Distance: 11 miles (roundtrip)
Season: Summer, Fall
Trail Condition: Good to Excellent
Talk about unsuspecting hikes. In contrast to the dry plains of central New Mexico, the high, lush coniferous forests of the Magdalenas are a welcomed reprieve during hot summer days. Even looking up from below in Magdalena or Socorro, one wouldn’t likely suspect just how different the ridge from South Baldy to North Baldy is from its surroundings.
Just before reaching the Magdalena Observatory, a wide pull-out on Forest Road 235 marks the trailhead for the North Baldy Trail – Trail #8.
From the parking area, start up the steep grassy hillside to the saddle that can be viewed from your car. This is one of the steepest sections of the trail, which gets much easier and trends downhill for most the hike.
The trail enters the forest and starts downhill on the backside of the saddle. Immediately, the forest has a cooling effecting under the large douglas fir and spruce trees.
After continuing downhill, the trail eventually comes out on an open ridge and veers right to return back into the forest.
Throughout the hike the trail, which is in very good condition, remains on the ridge or just off of it. At a couple points other trails or old roads cross over the ridge at saddles. Continue to follow the ridge north toward North Baldy.
At about 2 miles, the trail becomes difficult to find in a small saddle. Look for a switchback that drops off the right (east) side of the trail and quickly turns north again below the Saddle.
After another mile, the traill hits a junction with the Mill Canyon Trail – Trail #26. Stay right and go downhill to remain on the North Baldy Trail.
After climbing up and over a small rise, the trail hits its lowest point in a saddle before the final climb up to North Baldy, which will now be visible. There’s a sheer ridge that the trail follows before veering off to the west. It switchbacks up, just avoiding another small summit before a slight dip into a saddle on the ridge. Here, it joins an old two track, which continues up the summit.
In this final mile, the tall trees that have characterized most of the hike the trees fade away, so be especially mindful of any thunderstorms that could move in.
Although North Baldy is significantly lower than South Baldy and much of the hike, it is perched over the north end of the range and provides excellent views in all directions. To the south, it looks over much of the hike, but to the north it offers vistas of the dry, hot plains below.
When you are ready, return the way you came.