I noticed that there were not nearly enough peaks on Summitpost with the name "Baldy" or variations of same (22 as of 9/5/05) and strangely, not one from the state of Washington! Checking with the USGS database, I found there are several hundred summits with the name "Baldy" so we have some work to do, ladies and gentlemen of SP. In due respect for the fine state of Washington, and to keep the ball rolling, I offer the following page on Little Baldy:
SW face of Little Baldy from the Chinook Trail, Sept. 1st, 2005
The aptly named Little Baldy is a near perfect three-sided triangle of steep, talus covered ridges and talus covered faces on the east side of the Silver Star Mountain complex in western Skamania County. The peak is unique in the area due to its pronounced symmetry and also for its striking talus covered slopes falling away some 1,900 vertical feet on the NNE side and some 1,200 feet on the SW side. Accessed by the Chinook Trail the peak isn't too difficult to get to and well worth the effort for the spectacular views in all directions. Nearly all of the Gorge peaks can be spotted as well as five of our snow-capped volcanoes: St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood and Jefferson.
The Chinook band of Native Americans populated this area for millennia and they traveled these hills collecting seasonal berries and hunting game. Some of the trails you will travel may very well be the same ones they built and used for many thousands of years.
On September 11th, 1902, a huge forest fire started near Carson in the Columbia River Gorge and in just 36 hours, swept in from the east and climbed up and over Silver Star Mt. and most of the surrounding ridges and peaks. In those long-ago days, there was no means or even attempt to battle such a wide spread fire and the result was one of the worst - if not THE worst disaster - to ever befall the area: 38 people were killed, at least 146 families lost their homes and over 370 square miles of forest were burned. Some of the stumps of the fire-killed trees still stand throughout the area.
Much of the higher elevation areas have not re-grown a mature forest to this day, leaving large areas for huckleberry fields and offering the opportunity for sweeping vistas of the area from most of the many trails.
Click this link
for more details on the forest fire.
From I-5, exit 9, take SR 502 (aka NE 10th Ave.) 2.0 miles north to 219th St. Turn right and travel east to Hwy 503 (aka NW 10th Ave.) for 5.5 miles and turn left (north). Follow Hwy 503 north for 5.8 miles and turn right on Rock Creek Rd. (Rock Creek Rd. turn into Lucia Falls Rd.) Go 8.4 miles, and just past Moulton Falls, turn right on NE Sunset Falls Rd. There will be a sign pointing the way to Sunset Campground. Another 7.4 miles later, at Sunset Campground,turn right and cross the river on the one-lane bridge and go left up the hill on the gravel road. (Road 41). Go about 8.7 miles on Rd. 41 and park at the large turnout. (There's a junction at about 2.5 miles where you go right to stay on road 41.) The trailhead is at the south end of the large parking area. The gravel road should be easily navigated by normal 2wd vehicles and is in decent shape (except for some big potholes) as of this writing. It should take you less than an hour to travel from the I-5 exit to the trailhead.
Trail map of the area created with NG TOPO! software
Once at the trailhead, hike 3.7 miles to a faint trail junction in the (mostly) Silver Fir forest on the saddle between Bluff Mt. and Little Baldy. The junction is marked with a striped black and pink ribbon tied to a tree. This section is the "old" trail along the ridge. Follow the trail up the hill on the right. (If you miss this admittedly faint trail, continue on the main trail until you are out of the forest and climb directly up toward the obvious summit through the bear grass and brush covered slope. You will find the old trail eventually as you climb the slope. Once on it, follow the directions below.) Once you are on the talus south of the summit and the "old" trail starts its descent on the west side of the peak, pick a spot and climb the talus directly up to the summit. The "old" trail continues down the west side of the peak but is very overgrown and, unless you're in it for the huckleberries, probably not worth trying. Of course, if you would like to head on up to Silver Star, it's the logical route for that and since you can see the main trail from this bushwhack, it would be hard to get lost. Total distance is about 8.4 miles RT and about 1,560 vertical feet gain, RT, due to some ups and downs in the route.
The WA state Dept. of Natural Resources has managed to foist yet another odius restriction on the public as of late 2011: A $10/day or $30/yr. "Discovery Pass" must be purchased to park on "their" lands in the Silver Star area. Signs are posted, but the public is destroying them nearly as fast as they are going up. There is no provision to purchase said pass on the mountain TH's or campgrounds as of Dec. 2011 so one must backtrack to a ranger station or comercial outlet selling the passes or risk a $99 fine.
When To Climb
Road 41 will be closed by snow at some point in the winter and since the trailhead is at 3,549 feet elevation, expect it to stay closed until at least April or May in most years. This would be a long ski-in for most.
Primative camping spots abound but a completely flat one will be hard to find except on the saddle beltween Bluff Mt. and Little Baldy. There will be the usual seasonal restrictions on campfires in late summer and fall. There is no water on the described routes, though, from mid-summer until fall rains start. There are a couple of spots along the bluffs where there are early season trickles.