The United States Congress designated the Mount Baldy Wilderness (map
) in 1970 and it now has a total of 6,819 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Arizona
and is managed by the Forest Service.
Captain George Wheeler, who surveyed much of the American Southwest in the 1870s, wrote that the view from Mount Baldy was "the most magnificent and effective of any among the large number that have come under my observation." In other words, he liked it . . . he really liked it. So do the scores of day hikers who visit Mount Baldy Wilderness today, making it one of the most popular hiking areas in Arizona. An extinct volcano rising to 11,403 feet, Mount Baldy stands within the White Mountain Apache Reservation; the Wilderness occupies its eastern slope. Most of the forest covering the mountain is mixed conifers with ponderosa pine in the lower elevations and fir and spruce higher up. Large meadows break open the forest, carpeted in summer with wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, columbine, penstemon, iris, and lupine. Until winter cloaks the area in snow, elk and deer are commonly seen. Beavers, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears live here with a variety of smaller mammals. Bald eagles, falcons, and hawks circle beneath the sun. Summer thunderstorms are frequent, as are lightning strikes on the mountain. Two major trails crisscross the Wilderness. The popular West Baldy Trail (Sheep's Crossing) follows the West Fork of the Little Colorado River for seven miles. The East Baldy Trail (Phelp's Cabin) follows the East Fork of the Little Colorado for seven miles and receives much less foot traffic. The trails join near the reservation boundary to form a 14-mile loop. The last half mile to the top of the mountain, on Reservation land, is closed.