Daisy Mountain • North Phoenix Mountains
• Central Maricopa County


Daisy Mountain as seen from the very start of the hike
 

View, about a mile later
 

Getting closer
 

...and closer
 

Now on the slopes itself
 

The south summit
 

Southeast view
 

North "flag" summit and New River Mountains
 

Southwest view. You can see the start, in the corenr where the homes come together
 

Gavilan Peak and the distant Bradshaws
 

Rays of light through darkening clouds as I exit
 

Desert scenery


January, 2012 hike


Approaching north summit
 

North summit and flag
 

North summit from below south summit
 

South summit and smaller flag
 

Gavilan Peak

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Date: 1) December 17, 2011 (South summit only); 2) January 1, 2012 (North and South summits) • Elevation: 3,176 feet • Prominence: 1,036 feet • Distance: 4 miles (2011), 4.5 miles (2012) • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 1,180 feet • Conditions: Cloudy and chilly on first hike, nicer on second hike

Daisy Mountain is a locally prominent mountain north of Phoenix, slowly being surrounded now by the burgeoning suburb of Anthem and the community of New River. The peak is easily visible, but hides in plain sight: a more pointed, tooth-like peak located northwest of Daisy Mountain is often confused with Daisy Mountain. This smaller peak is called Gavilan Peak, while Daisy is the larger, more rounded mountain set farther back. I've viewed the peaks now many dozens of times driving north of town along Interstate-17 and only now decided to explore the area, and hike to the top if all went well.

The peaks lie within a parcel of land owned by the state. New River generally sits north and east of the peak, while Anthem has grown up around its south and west in recent years. In the olden days, it was apparently easy to hike to the top unfettered (assuming one had the permit from the state lands department). These days, it's somewhat difficult to determine where the "let-in" points are. There is no official trailhead or infrastructure. I had done a little web-search with little luck. I knew enough about the area from past visits as to where I could possibly get onto this land. So today, I decided to go check it out, once and for all.

I initially tried to approach it from the southeast side, via some ratty developments off of Honda Bow Road and New River Road. Getting there was an adventure. I winged it, figuring I'd have no problem finding these roads, but I kept running into unexpected dead ends, T-junctions, road closures and things like that. Yeah, I could have just taken the interstate, but I was committed now to these roads, and eventually, I got onto New River Road and Honda Bow Road, but the area looked kind of unfriendly. I decided not to go in from that side.

The other option is from a newer development in Anthem, from the southwest corner. I took the scenic route, going north into New River, then back down the interstate into Anthem. The let-in onto this desert parcel is a small, unassuming corner at Navigation and Celebration Roads. There's no parking here, but one street back, near a kid's park, I saw a number of vehicles parked there and some people walking to and from the let-in point. So I asked one lady if it was okay to park here to hike and she said "probably". She was hiking herself. So I eased in and hoped no citations would be given today. It was just after noon when I finally started my hike. The day was sunny but breezy, with high clouds. A small storm would be moving in later in the day.

The trail is actually an old road that runs north, while Daisy Mountain sits off to the northeast, about two air-miles distant. The trail/road is flat and wide, with few rocks to stumble on. I made great time, almost jog-walking. I met up with some other hikers and sought their wisdom. I wanted to be sure this trail/road would eventually bend toward Daisy. Everyone was friendly and yes, I was told, it goes that way.

So I continued on, walking at a good pace. The road comes to two distinct Y-junctions, and each time I was to bear right. At the first Y-junction, a left leads up to a small hilltop south of Gavilan Peak, which is where a lot of people go for a moderate day-hike. At the second Y-junction, I'm not sure where a left goes. I stayed right, angled up a small hill, then down its back side. The trail dropped into a small drainage then up again, coming finally to a 4-by-4 post at yet another junction. I was directly below Daisy by this time, and had covered about a mile and a half in about 30 minutes.

At this wooden post junction, I went left on the "better" trail, but within a few dozen yards, came to another drainage and a big rock arrow pointing right. There was no trail going right, but it did point up to the main ridge, and I assumed this is where you were supposed to leave the main trail to get up to the ridge. The hiking here was steep but easy, and the brush was mostly open. I kind of hustled, not really stopping at all, and in about 20 minutes, had arrived onto the main ridge directly below what looked to me to be the summit. Here, I found a very distinct trail, one that runs the whole ridge.

I turned left and followed this trail uphill. In about ten minutes I had gained about 250 feet to come upon a set of large rock cairns, but this was not the summit. However, the summit was just a few more yards ahead, a gentle point along a mostly-level ridge. Along the way I had my one cholla run-in, a whole bulb attaching itself to my bare leg. It took a few moments to bat it off with a rock, by which time I had also stuck my hand with it, too. Anyway, in moments I was at the summit. I tagged the top rock and then took some photos, taking in the views.

North of me was another summit, topped with a flag, but from this vantage I was clearly higher. I saw that if I had stayed on the "better trail", it would have eventually wriggled up to the saddle between me and the north summit. I think most people who climb to the top go to the north summit with the flag. It surely looks like a good hike, but it's not the real summit, although I suspect to most people, that's no big deal.

The New River Mountains were visible way to the north, while the snowy Bradshaws were visible to the northwest, behind Gavilan's toothy profile and below the collecting clouds. West, south and east of me was endless suburbia. The clouds kind of knocked down the lighting a bit, but the views were still very good in all directions. I stayed up top for just a few minutes, as the wind had picked up and it was very chilly. It had taken my just a shade over one hour to make the ascent.

Going down, I retraced my route exactly. Actually, I think that if I stayed on the main ridge coming down, it would have come to a lower saddle where a trail coming off that saddle leads back to the 4-by-4 post. In other words, had I gone right instead of left at that wooden post, this is what I would have seen. In any case, what I did worked well, so I didn't ponder that detail too deeply. In moments I was back to the good trail/road. Although I'm a lousy runner, these trails were pitched ever so slightly downward that I was able to do a half-ass jog almost all the way back to my truck. It was 2 p.m. when I egressed, and I admit I was hustling so that I could be back to my truck quickly. When I got back, all the other hiker cars were gone, so I didn't stick around. I just popped my stuff into the front seat and got rolling.

I was pleased to have made the summit of Daisy, and it is a lovely north-Phoenix mountain with an excellent trail network. Obviously, the locals love it. However, it is not designed for large crowds. Being state trust land, there is no impetus to build anything upon it, so for the foreseeable future, it will probably be a "locals-only" peak. I can't vouch for the parking. I just did what the others were doing and I suspect that it may not be 100% legal to park as we did. But today, things worked well, and I was thankful for that.

Postscript: There seems to be little consensus from the very few websites I have found, regarding which peak is the highest point. I am going on record for the moment stating I feel very confident the south peak is higher. However, given I live not too far from Daisy Mountain, I will go back at some point and hike the north summit. It will be a good excuse to go back.


Panorama: Gavilan Peak and the Daisy Mountain peaks

January 1, 2012: I came back for another hike up Daisy, wanting to visit the north summit and try to make a determination which is higher. The day was very warm for January: about 80 degrees, but clear and gorgeous. 2012 was starting out well so far. I had gone to my office at ASU to do some work, but there was a police situation going on, and it was all very distracting. So I bailed and drove up to Anthem, pretty much spontaneously.

I followed the same trail/road as before, but when I got to the 4x4 post, I went left and followed this trail as it curled north around the north summit, eventually coming to a saddle and another road northwest of the north summit. There were lots of people hiking today. I talked to a group of three women for awhile, and passed all sorts of people out for a gentler stroll on the way in.

From the saddle north of the peak, I hiked steeply up the road to where it degerenerated into a fine trail, then followed that up to the top. The trail was in great condition and I made excellent time, taking me just over an hour to make the top. I signed into the logs and had some nice views below me. Unlike two weeks ago, the skies were clear and I could see 100+ miles in all directions.

I sighted over to the south summit with my water bottle, trying to discern which is higher. Two weeks ago I felt very strongly the south summit is higher. But from the north summit, it wasn't as conclusive as I thought it would be. It seemed the south summit was nearly identical to the north summit. I'd need a better, more fancy sight-level to do this properly. However, I was at the north summit, so any doubts about having reached the highpoint of the range was no longer in doubt. I still think the south summit may be higher but my confidence level is about 60%, not 90% as before.

I decided to hike the loop, following a good trail down from the north summit and on up to the south summit. There was a group of people at the south summit, and a group more coming up, seemingly part of a hiking club. I descended the same route as two weeks ago, except I followed the trail moreso, which was a bit sloppy but it worked well. Once down off the mountain, I made good time across the desert flats back to my truck, gone for a total of two hours, fifteen minutes. I felt great, and the day was spectacular!

(c) 2011, 2012, 2016 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.