So, you have hiked Picacho Peak a few times, you enjoyed it, and now you want to do something different the next time the family heads out that way for a potato salad picnic.
Why not try the “Triple” next time!?
So, your tick list for the day would be:
- Picacho Peak main summit.
- North Picacho Peak (on the same “plateau” as the main summit).
- The Far North Picacho summit (north, along the ridge from the main saddle on the Hunter Trail).
[NOTE: For a fourth bonus summit, you could climb the minor mount just east of the main Picacho massif. The best approach to this pointy thing appears to be made by bushwhacking up from the southeast from near the park entrance. I’ll write this one up in another blog post once I actually get to it!]
If you are fast, you might do this trifecta in 2-3 hours (with some jogging, perhaps), but 4 to 5 hours would make for a more comfortable trip for the average hiker wanting to savor the views.
Be sure to take plenty of water, especially if you aren’t going in the very dead of winter. It was an unusual 102 degrees when I set out to do this just a couple of days ago (late October, 2:15p.m. start) and I drank nearly three liters of water. The sun in the afternoon really bakes that western side of the mountain, even if the eastern side might be nice and slim-shady.
Here are some beta photographs for you, all from a hand-held Sony RX-100iv…
A view of the main summit of Picacho Peak, looking south toward Tucson and Mt. Lemmon, from what could be called the “North Summit”. The white paint-like stuff is actually buzzard and raptor excrement–they obviously love a poop-with-a-view just like us human beans. Don’t let the big birds carry you or your boyfriend away:
The Picacho Peak summit offers the intrepid hiker one of the best desert views within earshot of big trucks rolling along a major interstate highway. On the far left, and close at hand, is the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch (no, I’m not kidding, take the kiddies for a visit). Also on the left, but in the distance, are the Santa Catalina Mountains (Mt. Lemmon, 9,157′). The long straight line is Interstate 10. On the right, in the distance, you first see the start of the Tucson Mountain chain with Mt. Wrightson (9,456′) and the Santa Rita Mountains in the haze beyond that. That plowed out area with the white structures on the right and on the desert floor is the Pinal Air Park with its hundreds of used-up airliners awaiting cannibalization, mothball treatment, or possible refurbishment:
Here, you are looking back toward the smoggy glob of Phoenix, some 75 miles to the north. In previous blog posts, I have referred to the “Far North Summit” as the “North Summit”. I’m not sure any of those secondary high points have official names. Anyway, counting the main Picacho Peak–where I stood for this photo–those are the other two goals in your trifecta challenge. What I am calling simply the North Summit is a great spot to photograph your friends as they reach this main summit:
From the previously mentioned “North Summit”, you can peer over the abyss to the north (but don’t let the abyss gaze into thee!) and the route to the Far North Summit becomes apparent. In a previous blog post, I called this route Class 2 or 2+; here I label it Class 3…whatever, there is a very minor bit of scrambling involved. Psychologically, that little knife-edged section might be the area that will give your climbing paws the most pause as it is a bit exposed on both sides. Luckily, the rock is reasonably solid there and you can grab the ridge with your sweaty palms for stability–braver souls can simply walk across. At the Hunter Trail Saddle, the smaller arrow indicates the route leading first down, then up, to the main peak:
The desert sky starts to get interesting as the afternoon wanes. In the middle of the picture, on the very farthest horizon, is the thumb-like head of Baboquivari Peak (7,730′), a worthy climbing goal for your list. Along that same horizon to the right of it is the big mound of Kitt Peak, of observatory fame (one of the domes is barely visible on top):
Something of what you might see along the ridge leading to and from that “Far North Summit”. The big prow on the left would be the “North Summit” with the main Picacho Peak just out of view on the left margin. Can you spot Mt. Wrightson, Baboquivari Peak, Kitt Peak, and the Pinal Air Park?
The rangers say you need to be off the trails by sunset. Too bad, as I would have preferred to have been on the summit at sunset for the grand photo op. Here, the shadows on the east side of the mountain start to deepen as I head back down to un-civilization. The main Picacho Peak summit is seen in sunlight:
Here are some additional links from previous trips I have made to Picacho Peak, all with nice, illustrative photographs:
February 13, 2016: Arizona Summits: Picacho Peak North Summit (Winter)
December 19, 2014: Arizona Summits: Picacho Peak (3,374′)