One of the best near-water hikes in Arizona! Especially splendid in autumn when changing leaves grace the mountainsides.

The West Baldy Trail is one of the most beautiful (and popular) hikes in Arizona. It is reminiscent of many alpine hikes you might find scattered across 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.

From AZ 260, take the AZ 273 south for about 7.5 miles. The parking lot and trailhead will be on the right (west side of road). 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. 928-338-2500

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.

Pack List

  • Day Pack
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Hiking Polls
  • Camera & Tripod
  • Permit (Only if completing last 1/2 mile of the trail to summit Mount Baldy)
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RT Distance 14 Miles
Elevation Gain 2000 Feet
Activities Chillin, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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