Baldy Lake Trail

Hike Rating: Easy
Hike Length: 4.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 250’
Trailhead Elevation: 7,030’
Best Season: July through September
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle,
        once access road is snow-free

Plus Points
• Hike to a stunning, high-elevation lake, set in a glaciated granite amphitheater
• Route is entirely within the North Fork John Day Wilderness Area
• Primeval grand fir forests that have never been logged throughout the hike
• Wildflowers into mid-August, including pink monkeyflower, goldenrod and asters
• Trail intersects route of an historical, early 1900s, electric line to mining districts
• The last 1.5 miles of trail to the lake is well-built on a good, gradual grade

Minus Points
• Hour-long drive on a narrow, rocky and steep access road to reach trailhead
• One 0.4-mile section of trail is steep and poorly-defined, requiring route finding skills

Download (PDF, 714 KB): Photos of Baldy Lake Trail
Download (PDF, 684 KB): Topo Map for Baldy Lake Trail
Download (GPX, 1 KB): GPS Points for Baldy Lake Trail
Download (PDF, 851 KB): Road Map for Baldy Lake Trail

Trail Notes
Map of Baldy Lake Trail
To avoid an extremely rough section of 4-wheel drive road, the hike starts at a parking spot on a big switchback where Road 7345 ends, and one can then walk the last 0.4 miles on Road 400 to the official trailhead. Road 400 switchbacks up the hill to the top of the ridge (and sweeping views east of the Elkhorn Crest), then turns south in a straight line along the Wilderness boundary. The trailhead sign is on the left (east) side of Road 400 (at GPS Point 1), about 200 yards south of where the road first crests the ridge.

From the trailhead sign, the route follows an old mining road northeast down the hillside for about 200 yards, then switchbacks southeast down a steep track to an open grassy hillside, with more views of the Elkhorn Ridge. The trail becomes poorly-defined here, but if one just keeps switchbacking east down the hillside, in about 250 yards one meets the well-defined, north-south Baldy Creek Trail (at GPS Point 2). In this last 250 yards, look for old poles and ceramic insulators from the early-1900s electric line running to the Cable Creek Mining District in the east.

Once heading south on the Baldy Creek Trail, the hiking is easy on a gradual grade all the way up to Baldy Lake. The trail contours up the west side of the Baldy Creek canyon, through thick, pristine stands of grand fir that have never been logged. At 1.5 miles, the trail bends eastward and crosses several tributary creeks (with wildflowers into late summer), then contours back south again. At 2.0 miles (GPS Point 3), at a trail junction, one takes the right (south) fork and continues south, up over a broad rise, and in 0.3 miles is at Baldy Lake. A stunningly scenic spot for lunch and a hike destination.

At lake's edge, if one wants to explore further, a good walking trail goes left (south) along the lakeshore, past several campsites and wet meadows. Another trail goes right (north) on a bench above the lake to its outlet, where one finds an immense moraine of car-sized granite boulders about 100 yards wide and 500-600 yards long.

Road to Trailhead
From paved Hwy 73, 3.9 miles north of Granite or 4.6 miles south from the North Fork John Day Campground, turn east onto gravel Road 7345. Follow this road east, past the turnoff for Road 720 at 2.1 miles, for 5.2 miles to a big switchback. Park on this switchback to avoid the steep, rocky 4-wheel drive section of Road 400 past the switchback. Walk up Road 400 for 0.4 miles to a trail sign for Baldy Lake on the east side of the road (GPS Point 1).

NOTE: Road 7345 is rocky and rough throughout its length. The roadbed is made up of sharp, fist-sized rocks and is rutted in spots, requiring a high-clearance vehicle with strong tires. Plan on a slow trip, taking about an hour from Hwy 73 to the parking spot. The upper road can be blocked by snow into late June after winters with high snowfall.

Camping Options
The nearest developed camping area is the USFS North Fork John Day Campground, about 8 miles north of Granite on paved Hwy 73 and about 10 driving miles from the trailhead. Located next to the highway in a lodgepole pine forest above the river, there are 20 sites for tents, trailers and RVs. This campground has three vault toilets, plus picnic tables and fire rings at each site. There is no drinking water or garbage pickup, but it has a volunteer camp host in the summer months. Fees were $8.00 per night in 2013.

The next nearest developed campground is the USFS Olive Lake Campground, 12 miles east of Granite on gravel Road 10 and about 21 driving miles from the trailhead. This is a popular recreation area, with 28 sites for any type of camping setup, spread out on the hillside east of the lake. It has 7 vault toilets, a boat ramp and two docks, plus tables and fire rings at most campsites. There is no drinking water or garbage pickup, but it does have a camp host in summer. Fees were $12.00 per night in 2013.

NOTE: The only publicly-available drinking water is at Gold Center Spring, 7.4 driving miles south of Granite on Hwy 73. This is a piped, free-flowing spring at a wide pullout east of the highway. Gas and supplies are available at the store in Granite.

Agency Contact: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Baker District, (541) 523-6391

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 11/13/13