So, if you are thinking of walking up Baldy as far as the top of the Gondola some beautiful morning, here is a description of the best foot trail going up the front side of the mountain:
First, some details:
The walk is about 4 miles from the River Run Plaza to the Roundhouse. (That’s where the top of the Gondola is) Plan on one hour and 20 minutes of walking time, plus any time you spend resting. Give yourself a good 2 hours, unless you are going to get after it and walk non-stop with purpose. Then you will be there in about 1 hour 20. There is one water stop, but it is very nearly at the end of your walk, so it won’t help you if you run out of water early on. Most smart walkers carry at least a small bottle of water for the trip. Also, the Mountain guys warn that you need always to be prepared for bad weather or the possibility that the lift could be closed when you get there due to lightning, or some other situation. In case of lightning, they WILL help you with alternate transportation down the mountain, but it can be cumbersome and sometimes slow, so you may have to be patient.
Okay, to the walk… You will start out to the left of Pete Lane’s bike shop, walk toward the trees, (not up the mountain, yet) and look for the big sign at the entrance to the trail. There will be some signage about being responsible in case of bad weather, dogs on the lift(no) and such. The trail parallels the river here, and climbs slightly away from the valley floor gradually bringing you high enough to get a nice view of town. You will see a row of nice Mcmansions along the river bank with their lawns planted right down to the water. (How can they do that?)
At about 1 mile the trail moves away from the river and through a nice shaded section where you should slow down and listen to the silence. Very calming, a nice sensation. If you look carefully above you, you will see the bottom terminal of the Frenchman’s lift through the trees above. Don’t go there. Then a short hot section out in the sunshine that traverses out to the USFS overlook viewing all of Ketchum, Sun Valley and the Pioneer mountains in the distance. Nice view, great spot for a rest, and not a bad spot to turn back after enjoying the view if you are so inclined. The trail up goes back across the sunny slope (great flowers here) and at about mile 2.2 will be your first road crossing. Do not be tempted. The shortest route from here is right up the trail to the Gondola. Go across the road and up the trail into the woods again. You will cross Can-Can, Lower College a few times, Graduate, and Flying Squirrel as the trail swtchbacks up toward the Louis Steur Memorial at 3.5 miles.
The sign says Louis was a gentleman, and he was. He worked for Sun Valley for along time, and enjoyed these mountains as a pilot, a glider pilot, a skier and a climber. He died in the Sawtooths doing what he and most all of us, love to do. Think of him as you drink his water and enjoy the shade. Then stroll 50 yards up to Roundhouse Lane (here it looks like a two-lane road). Follow the signs down the road to the left about .4 mile or about 10 minutes, and you will see the Roundhouse! Beer, wine, coffee, soda, lunch and a free ride down to River Run. The lift operators will greet you as you arrive. Be sure to say “hi” to Benjy, he’s always there.
And congratulations on a great walk and a nice climb. You will really appreciate the gondola ride down, and the quiet that descends over you when floating above Exhibition and Sleeping Bear if you just listen to it.
Some day, we can talk about the hike to the Top… But that’s another story…