Hiking Old Baldy Trail in Coronado National Forest, Arizona

Yes, the actual name of this trail is called “Old Baldy.” It’s because It leads to a saddle that is mostly “bald” (fewer trees), hence the name.

Old Baldy is located in Coronado National Forest, about 40 miles south of Tucson in southern Arizona. It’s a favorite hiking spot for my family and birders.

This hike is about 5 miles round-trip. On AllTrails, this hike is listed as a hard, and I agree with that assessment. I workout and go on runs a few times a week, but I am by no means super fit. I think that anyone in some sort of physical shape could do this hike, but it could be challenging for people who aren’t used to hiking or exercising.

Also, please make sure that you bring enough water on your hike! This is the desert! I typically bring two water bottles, but you might need more. The first half of the trail is sunny, but majority of the trail is shaded, so sunglasses or a hat should be fine, and it’s up to you whether or not you want to wear sunscreen. I always bring snacks for once I reach the top, so maybe bring a granola bar or orange. (Please make sure that you take your trash out of the park! #KeepOurParksClean) Coronado National Forest is at 5,000 ft. elevation, so take it slow and make sure that you catch your breath if you need to if you aren’t used to higher elevation. (I currently live in Houston, which is basically at sea level, so the 5,000 elevation gain hit me hard.)

To get to the hike, you have to drive to the topmost parking lot in Coronado National Forest. It’s $8 a day per car to park, or you can get a yearly pass for $40. I’ve definitely gotten a ticket from not paying for a day pass, so be careful.

Just like the hike to the “Carrie National Trail #78,” which I’ve previously written about, once you park, there is about a one-mile hike to the actual trailhead. The walk to the trailhead takes you up quite a few stairs and up a service road. The service road is very dusty and rocky, and not like a typical “hike” in the mountains. It’s the first challenge of a pretty hard hike but it ends pretty quickly.

Once you reach the trailhead, it’s pretty much “up” the entire way. This first section of the hike is very dusty and sandy, and there’s not a lot of traction on the actual trail. I definitely slipped once and scrapped by elbows and hands. I would recommend wearing sneakers or hiking boots with good tread. This part of the trail is also not as shaded, so like I said before, a hat and sunglasses (and maybe sunscreen) would be helpful.

I fell…

The trail then goes deeper into the forest and becomes shaded. This is also when the switchbacks begin.

Funnnnnnn.

I despise switchbacks, and there are quite a few on this trail. I understand why they’re necessary, but I hate them. This is why this hike is classified as “hard.” It’s up, up, up for a few miles through the forest. This part is challenging and when I hiked it, I needed to stop 2 or 3 times to drink water and catch my breath.

Eventually, the switchbacks end and you reach the saddleback and the end of the trail. There are a few more trails that you can take to extend your hike if you want to add length and go up even higher. You can take the long “Super Trail” back to the parking lot (however, the Super Trail is quite long and mostly sunny). I usually just take Old Baldy back down.

Views from the top

Going down, it’s steep so be cautious of your footing and, again, make sure that your shoes have good tread. When I slipped, I was going down and wearing old shoes with worn-out tread.

You’ll eventually make your way back to the trailhead, and follow the service road and stairs back to the parking lot. And you’re done!

I think that this trail is interesting because it takes you deeper into the forest, it’s a challenge so you’ll get a good workout, and you can find some pretty views of Tucson

If you’re in the area and looking to do something outdoorsy and social distance, I highly recommend this hike!

I found this pretty wildflower on the hike ❤

Good luck!

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Thank you for reading! Have you ever completed this hike before? What about other hikes in the area? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!

Xoxo’s

Emmalee

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