Baker Butte • Mogollon Rim
• Southern Coconino County


Road is gated at Highway AZ-87
 

A little more snow on the ground
 

Lotsa snow now
 

Coming to the top
 

The tower
 

Area around the tower
 

Informative sign, and the benchmark inset

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Date: March 14, 2011 • Elevation: 8,077 feet • Prominence: 1,117 feet • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 75 minutes • Gain: 650 feet • Conditions: High clouds, snow on ground

Baker Butte is a hump of forested cinder and rock located near the Mogollon Rim, north of the town of Strawberry. It’s not a well known mountain, but it does have one minor claim to fame: it’s the highest and most prominent peak along the portion of the Mogollon Rim that separates Coconino and Gila Counties. Climbing it isn’t much of a challenge either as a good forest road (FR-300) goes right by it, with a spur (FR-300B) leading to the top. The Coconino National Forest maintains a lookout and residence atop the peak.

I was spending a day driving and hiking two easy peaks in the region. The weather was warm and clear throughout the state, but cool up on the Rim. The drive from Scottsdale to the Rim took me two hours, and I drove directly to the FR-300 turnoff on state route AZ-87, about two miles east of its junction with AZ-260 (about 10 miles past Strawberry). The road was shut here, as I expected. There was still a lot of snow on the ground here at 7,400 feet, but melting fast. The intervening bare ground was muddy. I parked at the gate, got suited up and started my hike.

The first half-mile followed mostly open, snow-free road (albeit very muddy). Some guys with snow machines had driven past the gate and past me, parking ahead of me in a big snowpatch. When I approached, they explained they had a concession with the forest service, running some sort of “course” up here. I walked past them into progressively snowier ground, then they loudly zoomed past me on their machines, leaving a waft of diesel odor in their wake. Then they stopped and went about whatever business they were up to.

By now, the road had become snowier, slowing me. Usually, I would posthole about to my ankles. I came to the turnoff to FR-300B, and started up this road to the top. Here, with road on the north-facing slopes and shaded, it was very snowy, and in spots I was postholing to my knees. It was a chore, but it was short, and quickly I arrived to the top, a one-way walk of about 1.5 miles and 650 feet of gain. I took time to relax up here, checking out the tower, locating the benchmark and reading the informative sign. With a slight breeze and just above 8,000 feet elevation, it was chilly. The views weren’t so great, though, blocked by the trees.

The walk back was easier since I could follow my own beaten path in places, cut some shortcuts across the snowy slopes in other places, and “long-step” in spots where the snow was soft and deep enough to allow that. I was back to my truck in 25 minutes, a total time gone of 1 hour and 15 minutes. The other guys were long gone, but other cars were now parked near mine, but I never saw anyone.

Overall, not a bad way to kill an hour of time. In dry conditions, it is a trivial hike, and probably sees a steady stream of curious visitors who drive FR-300. It’s close enough to the highway to be walkable when the road is shut. It might even make an ideal snowshoe or cross-country ski route. I caught it “in between”, with the snow too patchy for that kind of winter travel.

From here, I backtracked to AZ-260 and took this west into Camp Verde. My next goal, Squaw Peak, was visible above me on the Verde Rim. The 30-odd miles along AZ-260 was quite scenic, and I took some time to restock in town before heading up for my second objective of the day.

(c) 2011 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.