Distance: 16 km
Elevation gain: 900 mView mapDownload GPS track
As far as shoulder season hiking goes, this is a fantastic hike!
Do not confuse this hike with Mt. Baldy or signed Baldy Pass, both of which are further north on highway 40. The trail for Old Baldy Ridge starts in the Evan Thomas Creek parking area and initially heads roughly southeast on an old road in excellent condition. When a T-junction is reached about 1.7 km from the trailhead, veer left onto the old road marked with a sign pronouncing that the trail is not maintained past this point. In a few minutes, the old road turns sharply and heads slightly downhill. At the turn there is an obvious trail, but this is not the trail to Old Baldy Ridge! The true trail is just 30 m further, turning left off the old road just before the stream crosses the road.
After leaving the old road the trail winds and gently ascends alongside a creek. Clematis and calypso orchids are common in this area. A little over an hour from the trailhead reach one of two potentially tricky spots for the inexperienced. The first looks to be problematic only when the creek is high - it was today - which forces you to scramble over a slippery boulder; a slip would only result in getting wet, however. A short distance further encounter the second potentially tricky spot, a 30 m section of trail about a foot wide with a 5 m drop on one side. While I wouldn't want to be here in icy conditions, the trail is very good at this point and won't pose a problem unless you're very acrophobic.
After ascending creekside on grassy slopes for another 30 minutes or so, reach a rather nice waterfall. The trail turns to the left at this point and begins ascending north, hopping from side to side of a small creek that is initially underground. The trail gradually steepens from this point forward. About 2 hours from the trailhead, reach a fork. Left is marked with an obvious cairn and ascends to the center of the ridge, 200 m higher at this point. Right heads towards a lake below the east end of the ridge. I turned the hike into a loop, turning left at the junction and descending from the east end of the ridge towards the lake. The ascent is less steep via this route.
Crest the ridge about 3 hours after leaving the trailhead and attain spectacular views all around. You now have about 1.5 km of nearly flat ridge walking to enjoy! The southern and eastern ends of the ridge each offer remarkable and different views. If you are planning to descend to the lake from the east end of the ridge it's also useful to examine the descent route from both ends of the ridge. Potential but easily avoidable obstacles include small cliffs and a small creek choked full of impenetrable willows.