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5 Toughest Climbs of Arizona | Mountain Matron | Hiking Arizona

Posted on April 14, 2016 at 4:45 PM

5 Toughest Climbs of Arizona | Mountain Matron | Hiking Arizona

If you’re an avid day hiker here in Arizona, or you generally hangout on the summits of the Superstition Wilderness, I guarantee these are the challenging day hikes you’ve already talked about. How many have you completed?

In no particular order we give you the heart pounding, muscle aching, ego boosting climbs accomplished in the rugged mountain ranges of the beautiful and the highly underestimated, state of Arizona. Arizona is presumably the most remarkable and ecologically diverse desert of the world. 

#1 Humphrey’s Peak

Have to go with the obvious first. Humphrey’s Peak of Flagstaff, Arizona, anchored in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness gives a bit of everything. Start your hike from Arizona Snow Bowl parking lot. Follow the trail through the meadow to meet the forest, and eventually you find yourself above tree line. From there the rocky terrain stays steep through to the summit. You’re combating steep elevation gain the entire climb and finish with a round trip of 11 miles. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping and your lungs screaming, the altitude will. Humphrey’s Peak sits at 12,633ft, the highest in the state. Summer storms can be quick to turn for the worst, from above tree line, be aware and retreat upon lightning.

#2. Camelback Mountain

The highest and most demanding climb of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Rendering climbers a 1,200foot elevation gain in 1.2 miles of treacherous terrain perpetually enunciates this mountain to visitors from around the globe and the local residents alike. The challenge of scrambling to deem the summit, and the unforgettable 360° view of the Phoenix Metro area has made this summit the most sought after in the state. The trail stats for Camelback should not be underestimated and though this mountain holds the largest numbers of successful summits week to week, due to the unforgiveable Arizona heat and tricky terrain, it also bears the tombstone to others.

#3. Picacho Peak

This unique 1,500foot peak has been a preeminent landmark since prehistoric times, first noted by the Anza Expedition. Picacho Peak is part of the Arizona State Parks system with entrance fees, permitted camping and facilities available. Hunter Trail although marking a mere 2mile summit, the fortress form of this mountain make it a manipulative climb. Cable railings, steel beams, a wood-panel bridge and some gall, will get you there. Exposure to the elements and points of sheer drop-offs keep this trail marked for experienced hikers only. Be warned.

#4. Flatiron

The legitimately titled pinnacle of the Superstition Mountains sits at 4,800 feet. The hike starts from the Lost Dutchman State Park and your first 1.5 miles are pretty basic. The woodpeckers, hummingbirds, quail, hawks and giant Saguaro will keep you feasting. After approaching the jowl of the mountain termed, the Basin, the noticeably giant area of slick rock, and if it has rained, small waterfalls this is where the climb really begins. From the Basin, the looming flank above is your destination. Inflicting a 1,800 foot climb in 1-mile through a sketchy route, filled with thorny cactus and a daunting deliverance. Not recommended for a summer hike and takes hikers an average of 5-6 hours to complete.

#5. Thompson’s Peak

Though the trail is portioned by a paved road and begins by politely traipsing a neighborhood the stats and decree of this summit in the McDowell Mountains, insists it be included. Besides, the views at 5 miles, sitting on the summit will be well worth it. After leaving the parking lot, follow the signs through the neighborhood and passed the Maricopa County boundary (pay $2 per person) all the way to Dixie Mine. From here you follow the clearly marked trail to the summit by turning left. This is where your entire body begins to question your intentions and your glutes and lungs will be asking for a turn-around. Upon reaching the summit your views from the not so particularly awesome hill of cell-phone towers, includes a 360° whirlwind of features. Sharing the entire Phoenix area directly below, the Mazatzal Mountains looking north, Superstition Mountains facing the east and Catalinas hovering to the south.

BONUS TRAIL: Once you’ve willfully and effortlessly completed the climbs above. Take a crack at the 12mile one-way, Superstition Ridgeline. You’ll need a shuttle vehicle parked at Lost Dutchman SP and Carney Springs/Peralta Trailhead. Carney Springs Trailhead located on Peralta Rd south of mile marker 204 on the US-60 heading east towards Globe. The exit to the left marked “Peralta Road” routes you to the large parking lot in a makeshift barrier to the left prior to reaching the Peralta Trailhead. A map and expert route reading will be necessary for the Ridgeline, especially if you’re a visiting traveler to Arizona and not extremely familiar with the three points of Peralta Trail, Carney Springs & Flatiron at the Superstition Peak.

Remember to carry plenty of water. Arizona is a very dry state and none of these routes have water along the trail. Do your research, pack your essentials and be prepared to turn around.

Do you have a trail you believe should be added to this list? Leave your comment below!


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Categories: Hiking

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