Wed, July 17

Baldwin Loop leads to refreshing dip in creek

The Baldwin Trail is a good choice for summer hiking, biking and horseback riding. There's little shade, but early starters quickly cover the 2.1-mile loop, and then head for the nearby swimming hole on the east bank of Oak Creek.

Find the trailhead across from a small parking lot at the end of a mile-long stretch of unpaved Verde Valley School Road.

The trail loops to the right and left, and the better choice is heading right toward the west. Going this direction gives bikers with intermediate skills a better downhill ride, and hikers enjoy an easy elevation drop.

Along the way, you'll have southeast-side views of Cathedral Rock. As you move around Baldwin, take time to admire the distinct views of the Monument's magnificent steeples and towers. Altogether an impressive sight.

Since Baldwin is a less-traveled trail, the track becomes somewhat unclear in a few spots along the western curve, and you may find yourself standing on a bluff with no place to go except back the way you came. Count these accidental side trips as a bonus. The views are spectacular from these lofty spots, and the main trail, never far away, is likely to be more evident coming back from a different direction.

About a mile from the trailhead, Baldwin meets Templeton Trail at an opening in an old fence. A wooden marker clearly indicates the loop continues to the left.

A right turn puts you on the Templeton Trail, which leads west to Cathedral Rock. Continuing east on Baldwin for less than a half mile, you come to a sign indicating that Crescent Moon, the often-photographed site on Oak Creek at Red Rock State Park, is ahead.

This access to Crescent Moon drops down through a canopy of trees to a riparian zone that buffers the creek.

Here the vegetation is lusher, and narrow, unmarked paths lead to the water. There is no bridge across to the park, but you can soak your feet in the stream, sun on the slick rocks or jump right in for a refreshing dip in the flowing water.

Return to the parking lot by either going back the way you came and completing the Baldwin Trail loop, or following the unnamed path that parallels the creek to the dirt road you drove in on.

If You Go ...

From SR-179, take Verde Valley School Road at the roundabout near the Outlet Mall. Pavement turns to dirt at the 4-mile point, but ordinary cars can handle the 1-mile drive to the parking lot, which is directly across from the Baldwin Trailhead and less than 0.25 miles from the banks of Oak Creek.

Toilets and a large trail map are available in the dirt parking area.

A Red Rock Pass must be displayed in the windshield of vehicles left unattended in the parking lot and are available for $5 from machines near the trail map display.