Granite Mountain • Scottsdale Area • McDowell Mountains
• McDowell Sonoran Preserve
• Maricopa County

Granite Mountain as viewed from the trailhead

Now from about halfway in, featuring some interesting rock formations down low

Getting closer, a big saguaro

Now closer to the top, the summit is to the right, but still hidden

The actual summit and highpoint rock viewed from the western bump

View north from the true summit

View of the western (lower) summit from the true summit. The rock in front is the top of the summit block. In back is Brown's Ranch Mountain, and to the far left is Pinnacle Peak, I think.

View down as I descend. The low hump immediately behind is Fraesfield Mountain. The McDowell Range is seen in back

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Prominence Peaks


Date: January 8, 2017 • Elevation: 3,526 feet • Prominence: 591 feet • Distance: 3.7 miles • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 960 feet • Conditions: Pleasant, sun with some cloudiness

This Granite Mountain lies in north Scottsdale, not to be confused with the many other peaks in the state named “Granite”, including a larger one by Bartlett Dam about 20 miles from here, and larger ones north, south, east and west. The peak gets its name because it is composed of a jumble of granite rocks, weathered into pillars and odd formations. It lies on a relatively-new section of the Scottsdale Mountains Preserve, bounded on the south roughly by Dynamite Road and on the east by 136th Street.

This particular patch of land is mostly desert with a handful of rocky peaks jutting above the flat terrain. It was once part of the Brown’s Ranch, but the city bought the land and has recently developed it to include hiking trails, bike routes and horse routes. Most of this is new, open only in the past few years. A year ago I climbed Brown’s Mountain, a couple miles to the west of Granite Mountain. I was here in October to scout Granite Mountain but the day was too warm, and Granite Mountain looked like more than just a walk-up.

Today was cool but pleasant, highs about 70 degrees with sun and some passing clouds. I left our home about noon and drove to the Granite Mountain Trailhead, the only trailhead with parking along the whole eastern boundary (136th Street). Lots of people were here, including mountain bikers and people on horses. Granite Mountain lies about a mile and a half to the northwest, plainly obvious as there are no foothills or other peaks nearby it.

I hiked the Bootlegger Trail northwest for 0.7 mile (going by the trailhead signs) to Saddlehorn Trail. I went west for 0.2 mile to the Granite Mountain Loop Trail, now on the south tip of the peak. The trails are wide and smooth, and they wander through gently-sloping desert terrain, the desert brush (palo verde, agave, barrel cactus) so thick and green it reminded me of Ireland. No, not really, but it was quite green.

About halfway, the trail works through a section of monster boulders, some standing 30 feet high, many leaning on one another forming interesting shapes and big cavernous voids. I had to step aside for mountain bikers every few minutes. There were more of them than hikers. Then while standing in this boulder patch, a group of people on horses came toward me, so I stepped aside and let them pass. Right behind them was a young woman jogging, but going about the same rate as the horses. So I said “did you forget your horse?” but she had her earbuds on and didn’t pay attention to my witty line. That, and I am a 50-year old man is probably why she ignored me.

So now I was on the Granite Mountain Loop Trail. I went right at a junction and followed this trail north about 0.3 mile, then found an older trail covered over in dead branches, the way it’s done when the park stewards try to obscure a trail. I went in and sure enough, it was a good trail. This took me straight toward the base of the mountain, slightly southeast of the summit, but still about 600 feet below. The desert-trekking part was now over. From here to the top would be nothing but granitic boulders and cactus.

There’s a big gully coming off the ridge, obvious even from a mile out. In fact, I saw what I thought were “lines” on this slope that might suggest an old hiker’s path or horse path from the old days as a working ranch. Now, standing at the foot of this gully, two things became obvious: one, there are no “lines” and it was a trick of the eye, and two, the gully is not an option. Immediately, I was faced with rocks 15 feet high blocking my way. So I angled left, picked an open spot in the brush and started up the steep gravelly slope.

Looking up, the rocks and brush made it hard to eyeball a “big picture” way to the top, so I went in segments. I followed whatever open lane presented itself, often zig-zagging to get around thick brush or jumbles of rocks. Often, I would have no choice but to start up the rocks and hope for the best. Usually, I would find myself on a slightly higher slope and repeat the process. The climbing wasn’t difficult, but slow going.

After ten minutes, I had gained about two hundred feet to place me on a ridge. The lay of the land essentially forced me to trend west and continue the task of following open lanes. In another ten minutes, I was now within a small basin of flattish desert terrain hemmed in by the rocky slopes on the north and south sides. It was dense and green, and now featured more cholla.

Looking up to the north, it looked like a nightmare—the rocks were so jumbled I couldn’t see much of a way up. I kept trending west until I was on the west edge of the basin. Here, I found slightly gentler slopes and started following these uphill. Like below, I would take them in 20-foot segments and hope I didn’t run up a dead end. I kept ascending until I was essentially on the top-most ridge. Two humps lying on an east-west alignment now stood ahead of me, still about 50 feet higher.

I had to descend a gully slightly, then ascend a sloppy gravel slope (with cholla) to put myself at the highest saddle between the two summit bumps. I had no clue which one was highest, so I went left (west) and walked up an easy slope to top out on a rock pile. Sighting over to the east bump, it was obviously higher, featuring a distinct rock with a cleft running vertically. The vertical difference looked to be about three feet, but it was definitive.

I hiked down to the saddle and up to the east bump, having my only negative encounter with the catclaw all day. I was soon on top the eastern bump, now needing to figure a way up the rock. It’s about ten feet tall. I found a small bottle register tucked in this cleft. I signed in, the first since 2010.

Around the back, the rock has a sloping edge and wide cleft to it which made scampering up to the top very simple. Up top, there was a strong box with more scraps of paper in it. I signed in, the previous signature from 2014. The papers went back years but they were a mess and I did not bother to read through them. It had taken me just over an hour to climb this peak from my vehicle. It had gone better than expected, since I had no assurance that even if I got to the top, there wouldn’t be some impossible pillar to surmount.

For the hike down, I followed exactly the same route through the rocks and cactus, following my footprints virtually the whole way down. I was down in twenty minutes. Back on the flatter trails, the hike out went quick and I was in no hurry. I was back to my vehicle slightly over two hours after starting.

From below, the climb looks difficult due to all the fractured rock, but it was not as bad as it appeared, but this assumed I was able to find a way through the maze of rocks and brush. It could very easily become a cliffy nightmare. Not many people climb it, and probably not so since the area became more developed.

(c) 2017 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.