The Mallardy Ridge (Walt Bailey) Trail #706 begins from the end of the forest road and enters a mixed forest of alder, cedar and hemlock. The narrow trail wanders through the trees to broad meadows dotted with marshy ponds. After about a mile, the trail enters the Morning Star Natural Resource Conservation Area (NCRA), which protects over 33,000 acres of land around Spada Lake. The sign at the trailhead and some trail guides reference the Mt. Pilchuck
NCRA, which no longer exists. Back in 2007 the Mt. Pilchuck
and Greider Ridge NCRAs were merged into todays Morning Star NCRA.
Beyond the largest of the alpine meadows, the trail steepens and begins to switchback up through fields of talus toward Cutthroat Lakes. Arrive at the ridgeline to a small tarn with views of the lakes below. Follow the winding path as it descends down to the lakes. Along the way, numerous way paths branch off from the trail providing access to lakeshores. Stay on the widest path as it curves around the lakes and begins to climb up toward Bald Mountain. Switchback up the mountainside to the ridge, then climb up the back of the mountain to the summit. The views from the top are enormous. To the south, Mt. Rainier rises above the Spada Lake and Sultan Basin. Turn to the east to find Del Campo and Vesper Peak
s, Big Four Mountain and Mount Pugh. To the north pick out Three Fingers and Whitehorse Mountain. Mt. Pilchuck
can be seen to the west. Settle in and see how many mountaintops you can name.
This is a great trail with a little bit of everything - old growth forest, alpine lakes, big views, and not a lot of traffic. The trek to the top of Bald Mountain does involve a decent amount of elevation gain, but most hikers should have no problem reaching Cutthroat Lakes, which are a destination unto themselves. Keep in mind that this is a volunteer-built trail - some sections are rough and can be a little difficult to follow. Still, the added difficulty is more than worth the extra effort. If you havent already, put the Walt Bailey Trail on your list to hike in the near future.
During the Stillagumish Rivers mining heyday back around the turn of the last century, miners would begin working claims all along the river. One enterprising miner began working a claim at the mouth of a creek along the Stilliguamish, but never bothered to officially file the claim. Perhaps for that reason, folks just started referring to the creek by the name of the miner: Mallardy. Over the years Mallardy Creek and Mallardy Ridge have played host to innumerable travelers making their way up the ridge to Cutthroat Lakes and beyond.
Back in the 1930s, the Mallardy Ridge Trail ran from the Stillaguamish River up the mountainside to the Blackjack Ridge fire lookout before circling back down to the river. The pole tower lookout was built in 1935 and a cabin was added in 1942. In 1950, the decision was made to remove the lookout and the trail fell into disuse. At the same time, logging activities destroyed some sections of the trail. What was left of the trail was abandoned and it wasnt until 1991 that former Civilian Conservation Corps veteran Walt Bailey began work on an alternative route for the Mallardy Ridge Trail. Built entirely by volunteers, including the then 73-year-old Bailey, the Mallardy Ridge Trail (often called the Walt Bailey Trail) provides access to Cutthroat Lakes and connects up to the Bald Mountain Trail.