This is a route description for summer/fall hiking to the summit of Bald Mountain. It uses the Spraddle Creek road to avoid miles of bushwhacking that would be encountered if the standard winter route were attempted. The distance to the summit is about 4.5 miles one way and the elevation gained from the trailhead I selected is estimated at about 3,600’. In the fall, when I did this hike, there is little activity on this side of the Vail valley…I spotted 4 pickup trucks which had hauled camping equipment up into the mountains and heard a chainsaw briefly…that was all I encountered besides elk and other wildlife which were enjoying the plentiful food supplies.
Several times, I left the road thinking it might be possible to take a more direct route, but each of these encounters with the forest eventually brought me back to the road for a better means of reaching the mountain. This is not a hike where you can see your goal along the way. The only times I spotted the summit were (1) when I had gone too far NE and had a large valley to drop into unless I backtracked, and (2) when I finally was within ½ mile of the summit ridge. A compass and/or GPS may be a welcome companion on this climb.
From I70 in Vail, exit 176 is the best. On the north side of I70 there is a traffic circle with an exit that heads NE onto Spraddle Creek road. At the start, the road is paved, but the paved section ends at a gate into a private subdivision. At this point a dirt road continues after a sharp right turn from the pavement. Within about another 200 feet, you reach the Vail stables where there is parking for several vehicles on the right by a forest service kiosk.
If you have high clearance (or low regard for your vehicle), you can continue driving, but on rough roads I find it more enjoyable to just hike.
Route in red View east on summit ridge
From the stables on Spraddle Creek road, follow the main road for about 3 ¼ miles to the end avoiding several spur roads that branch off it to the east or west. The general direction is north until near the end as shown on the route photo. The end is at approximately 39 39’ 40.31” N and 106 20’ 06.18” W and at an elevation of about 10,690’. From this area there is a meadow stretching toward the east with a cliff band on its north edge. There is an easy break on the west end of the cliff band and a use path that leads up to the ridge above the cliffs. Note: On google maps the spraddle creek road seems to end about a mile west of the cliff band, but there is a continuation that was adequate for 3 pickup trucks to handle in 2011 which can be seen in satellite photos.
View toward East Vail View toward West Vail
From this point, the route heads through the trees in a northerly direction on the south ridge until you finally spot the summit ridge blocking your path. I headed slightly NW on an ascending traverse to climb the talus up to the ridge top. From there you just hike east over a couple of false summits to the summit and enjoy your accomplishment.
View north toward Gore Range
Clothing for mountain weather, compass, water.
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