Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo . . .
There are over twenty mountains in Montana that have “Baldy” as part of their name – Big Baldy, Mount Baldy, Baldy Peak, Old Baldy, Little Baldy, Baldy Mountain, etc. It seems that most mountain ranges in Montana have a “Baldy”, and that probably holds true in many other states as well.

Bald is beautiful.
I’ve climbed three of Montana’s many “Baldies” – Bear Paw Baldy, Highwood Baldy, and  (most recently) Mount Baldy in the Big Belt Mountains southeast of Helena. It’s a limited sample size, but so far I can say, “I’ve never climbed a Baldy I didn’t like”. I think a big reason for this is that any mountain named Baldy is going to be treeless, so it’s obviously going to to have unobstructed views much of the way to the summit – which are the types of views I really enjoy. (Photo Tour)

baldyphoto View from Highway 12  north of Townsend looking east across Canyon Ferry Lake – Photo courtesy of Montanabw and Wikipedia

Survey says . . .
Mt. Baldy in the Big Belts is the favorite “Baldy” for those who live in Helena – We see it every day as we drive around town, and we get great views of it as we hike the trails around Mt. Helena or recreate on Canyon Ferry Lake. I’ve climbed Baldy in the Big Belts several times over the past 20 years, but my recent (7/13/18) hike up there with three friends was perhaps my most interesting trip to that particular summit. Here’s why . . .

1. Duck Creek Road was in terrible shape! It took us about two hours to drive the 60 miles from Helena to the place where we started hiking. Its all pavement except for the last 13 miles up to Duck Creek Pass from Highway 284 on the east side of Canyon Ferry. Unfortunately, heavy runoff this past spring eroded some pretty deep gullies in the road up to the pass (Duck Creek Road). I’ve never seen it so bad. I’m glad my friend Mark had a high-clearance 4WD pick-up.

2. The goats put on a show. I’ve seen signs (fur, poop, etc.) of goats on previous hikes up to Baldy, but have never actually seen any goats there. This time we hit the jackpot – On the hike up we had a great vantage point to sit and watch over 15 goats on a snowy slope below Baldy. The weather was great, and no one was in a hurry, so we just sat and enjoyed the show.

3. The “2 Basset Brewery” was fun. It has become our custom (habit?) this summer to visit a local brewery after doing a hike like this. So, instead of going back down that gullied Duck Creek Road on the west side of the Big Belts, we took Birch Creek Road (also gravel) down the east side into White Sulphur Springs, home of the “2 Basset Brewery”. It added an extra 35 miles to the trip, but turned out to be a MUCH better road (just a couple rough spots). So, with the smoother drive and the fun we had sampling beers at the “2 Basset”, it turned out to be a good choice.

Taking a different approach.
The four of us (Mark, Kacey, Tristan, and I) left Helena at 8 am, started hiking at 10 am, and completed the 7-mile (round-trip) hike at 1 pm. On past hikes to Baldy, I’ve parked at a designated trailhead near Duck Creek Pass and followed an actual hiking trail that eventually branches down to several small lakes on the east side (below Baldy). Instead of following that branch down to the lakes, I’ve continued on the one that veers to the right and followed it for a short distance to some springs – The trail actually ends there, so I’ve simply headed up the rocky clearing and followed the ridge to the summit (10-11 miles round-trip). HOWEVER, this time we didn’t take the standard route – at least not for the first 2-3 miles. Instead, from the designated trailhead, we drove another 1.3 miles up a “Jeep trail” to  a microwave tower (all legal). We parked there, and walked on the Jeep trail to near the place where the standard route goes off-trail and follows the ridge. After we left the Jeep trail, our route was the same as the “standard route”. Driving up the Jeep trail shortened our round-trip hiking distance by 2.6 miles – Plus the Jeep trail is straighter, so that reduced our mileage a bit as well. Normally I would prefer a “hiking trail” over a “Jeep trail”, but I liked the fact that the wider trail made it easier for the four of us to visit as we walked. (See maps in photo tour for route options.)

Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.