Although the first 1/2 mile is a steep climb, the Winsor Trail then descends off into the Pecos Wilderness. We walked downhill until we crossed Rio Nambe and two other creek crossings (maybe 1 1/2 miles). Then it was basically a gradual uphill all the way to the saddle.
At 4 1/2 miles in, we reached Puerto Nambe, a great place to camp if you wanted to do some shorter hikes up to Baldy, Lake Katherine, or Spirit Lake. This would also be a great place for a snack or lunch break; however, we proceeded with hiking for another 45 minutes or so until we reached the saddle. We had lunch there.
At the saddle, we took a few minutes to take in the views all around us. It was also extremely windy the moment we reached the saddle, so we layered on all the clothes we had for the final ascent to the summit. We also found a semi-sheltered area to eat some lunch, before embarking on what we knew would be the most challenging part of the hike.
I had read in our trusty hiking guide that the trail up to the summit was an unmarked trail. We had encountered something like this before in the Sierras, so I was expecting to feel lost or unable to find the summit. Wrong! This was super easy. There is a trail. It may not have an arrow pointing you in the right direction at every turn, but it's really easy to follow. You can see from the pictures below that there is a clear trail all the way up to the summit.
When we got to the summit, we sat for a few minutes to rest and just soak in the 360 degree views. Thankfully, we thought to venture a little further from where we had decided to rest, because we came across this view of Lake Katherine. I hadn't realized it would be so close or so big! We'd seen some other smaller lakes in the distance, and I had thought one of those might be Lake Katherine. If you decide to hike Baldy, make you walk the extra 20 steps to the northeast part of the summit to glimpse this beautiful lake!
We finished the hike at 4:15pm, so 8 1/2 hours after we started. It's a long hike. And it's a hard one. But I'm so glad we did it and I highly recommend it!
If we had our backpacking gear with us in Santa Fe, I think I would prefer to camp at Puerto Nambe (or I've heard great things about La Vega, another meadow that could be a good starting point for some day hikes in the Pecos Wilderness), so we could see Lake Katherine up close too. There was no way we were doing that in the same day as Baldy as a day hike.
Quick Hiking Directions
1. Start at Winsor Trail Trailhead.
2. Continue past signs for Rio Nambe, Nambe Lake, and La Vega. Continue on Winsor Trail (Trail 254).
3. At Puerto Nambe, turn left on Skyline Trail (Trail 251).
4. At Saddle, turn left to Santa Fe Baldy Summit. Follow ridgeline to summit (12,622 ft).
5. Head back the same way (right on Skyline Trail, right on Winsor, and follow Winsor back to Ski Basin parking lot.