Big Baldy: In Timp's Shadow

A view of Big Baldy's southwest ridge as seen from Orem. Climbing straight up that ridge will knock two miles off the climb, as opposed to hiking back behind and up around to the summit. CREDIT: Kevin Warner, Hike the Wasatch

When looking up at the western face of Mount Timpanogos, one cannot help but notice the “bump” on its flank, also known as Big Baldy, or “Baldy” by the locals.

Big Baldy is a great “starter peak” (at 8,765 feet) for those new to mountain climbing, yet its over 3,000-foot elevation gain is still challenging enough for veteran peak baggers to enjoy.

Even though Big Baldy can be climbed via Battle Creek Canyon, the route via the Dry Canyon trail is shorter, more scenic, and allows you the option of doing a southwest ridge summit. The Dry Canyon route is a strenuous hike with over three miles of climbing, but the views at the top are well worth the effort.

In winter, the trail is snow packed and accessible using micro spikes; however, pack in snowshoes if you plan to summit or if hiking immediately after a snowstorm. Bring plenty of water, especially in summer, as there is no source on this trail.

The entrance to Dry Canyon is recognizable by the 150-foot tall limestone cliffs that flank its sides, and are a frequent hot spot known by rock climbers and rappellers as the Great Blue Gate. Don’t let the steepness of the first 100 yards of this trail scare you -- a set of steps constructed of railroad ties with an unusually large rise and run. The next half mile of the trail is somewhat steep and takes you through a shady part of the canyon amidst scrub oak and maple.

At 0.5 miles you will come to the junction for the Curly Springs trail. Continue straight (eastward) up the trail another half mile as it switchbacks a few times and then veers left toward the base of Big Baldy. At this point, you will see a fork in the trail with a rock cairn, giving you two choices for ascent.

Left Fork to Big Baldy’s Southwest Ridge: If you go left you will be ascending Big Baldy’s brutal southwest ridge (which can be seen from the valley). Although it is challenging, it brings the total round-trip distance down to 4.4 miles and will give you bragging rights.

Follow the faint trail up this ridgeline and be sure to bring trekking poles and wear boots with a good tread…you will need them. As you reach a metal flagpole don't get too excited, you will be at a false summit. Continue going north on the trail through the bushes, down a small hill, and then back up to a ridge that leads to the true summit.

Right Fork to Dry Canyon Saddle: Taking the right fork will take you east for another mile in the shade, the trail getting deeper and more rutted as you climb the hill. When you come out of the brush, you will be privy to a picture postcard scene that is especially beautiful in spring – a large meadow with Mt. Timpanogos as the backdrop. As you hike north up to the Dry Canyon Saddle, you will cross over the erosion-control terraces dug by the CCC many years ago (I counted 17 of them on my last hike up there).

You will know when you reach the Dry Canyon Saddle, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead – you’ll be on a ridge and the trail heads east and drops down toward Battle Creek Canyon and eventually to the Timpooneke trail. To the right, there is a route called Everest Ridge that climbs the west face of Mt. Timpanogos and is used by advanced climbers in the winter to develop mountaineering skills. You will want to turn left (west) and continue on up to the Big Baldy summit, about .75 miles further.

As you arrive at the summit you will see a large pile of rocks created by hikers over the years. Blankets of yellow wildflowers cover the summit in May and June. The view from the top of Big Baldy allows you to see the whole Mount Timpanogos Range up close, the Cascade Range to the south, Utah Valley to the west, Sagebrush Flats and Mahogany Peak to the north, and the Kennecott Copper Mine off in the distance. You will not want to forget your camera on this hike!

After summiting, you can descend back down the Dry Canyon trail or continue north over the saddle down the Battle Creek Canyon trail.

Tina Crowder is an avid hiker and peak bagger and manages the Facebook pages, Hike the Wasatch, Wasatch Peak Baggers and Back to Eden Gardening Group. You can contact her at tinatcrowder@gmail.com.