Big Baldy is the high point of the Baldy Ridge and is located on the border of Kings Canyon National Park and the Sequoia National Forest. Although not as high as its stately brothers on the far east side of the park complex, the views from the summit of the Redwood Mountain Grove, and the relative ease of the ascent merit a trip for the enthusiastic hiker.
For easy reference to the location of Big Baldy relative to the rest of the High Sierra, please view this map. Big Baldy is located in the far most western "nub" of King's Canyon Park where it borders Sequoia National Forest to the northwest of Lodgepole. A more detailed map of that region is available here.
Credits: This page was originally submitted by butterflywings73. I don't know why the Contributors link doesn't list her, so I'm doing it here.
The Main Trail
The main trail to Big Baldy begins at the Big Baldy Trailhead located on General's Highway, situated just north of the east turnoff to Horse Corral Meadow. At its beginning, the trailhead elevation is 7628 feet, presenting a nice, short 600 foot climb to the top. The trail has a mix of open and shaded areas, so it's quite reasonable to do on warm days.
The trail is strictly class 1; well marked and well maintained on the way to the top, and is 2.06 miles in length. You can tell you've reached the top not only by the flat expanse of rock on which you're standing, but also the very official USGS marker, imbedded in a nearby rock.
The Alternate Trail
Assuming that you choose the luxury option of staying in the US Forest Service's Montecito-Sequoia Lodge (see camping), you may choose to take the "more difficult" but shorter route to the top. This trail begins at the MS Lodge -- simply proceed past the archery range and join the dirt road. Follow the dirt road up the ridge line until you see a sign which indicates "Baldy Ridge" to the right. After turning at this sign, you'll encounter a small trail that eventually merges (topo) into the Main Big Baldy trail (about 0.45 miles from the summit). The entire length of this trip is 1.81 miles, so by shunning the tents, you also save yourself 1/4 of a mile! Good job!
At the Top
From the top, you can see various scenic views. Looking to the west and northwest, the Redwood Mountain Grove, one of the largest groves of Sequoias in the country starts on the slopes of Big Baldy and continues to a neighboring hillside. To the direct east, the peaks of the Great Divide (Mt. Silliman and those beyond) can be seen. Closer to the southeast, the conical face of Little Baldy peers at its bigger brother, inviting you onward to your next conquest.
Beyond the Top
But wait, the trail does not end at Big Baldy's summit. Indeed, you can continue to follow the trail to the south beyond the summit, and the views of Little Baldy actually are better. The trail beyond the summit point does become less maintained, rapidly becoming class 2, and eventually class 3 just before you reach the absolute end (on a steep slope that leads to a sheer face). I recommend the class 1/2 section leading to what the topo shows as unnamed peak 8169. From this subpeak, the views of Chimney Rock and Little Baldy to the southeast are excellent. Beyond this subpeak, scrambling over slabs takes you to the next bump,and then a descent down the sloping face leads to Hiker's Lands End..
Climbing Big Baldy
The Sequoia Kings Canyon Guidebook: Southern Sierra Rock Climbs details several established routes on the Big Baldy face. In order to access the climbs, the guide recommends hiking down the slabs north of the summit. Once at the base, heading south will lead to a progressively longer and steeper face. The book describes the route, "Welcome to Big Baldy" as the most attractive natural line on the cliff, and notes it is located just before the west face rounds to the south face and can be further identified by a "spectacular right-facing finger crack/corner with several large overhangs."
The guidebook lists the following climbs (in left-to-right, north-to-south) order:
Spine Line 5.9
Top Hat 5.10
By Gully 5.6
Young Eagle 5.10d
Free Enterprise 5.12b
Welcome to Big Baldy 5.11
Thanks to mpbro and Dave Daly for providing information on the rock climbing routes for Big Baldy.
Lodging / Camping
There are both camp grounds and lodges within the park. The National Park systems page has great information regarding all the campgrounds & lodges that are available in the park.
For those that want to live the life of luxury, the National Forest service also operates a "resort" lodge, the home of the Three Bears, Montecito-Sequoia. This lodge aspires to 4 star resort status, with its own private lake, a swimming pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, an archery range. I think I saw a Domino's Pizza delivery guy. See this link for more information.
Weather & Red Tape
Weather reports for the park can be found at this link.
The roads are often closed in the winter due to high volumes of snow. You can find these road closures by phone at 559-565-3341.
Big Baldy is located in the Kings Canyon National Park & Sequoia National Forest boundaries, and thus subject to the typical $20 7-day entrance fee, unless you are the holder of a national parks annual pass.
Anything that doesn't fit somewhere else fits here!
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