Apache County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Baldy

Date: September 18, 2004
Author: Scott Surgent

This is a quick report for Mount Baldy - Baldy Peak, highpoint of Apache County, AZ. This route follows the East Fork Trailhead #95 (Phelps Cabin). None of the four reports on cohp include this route.

Briefly, there are two common routes to the summit: the West Fork Trail (#94) at Sheep Crossing and the East Fork Trail (#95) at Phelps Cabin. To reach the East Fork Trailhead, proceed south about 3 miles from the West Fork Trailhead, past the narrow bridge and about a mile past the Winn Campground junction. The spur road is well marked but the road in is a bit rough, although any vehicle should be able to handle the 1/4 mile spur. The trailhead is fairly basic - it's pretty obvious the Forest Service has directed most of its attentions to the nicer West Fork Trailhead, which has become the de facto starting point for most journeys into the Mount Baldy WIlderness.

The East Fork Trail is as well maintained and pretty as the West Fork Trail but not quite so long - a 7 mile one way hike to the summits compared to almost 8 along the West Fork Trail. From the gate, proceed along the level trail into a wide meadow, then past some small tree stands, and across another beautiful meadow, at which time you'll start to head uphill at a fork and into the forest cover. Slightly less then 2 miles in, the trail makes two long switchbacks at a section featuring interesting rock cliffs and spires, well hidden in the trees.

The trail gains the higher ground and heads generally west through thick forest, with occasional breaks in small meadows and a couple of rocky bald areas. Views of the distant summit are possible at some of these openings; otherwise, it's trees, baby. Another short set of switchbacks comes at about the 5-mile mark (rough reckoning). The trail hugs the summit ridge to its east, then meets with the West Fork Trail, and from there onto the summit.

Gradients are very lenient for most of the trail, with long stretches of near-level hiking. We made the one-way hike in 3 hours exactly, in somewhat threatening weather with a steady rain for about 3 hours total but nothing too heavy. The hike out took just less than three hours. We visited both peaks and noted that there is nothing - no signs or anything - warning against travel to Baldy Peak on the Reservation. Still, use your senses. The low clouds and fog precluded any comparison between the summits. This was my second ascent of Baldy Peak, now having taken each trail once. Both are very nice but I have to give a slight nod to the East Fork Route if forced to pick one over the other.

It is possible to hike these as a loop, with a third trail connecting the two at roughly the trailheads.