view from old balddy

Happy Hiking: Old Baldy

  • Old Baldy
  • Distance:  8.3 miles
  • Type: Moderate, out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,847 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

So just as there are multiple “Blue Lakes” in Colorado, there is more than one “Baldy”.  I decided to tackle the Old Baldy Summit in Roosevelt National Forest near Nederland, Colorado.  The hiking in this area is spectacular, but the parking in this area is atrocious.  As a result, I don’t go as often as I’d like.

Getting to Old Baldy

Upon reading reviews on All Trails, it sounded like I could find some parking on Fourth of July Road if I arrived before 8am on a weekday, and likely before 7am on a weekend.  So, on a Thursday morning, I arose early and took my chances.

The drive to the trailhead from Denver takes 1.25 hours or slightly longer depending on the construction in Boulder Canyon.  I arrived by 7:45am and found parking reasonably close to the trail.   While it was filling up quickly, there was more availability at the Fourth of July Road location, than at the Hessie trailhead location, another very popular hiking location just 3 miles away.

Trail to Old Baldy

The hike to Old Baldy begins on the Arapaho Pass Trail which is the start for several different treks in the forest.  It steadily climbs through the trees, past waterfalls and wildflowers and provides intermittent views across the valley to nearby peaks.

Soon it reaches tree line where hikers are rewarded with a lovely vista, all be it a windy one.  Two different times I’ve hiked in this area, I’ve started out with a T-shirt at the base and ended up wearing a hat, gloves, a puffy jacket, and outer shell above treeline.  Be sure to bring layers!!

At this vista and trail junction, despite having to gain 2,000 feet over the next two miles, I added a vest and my outer shell.  The sustained 30 mile per hour winds (and gusting higher) were cold despite it being the end of July!

Arapaho Glacier Trail

To get to Old Baldy, hikers must take the sign posted Arapaho Glacier Trail to the right (or northeast).  It crosses a creek and passes through a bog and some willows before it begins switching back and forth up the mountain side.  Be on the lookout for moose in the willows.  According to a guy already descending, the two hikers ahead of me saw one.

I tried not to despair, as I love seeing wildlife, but really I’m reminded of what a difference a minute might make.  For example, I bet the two hikers in front of me didn’t see butterflies mating.  That was a first for me!

9 second video of butterflies mating

Anyway, continuing up the slope through the talus fields and tundra provides hikers with more magnificent scenery.  Wildflowers dot the meadow, mountain ranges span the west, grandiose South Arapaho Peak towers above the trail, and countless marmots that scamper about. Based on the amount of human foot traffic, I was surprised the marmots were so shy. That’s a good thing…no one is feeding them!

Off Trail to the Summit

Upon reaching the ridge, hikers see several colorful lakes in the valley below.  Personally, I don’t think the views get much better by climbing Old Baldy, but I didn’t know that until I headed for the top.  Hiking to the summit requires going off trail through the tundra.  The top is mostly grassy with few boulders, thus the name I assume.

The wind today was absolutely relentless.  The camera shake on my video was simply due to the gusts.  While I didn’t stay long on top of Old Baldy, it was nice to knock out another Colorado 13er.  No, it was not a 14er, but I believe I am beginning to like 13ers better.  That is not such a quest to bag a 13,000 foot peak, so I had this one to myself, while on a 14er I’d be sharing the summit with many.

14 second video view from summit

Upon my descent, I considered hiking the half mile up South Arapaho Peak, but it was not part of my original plan, and it looked very steep.  I checked the All Trails app at about the only place I had cell service all day, and the last part was a 50% grade!  I was too tired, and it was too windy for me to try that, so I will have to do the whole 8 mile hike again, but turn left instead of right at the ridge!

Fourth of July Mine

My hike down from Old Baldy was uneventful until I reached the trail junction again.  I had forgotten about the old mining equipment nearby.  I always love checking it out, so I did so while playing around with my lensball.

Overall, it was a great hike to Old Baldy, and I will be back to hike other destinations in the area.  ETB

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Published by

Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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