Distance: 12.8 miles
Season: Late Spring, Summer, Fall
Water: Apache Creek
Trail Conditions: Moderate
This long day hike heads into Apache Canyon before climbing steeply, very steeply to the top of Glorieta Baldy, one of, if no the southernmost peak in the entire Rocky Mountains. The majority of the hike is through ponderosa pine forest, but the last 1.5 miles along the ridge to the peak features douglas fir and aspen. There is an old fire tower at the top of the peak.
From Santa Fe, take Old Santa Fe trail east towards Vegas going through the town of Canada de los Alamos. After passing through town, the road turns to dirt and takes a left hand turn climbing steeply uphill. From town, you will cross three cattleguards. After the third cattleguard, the road forks. Take the left fork to follow Forest Road 79.
After about three miles, after the road has climbed up some steep hills and started dropping again, the road widens at a 4-way intersection. Park here at the designated parking spots.
NOTE: The road to the trail is rough and a high clearance vehicle is highly recommended.
From the parking area, head east along one of the road forks. After about 1/4 mile, you will pass through a gate and come to a T intersection with a faded interpretive sign. Turn right along the faded old road that traverses the top of the ridge. After a couple of minutes, the road bed will bend to the left side of the ridge and start to trend downhill.
After 100 yards, there is a cairn marking a left hand turn, off of the road. Turn left onto this faded, but fairly easily to follow trail. After a short ways, it reconnected to another old forest road. Turn left to follow the road for the next ~1 mile.
NOTE: For the return trip, make a mental note of the small pool at an early bend in the road. This typically holds water and will be a good marker for your return.
After following the road for a little over a mile, you’ll see another small road that goes off to the right. About 100 feet after this road, look for a small trail leaving the road to the right. The trail is well-worn, but the turn-off can easily be missed, so be on the look out.
From here, the trail slopes down gentle toward Apache Canyon for a couple hundred yards before become steeper as it approaches the lip of the canyon. There are some steep switchbacks that take you down to Apache Creek at the bottom of Apache Canyon.
Here you will see the first sign for Baldy Trail – Trail #175, which you will follow to the top of the peak. Turn left to follow the creek upstream for the next 1/3 mile. You will be on the west (left) side of the creek, but towards your next turn off, you will cross over to the east.
Shortly after, you will come to a signed junction with the Apache Canyon Trail – Trail #176. Turn right to go uphill to stay on the Baldy Trail. From here, the trail can be quite steep in parts for the rest of the way to the peak. The first steep stretch lasts about 1/4 of a mile before reaching the crest of a ridge and flattening out for a short while. Take note, because you will be following this ridge for the next few miles before reaching the final ridge that leads to Glorieta Baldy.
At one point, the trail forks with a lightly used path leading toward a viewpoint on the right. Feel free to make the side trip, but the main trail leads left.
I did this trail in early April and was possibly the first person to be on it that season. Because of this, there were a fair number of downed trees. Some had been there for multiple years, but others were new. None presented any great difficulty but be prepared for having to go over and around a decent amount of deadfall.
Continue to follow the trail along the ridge. Enjoy the more civilized parts and brace yourself for the frequent steep uphills.
After about 5 miles, the trail crests the final ridge that hosts Glorieta Baldy. Go left at the top of the ridge and again, for your return trip, note that at this juncture is where the tree cover shifts from ponderosas to doug fir.
Although it may feel like almost all of the climbing should be behind you, there is still a fair amount of elevation between you and the peak. Making matters more difficult, in early April, there was a fair amount of snow left on the ground. In parts, I was able to remain on top of the snow pack, but in other places, I was forced to post-hole and by the time I reached the peak, my feet were thoroughly soaked.
The trail is faint in places, especially through some of the small meadows that dot the ridge, but overall the trail is easy to follow through this section.
You won’t be able to see the fire tower until you are almost there, at which point you will also pass a junction for the Glorieta Baldy Trail – Trail #276, which begins in the privately owned Glorieta Camps.
The bottom steps of the stairs leading up to the tower have been removed, so take a rest at the base of the tower and enjoy the views looking east towards Las Vegas.
When you are ready to tackle the killer downhill, return the same way you came.