This route climbs out of the Dry Fork of Belt Creek and traverses Butcherknife Mountain and Big Baldy Mountain. A significant portion of this is above timberline and offers very good views. The second portion descends Pioneer Ridge and Hoover Ridge
, back to the Dry Fork of Belt Creek and the point of origin.
There is very little water on portions of this trail. This loop is best completed clockwise so that you can find water on the latter portions of the hike.
Exposure on Big Baldy is extreme, take appropriate precautions if there is thunderstorm activity.
It is easy to miss the junction to Pioneer Ridge if visibility is poor.
Motorcycles are allowed on many of these trails.
From the trailhead on the Dry Fork of Belt Creek you'll climb sharply on The Arch Trail
. Note the limestone arch that you pass through about a mile in. The trail will continue and you'll reach a junction with the Big Baldy Trail
, and you'll turn south and traverse a ridgeline.
The ascent up the north face of Big Baldy Mountain is via a trail through the shale rock. You'll then traverse an alpine plateau to the summit of Big Baldy Mountain. The 360-degree views from the top are amazing. On a clear day, you can see the Bears Paw Mountains, the Big Snowy Mountains, the Crazy Mountains, and the Absoraka Mountains to name a few.
The descent from the summit will take you back into the timber for a while, until you cross through a series of parks along Hoover Ridge
. You'll descend off of Hoover Ridge
and the trail will follow one of the forks of the Dry Fork of Belt Creek. There will normally be water that you can filter.
The trail mostly follows the creek back to the trailhead. About a mile or so from the end, the trail turns west and up away from the creek. If you follow it, there will be some additional miles and dirt road running to get back to the start. If you continue to follow the creek, look for the faint trail that continues to parallel the creek. This trail is intermittently very hard to find; just continue to follow the creek. The closer you get to the trailhead, the more the canyon narrows. There are multiple wet creek crossings near the end that can be hazardous in the spring when the water is high.
The wildflowers on the alpine plateau are outstanding.