This trail rocks. Western side is more of a flat walk until the last 2-3 miles. Great trail alongside the Little Colorado.
Starting at the west trailhead parking lot will take you up towards the peak, where it branches off to the eastern trailhead. There is then a 3.5 mile crossover back to the western trail as you approach the east trailhead parking lot (if you are heading from east trail to west, this crossover trail goes up--bit strenuous), where you can make your way back to the west parking lot.
East trail is a bit more mountainous: more rocks, better views, cliffs.
West trail is 8 miles, east is 6 miles, crossover is 3.5 miles, and there's a ~2 mile trek back to the west trailhead after completing the crossover: making the whole west-east loop just shy of 20 miles.
Worth noting: you can backpack in on this trail to set up a camp in a pretty secluded little oasis on the west trail.
If you're one who fancies pictures and views instead of distance, just do ~half of the east trail (takes you to a nice view, 6-7 miles round trip: it's uphill) and maybe a mile or two of the west trail to check out the Little Colorado.
The West Baldy trail is one of my favorite trails in AZ. The trail goes through Alpine meadows that are gorgeous with their bloom of wildflowers and tall grass as you follow the beautiful small meandering Little Colorado for several miles. Along the way you enter into and out of patches of lushes spruce forests crossing little creeks on the trail. These fairly level trail goes for a few miles before leaving the meadows and river. Once you leave the river as the trail heads into a different direction, you get into more thick beautiful forest area for the remainder of the trail. After about a mile or so you start the clime up with switch backs along the way. There are several times that you have some incredible views seeing as far as the eye can see. I took the trail to the top where the East trail connects and returned the way I came.
The one draw back of the trail I felt was the end of the trail which is a very disappointing anti-climatic. After making a hard clime the last two miles or so I had expected more of a reward but there is literally noting to see at the trials junction at the top. You are surround by short stubby trees that are so dense you can't see through them, so there is no view. I would recommend instead of going to the top to stop at a large out crop of rocks that sits on the very saddle of the mountain. A good place to catch a view, have lunch, and prepare to re-trace your steps back down to the beautiful river and gorgeous meadows below.
Hiked in about 3.2 miles to a gorgeous creekside camping area, then did the Baldy Loop trails (west to east). Very different terrain on each side but spectacular views. The crossover trail that connects the two creek trails is deceptively short (3.5 mi) but encapsulates the breadth of the wilderness in a challenging end-of-the-day span. Weather was great (highs in 70s) and no rain, though it was threatening as we hiked out on Sunday.
Did this trail as a teen with only a snack and one water bottle if I remember right. We didn't see anyone else on the trail. We didn't go to the very top because it's sacred ground of the Navajos but the view was still amazing. It's the first real hike I remember and holds special memories for me thanks to the people I was with. I would love to go back someday.
Awesome Alpine meadows! Pine forests. Old plane wreck near the top. Nice long day hike going up to about 11,000 ft. Best if you have 2 cars, one to park at the east parking lot and one to park at the west parking lot. Either end is okay too, if you go out and back. Please respect the native lands at the top and get the proper pass to enter that area. A pass can be bought at the local Hon Dah (sp?) casino.
Steve S. on Mount Baldy Trail
I just did a weekend backpack in the Mount Baldy Wilderness the first weekend of October. Beautiful! Went in from the West Fork Trail, took the trail over to Phelps Cabin on the East Fork Trail and went up that way. Camped about 1.5 miles up from Phelps Cabin. Hiked to the summit the next day and continued down to within 3 miles of the entry trailhead. Stayed one more night and exited on day three. Bugling elk heard both nights, and a lone howling wolf on the first night. Total mileage 19.3 miles for the loop.
Ken S. on Mount Baldy Trail
There are two ways into the Baldy Wilderness, east and west. Can't ever remember which is which. One is longer without every really getting steep. The other is much steeper, but shorter. The steeper trail has a very nice rock outcropping overlook a few miles in with beautiful panorama of the area. The longer trail also has a nice rocky saddle that is just off the trail near the top. The peak is "closed" to non-Apaches due to the sacredness of the peak to the tribe, but it is not well marked. We turned around where we found a small marker denoting "leaving the national forest" or something like that. There are never any really good views that are out of the trees on either trail except for the rock croppings noted. It is definitely a good hike either way. Be prepared for thunderstorms during the late afternoons in summertime. The area is abundant with elk, which we heard bugling on one occasion, but never saw any. I only give it a demanding rating for being long (14miles?) and in a wilderness area where you aren't likely to find a lot of other folks about, but the trail itself never really becomes super strenuous at all. I work on the reservation and have heard of a number of people getting lost in the area, but if you stay on the trail it's pretty easy to follow.