Old Baldy Peak Hike & Scramble

June 5, 2015
July 8, 2022

I’m not sure why there are two mountains with nearly identical names within kilometers of each other… I’ve been caught referring to the wrong name on more than one occasion, so forgive me if you already know this. Mount Baldy is the scramble that is closest to Yates Mountain/Barrier Fire Lookout. Old Baldy Peak is further south on Highway 40, south of Kananaskis Village. This is a trip report for Old Baldy Peak, which can be a long day hike or extended to scramble up to the summit.

At one time, Old Baldy was a popular hike. After the 2013 floods rearranged the creek bed and washed out most of the trail, it’s no longer on the radar. I originally hiked Old Baldy with Annette in 2015. What a frustrating hike! We took the lower creek trail, which was obliterated by the flood. We went back and forth across the creek endless times, usually on logs or whatever debris we could find. It took forever! I was following the route description in Daffern’s guidebook, but as the ‘trail’ was non-existent, and this was before GPS, I couldn’t even tell if I was on the right track. I was so close to giving up when we popped out of the trees to see the gorgeous tarn at the base of the mountain cirque.

I wanted to come back and finish what I started. This time, I was eyeing the full summit scramble to the top of Old Baldy Peak. Sonya agreed to come with me, and leave Pyro at home. Wow. She must have really missed me to do that ๐Ÿ™‚

Hikers

If you want to hike Old Baldy, I’d highly recommend taking my route and making a loop. Go up on the ridge side to the wide plateau, and then descend at the col (where the Rocky Mountain Sheep were seen), and return on the creek trail. Follow this trip report, but omit the scramble to the summit.

Gear

Hiking boots, poles and regular day pack kit. If going for the summit scramble, add in a helmet.

Overview

From the Evan Thomas day use area, hike the main trail to the twin cairns to access the McDougall Creek trail. At the Y junction, we took the left trail up to the ridge. We hiked a large boulder field, then hiked along a flat meadow that lead to a cone-shaped hill. We traversed around the hill, which lead to the wide flat plateau of Old Baldy. Hikers can descend at the col, hike down to the lake, and return on the McDougall Creek trail.

Scramblers can continue up the other side of the col, keeping to the ridge. Cross the prominent rib, and ascend to the summit. Return the same way. After crossing the rib, take the scree slope back down to connect with the hiker’s trail back to McDougall Lake. Return via the McDougall Creek trail.

Video

I usually include a small video, at least a summit panorama, but I decided to create a full video. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Parking and Trail Head

Parking is at the Evan-Thomas Day Use Area.

The trail starts to the right of the outhouses, at the obvious wide track with the numerous signs. Hike for about 100 m, then turn left to pick up the main trail.

The Evan-Thomas Day Use area gets lots of work in both summer and winter, as this is also the starting point for The Green Monster Ice Falls hike.

Main Trail

Follow the super wide trail for about 1.8 km from the parking lot. At the Y junction, turn left at the “Trail Not Maintained Beyond this Point” sign. It’s possible to go either way, but this seemed shorter.

The main trail is easy side by side walking.
This is the Y junction. We went left at the “Trail Not Maintained Beyond this Point” sign. Ominous indeed!

At 2.2 km, look for the double cairns marking the entrance to the Old Baldy Peak trail. Going straight leads to Evan-Thomas Creek, so if you hit water, backtrack 100 m.

These are the double cairns that mark the start of the Old Baldy trail. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

The trail now parallels McDougall Creek, which starts at McDougall Pond at the base of Old Baldy. This section of the trail is beaten in quite nicely, and I was almost suckered into following it again all the way up. When I saw the side trail heading up the alternate ridge route to the north, I told Sonya that I didn’t fully trust the lower trail, and that we could easily make a loop and come back on the creekside trail.

The initial part of the trail that parallels McDougall Creek is in great shape – way better than the last time I was here.
This is the Y Junction. The left is to the upper Ridge Trail, while going right continues along the McDougall Creek trail. I recommend doing a loop – go high on the left first and hiking back along the creek on the way down. I won’t lie – the trail is straight up. I’m in pretty good shape and I was huffing my way up.

Despite the initial section of this trail being super steep, I was SO happy we took the upper ridge trail. We found a massive rock garden, gorgeous cliffs, views of the surrounding mountains, and a trail that didn’t drive me insane with its dipsy-doodling. The trail lead to the plateau where most hikers will end their hike and turn around.

At the top of the forest ascent to the top of the ridge, we came to an old burn. This gave us great views of Volcano Peak (long ridge to the right), McDougall Peak (centre back) and Old Baldy Peak (far left). Ignore the centre, closer peak. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.

We hiked through a short section of forest, and came to a large rock garden. There were several cairns along the way, as well as disturbed rocks, to guide us through.

The start of the rock garden. We hiked alongside the rocks for a bit, then followed cairns and gained elevation as we climbed through the garden.
Another cairn about halfway up the rock garden. The rubbed off lichen made it easy to find our way through the rocks.
The top of the rock garden was marked by another cairn indicating the entrance into the forest.

We then came to the most amazing ridge that seemed to extend forever. Such gorgeous views that you just don’t get from the creek trail. After the ridge, the trail peters out on a flat plateau. That’s okay though, because there is a massive volcano-shaped hill to aim for. Once past this, it’s the famous Old Baldy from Daffern’s guidebook.

This gorgeous rock band at the top of the ridge is stunning, and seemingly goes the entire distance of the ridge. The trail is actually back from this, but we ventured out to look at the rock band a few times. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.
The top of this ridge is fairly flat, and the trail completely peters out in the grass and wildflowers. We found this cairn, which lead us to the big volcano-shaped hill.
If there was a trail, it meandered in and out. That’s okay. We bee-lined it for this hill ahead. In the background on the right is the flat plateau of Old Baldy. That’s what we are aiming for.

The trail on my map looked like it went straight up and over top of this hill, but we found a side trail that went around the base to the right. We continued this trajectory around the hill, and then hiked up to the wide flat Old Baldy plateau.

A nice trail at the base of the hill leads to a lower angle traverse around to the right. Photo credit: Sonya Laing.
The trail ends once we enter the meadow, but it started up again the further across we went. The flat plateau of Old Baldy is straight ahead. The ridge ascent up Old Baldy Peak is in the background. Sonya kept me well entertained on this section with stories from her recent bike packing trip. There are adventures to be had everywhere!
#SnowInJuly – I have a running bet that I can find snow in every month of the year. November to May is a given, so I really only track June, July, August, September and October. To nab this, I actually hiked up quite a ways higher than I needed to be. Sonya was a good sport and got somewhat close to the snow. Photo credit: Sonya Laing
On the wide plateau that is Old Baldy! Looking back at the snow fields, and below, the side hill we just came up.

Hikers Return via McDougall Creek Trail

We hiked along the top of the Old Baldy plateau, and then descended to a col. At the lowest point is the ideal spot for hikers to go straight down. It was here that we saw a lone female hiker who had come up the creek trail, but stopped well below the col. There was a herd of Rocky Mountain Sheep, which got up and travelled over the other side of the col.

Keep an eye out for the trail that leads down to the tarn below. See below for photos/description after the summit scramble info.

From the Old Baldy plateau, looking down to the col (brown area at bottom) which is the hikers descent route to McDougall Lake. Looking across at the scramblers route to Old Baldy Peak.
Looking down at the hiker’s descent route. There is a herd of Rocky Mountain Sheep in the meadow. The lone hiker is in the trees to the right. Below this meadow is a really good trail that leads to the lake below.

Old Baldy Peak Scramble

After dropping down to the col, we started to hike back up the other side. The initial going was a churning scree slog, but the gorgeous red rocks and views greatly improved the trail. I elected to go high and gain the ridge, both for the fun scrambling, but also to get away from the scree.

The initial scramble is greatly improved by these colourful rocks.
Looking back down to the col. The scree section is below. We kept climber’s left to be on the rocks as much as possible.
Crazy rock formations on the initial ascent up the ridge of Old Baldy Peak. Photo: Sonya Laing.
I chose to stay high on the ridge as much as possible. Photo: Sonya Laing.

We followed the ridge as far as possible, then went right. We crossed a wide scree slope, and went over a prominent rib. Once over the rib, it was a scree ascent to the summit. There was a nice trail to the col just below the summit, with an even nicer trail to the summit. Unfortunately, there was a block of snow in our way. I didn’t know if it was a cornice, so elected to stay right and instead scrambled up the loose scree directly below the summit. This was nasty, but doable.

We stayed on the ridge, but traversed around the rib on the right.
At one spot, we found these fossils. Sonya asked “Sophie the Geological Whiz” to identify them: “They are solitary rugose corals about 400 million years old. They are now extinct.” They are long tube structures, and we also saw a long cross-section of them at the same location.
Sonya at the location of the fossils.
Sonya coming up the final summit slope. There is actually a nice trail along the ridge, but the snow was an unknown from below (didn’t know if it was a cornice) so I took the conservative route and went up the scree below the summit.

Distance to summit is 8.8 km. Elevation gain is 1,199 m. Time to summit was 4 hours, 45 minutes.

Alisen on the summit. Behind me is Wasootch Ridge, Porcupine Ridge, Midnight Peak and Mount Baldy. Across the highway is Yates/Barrier Fire Lookout.
The Pink Summit Register was an ‘adults only’ affair ๐Ÿ™‚ Good times LOL!

Old Baldy Peak Return

When leaving the summit, I could see that the snow block was not a cornice. Unfortunately, it was sun modified, with a bullet proof crust, and steep enough that a slip would send us careening down. Without an ice axe, the safest route was to go down the scree we came up. Ugh.

We retraced our steps for the most part. There was a section of sticky rock wall that was easy to scramble up, but gave a moment of pause on the way down.

A fairly vertical section of rock, but thankfully very sticky.

We crossed the prominent rib, and then beelined it down the scree slope. We veered off at a break, and went onto the grassy slope on the right. Here we took off our helmets, had a little bite to eat, and then found the trail heading down to the tarn.

Looking down at the rib.
On the rib. Tantalizingly close, yet still a ways up from the lake.
We took the scree slope down. We went right at the little hummock at the base of the scree. In the soft meadow, we took off our helmets, had a snack, and got ready for the long trudge back.

A vocabulary side trail: Two people have now questioned the word ‘hummock’. Sonya asked if a hummock was the opposite shape to a hammock. I said yes. She then asked I had made up the word hummock. Nope! It’s a real word and a real thing – a small bump or rounded hill.
From the hummock, it was easy to find the well worn hiker’s trail that lead to the lake below.

While it was a long day, I cannot resist the opportunity to soak my feet in a cold mountain tarn or stream. This was a much needed refresher before tackling the annoying creek side trail. While the trail was MUCH improved since my 2015 trip, it still dipsy-doodled back and forth. A few times we lost the plot completely, and had to punch our way through the bush to get back to the trail.

The crystal clear waters of McDougall Lake at the base of Old Baldy and Mount McDougall. Photo: Sonya Laing.
After the lake, we hiked beside the McDougall Creek. The trail started out in great shape, as this was above the 2013 floods. Volcano Peak is in front of me.
A gorgeous little waterfall. Photo: Sonya Laing.
Sonya crossing the creek yet again… Sigh… We did lose the plot once or twice, but found our way back each time. After leading the summit scramble, I wasn’t keen to deal with this trail.

By the time we got back to the initial trail split with the upper ridge route, the trail was again solid. The hike back to the parking lot was long and boring.

Lower down, the trail solidifies once again. All in, way better than in 2015.

I am thankful that I gave Old Baldy a second shot. I will admit to never being so frustrated with a trail as when I did the creek trail in 2015 with Annette. I’m glad enough people have been through to bash out a trail for the most part. However, I’m even more ecstatic to have found the upper ridge trail that provided so many views and interesting terrain choices.

Whether you want to hike a loop, or climb a peak, Old Baldy is a nice quiet place to get away from the crowds.

Thanks for reading! Please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers, or follow me on Instagram

Alisen

Totals โ€“ Downloadable Tracks on Gaia, Displayed on Strava

Date: July 8, 2022
Group:  Two (Alisen and Sonya)
Distance:  16.2  km
Elevation:  1,199 m (3,957โ€ฒ)
Time:  8 hours 45 minutes (includes lunch and breaks)

Old Baldy can be a hike, or it can be extended to scramble the summit peak. I hiked up the ridge route to the north, and descended on the creek trail below.
The Ridge Trail was steeper going up, but it was a no-nonsense trail with great views and interesting terrain. The creek side trail on the descent was more gradual, but I was in the trees the whole time and had to deal with a trail that meandered back and forth across the creek – although it is getting better!
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Posted in Adventures, Hiking, Scrambling
20 comments on “Old Baldy Peak Hike & Scramble
  1. Diana says:

    This looks awesome! I love the views from the ridge and summit, the tarn looks lovely, and the scrambling sounds fun. What a great hike!

    • alisendopf says:

      Thanks Diana. It was a great day. I was tired of route finding by the time we got to the creek though. Best part? We had the mountain all to ourselves all day. That’s a rare thing in the Canadian Rockies these days.

  2. How lovely Alisen!

    Really nice post and how great to see the solitary rugose corals! I have never seen something like that before.

    • alisendopf says:

      LONG before I started hiking, I visited Mount Olympus and Zeus’ tumbled temple. The large rings that make up the columns were laying down, and we could get up close and personal. The stone was made up of small fossilized sea shells. I thought at the time – who could not believe in evolution when the TOP of the mountain has sea shells from millions of years ago.

      We are blessed with many spots with fossils, because of the way the Rockies were created. They were lifted up when a chunk of granite we call British Columbia rammed into the rest of Canada. The layers of the sea and lake beds were pushed up, exposing the layers beneath. Sometimes those layers were rich in plant life.

  3. Hi. Thatโ€™s a great hike. And I like your video. The panorama views from the summit are spectacular. Neil S.

  4. Thatโ€™s awesome that you were able to return and hike this trail again. I enjoyed the video recap. What a great way to compile your pictures. The rock band at the top of the ridge looks beautiful and I love how lush and green everything looks. How fun to even find fossils along the trail. Iโ€™m not sure how Iโ€™d feel about descending down on the vertical section of the rock. Thank goodness it wasnโ€™t raining or anything.

    • alisendopf says:

      Glad you liked the video. I’ve been wanting to do one for ages and finally had a Saturday free to just sit and do it.

      Fossils are fairly common, but to find such a big one was pretty cool. Next time you’re here, you can book a tour to the Burgess Shale across from Field. Massive fossil deposits.

      • I’m glad you found the time. It’s a neat idea and a great way to showcase your pictures. We learned a bit about the Burgess Shale when we visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. I didn’t realize that Yoho offered guided tours through the area until afterwards. This park just keeps getting better and better.

  5. ledrakenoir says:

    Wow what a fascinating hike. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. WOW! What a hike/scramble! I can’t believe how high those mountains are over there. No wonder you wear helmets. Thanks for the adventure, Mel

  7. #hhhigh says:

    It seems you enjoyed. And it looks a wonderful day for a hike. One day Iโ€™ll be doing this hike. Love it.

  8. Widdershins says:

    Loved the video. ๐Ÿ˜€ … and reading your commentary here. ๐Ÿ˜€

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