Brown Mountain • Tucson Mountains Park
• Pima County

Brown Mountain from the east trailhead

Now ascending the eastern slope

The summit ahead

Looking back at Bren and Golden Gate Peaks from the summit

Parting view, as the sun came out more

Montage: trailhead sign, summit in shadow, zoom of Bren and Golden Gate, and cholla patch

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Prominence Peaks


Date: April 26, 2015 • Elevation: 3,100 feet • Prominence: 260 feet • Distance: 3.5 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 660 feet • Conditions: Low clouds and blustery

Beth and I were camping at the Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountains Park. We have camped here previously, but not in many years. Forecasters were predicting a cold front to move through the state this weekend, giving us an opportunity to camp one last time in the desert before temperatures ratchet up 40 degrees in the next few weeks.

I wasnít interested in any big hikes this time. Instead, I wanted to be lazy. Nevertheless, I printed maps for a couple bumps in the immediate area, Brown Mountain being one of them. Itís not much of a mountain, but more an appendage off a ridge from the main range to the north. One advantage of Brown Mountain was its proximity: I could walk to it from the campground.

We left Scottsdale around 1 p.m. Saturday, rolled into Tucson, bought groceries, then arrived to the campground about 5 p.m., finding a spot and backing into it. The temperatures were mild, perhaps about 80 degrees, but there was a breeze. I spent the next 20 minutes erecting our big tent, which was kind of a challenge with the breezes pushing it around like a sail. I was able to get it fully built and firmly anchored into the ground. To be safe, I put on the rainfly, and tied the whole mass down in places with twine and rocks.

I went to bed when it got dark, around 9 p.m., while Beth stayed up in the cab of the truck. The wind buffeted the tent continuously, and I slept poorly, if at all. Then, around midnight, the rains came. For the next three hours, it rained steadily, often very heavily. I was concerned the tent would leak, and I just lay there, wondering when Iím going to start feeling the wetness. But I never did. The tent held up very well. By 4 a.m., things had calmed down enough so that I actually slept a little. By 7 a.m., though, I was awake.

I didnít start my hike until about 9:30 a.m.. The day was very cool for late April, temperatures in the 60s and very breezy, with puffy low clouds moving through. I got my meager pack together and kissed Beth goodbye, and started my hike walking westbound from the campground back to McCain Valley Road, the ďmainĒ road that leads to the campground. Brown Mountain rises immediately on the other side. My plan was to walk cross country to its base, then poke my way up to the top, but I was pleased to discover a signed trailhead on the other side of the road, in a pullout/parking area.

I followed the trail, which meandered through lush desert terrain, dropped into a drainage, then gained up the other side and now on the uphill slopes of the east-trending ridge. The gradients were lenient and I made good time, arriving to the top of the east bump, elevation about 3,000 feet. A jogger passed me here. The actual highpoint, elevation 3,100 feet, was immediately west along the spine of this little ridge. I dropped about 80 feet to a lowpoint, then up the easy slopes to the top, arriving about 40 minutes after starting.

The views were very nice, but it was very windy and chilly. I took a few photographs, but didnít stay long due to the conditions. I returned the way I came, meeting with a couple other hikers along the way. The trail actually goes all the way along the ridge, then drops back to the desert floor, where it loops around and also has spurs that lead to other access points.

I guessed my one-way distance travelled to be about 1.75 miles. I made good time, but along the way, gave my left ankle a little twist which didnít affect me at first, but I noticed it later in the day sitting at camp.

The weather stayed cool and breezy for most of the day, but slowly, the clouds gave way to clear skies so that by 6 p.m., the skies were mostly clear. That night, we had calm conditions, no rain, no wind, and were both able to get some quality sleep in our tent.

We left for home the following day, and I planned to hike Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, but arrived to discover itís ďclosedĒ on weekdays during normal business hours. I did not know this, and rather than get told to turn around, I bailed and we drove an extra mile to the adjoining Sentinel Peak Park, where I hiked a consolation peak before driving us home that afternoon.

(c) 2015 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.