes waking up at 1:30 in the morning and driving 4 hours so that they can then have the opportunity to walk up and down several thousand feet of elevation change in a day, I’ve also decided to cut out some of the #EXTREMEADVENTURE in exchange for hikes that are easy enough other human beings will want to come with me. Unfortunately I will also probably have to be nice to these people.

Which brings us to this weekend: Backpacking the West Baldy Trail.


If you are a regular reader of the blog, this should trail should ring more than a couple of bells. First, I recommended the Mt. Baldy Wilderness as an alternative to going to a national park this summer. Then, I included a few different trails from the same wilderness in my summer hiking guide. Finally, my wife and I took my baby, Jack, hiking in fishing off the exact same trail over the 4th of July. Because of all that, I’m not going to recap many trail details here. Some highlights:

  • WOLVES. That’s right, wolves.
  • Perfect summer weather
  • Big views
  • Amazing apache trout fishing.
  • Scaleable trails. You can do anything from super easy to reasonably hard if you pick the right itinerary.

Since the goal of the trip was to include as many people as possible, we aimed for something nice and easy, working out way up the West Baldy Trail to my favorite campsite in AZ.

Of course actually getting a group of people together is almost impossible. Angie couldn’t come because her sister was in town, Baby Jack goes wherever his mom is, Matt couldn’t come because he was informed he will be teaching a new class the week before school started, and Sarah couldn’t come because her promotion is attempting to eat her soul. That left Mark, Jenna, Alan, and I. We left Phoenix right around 5AM, got to the trailhead around 9, and high tailed it out of the parking lot to beat the threatening clouds.

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About three-quarters of a mile after leaving the trailhead, we dropped into a small valley created by the Little Colorado River. This marks the entrance into the Mt. Baldy Wilderness.

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From here to the campsite is truly a Grand Slam Hike: beautiful, easy, and relatively uncrowded with lots of available water. All over the West you can find hikes that tick one of these four boxes. Even just within Arizona, there are a ton of hikes that tick two or three. But, the way the West Baldy Trail mixes ease of use with big, beautiful views is truly unique. We enjoyed ever moment of the hike in, moving from meadow to grove in rapid succession.

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Soon though, we were near the super secret camp site. I would tell you where it is but then it wouldn’t be super secret. A quick hint though: to get there you have to make a somewhat precarious log crossing of the stream.

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The view was camp was just as good as I remember it being. _DSC6255

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After we got camp set up we decided to start drinking spend the afternoon watching the clouds roll by.

then we kept drinking watched more clouds roll by

Before I knew it I had spent all day “watching the clouds” and hadn’t gotten any fishing done. Around 9PM we were in bed, tired from the day’s festivities.

In the morning God had his revenge. Mist from the previous day’s rains was hanging in the air, catching all the light in just such a way to aggravate my not-hangover. On the way out we even managed to see a flock of wild turkeys, which seemed some what ironic given our predicament.

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The downside to easy hikes is that they are over quickly, and by 8AM we were back in the car feeling much better than we had an hour before. Four hours later we were back in the real world, getting ready for another week in the salt mines, and already trying to plan the next trip.


Want to do it yourself? CLICK HERE to find out more.


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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.

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6 thoughts on “Little Adventures on the Little Colorado: Backpacking the Mt. Baldy Wilderness

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