Heliograph Peak • Pinaleño Mountains
• Graham County

Beth encounters some snow!

Mount Graham from Heliograph

Beth rests at the top

The Heliograph Lookout Tower

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Prominence Peaks


Date: May 13, 2005 • Elevation: 10,022 feet • Prominence: 942 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 960 feet • Conditions: Clear, plenty of snow still • Teammates: Beth

Heliograph Peak is a subsidiary summit of Mount Graham in the Pinaleño Mountains near Safford. There is a good forest road to the top (servicing a lookout), and the peak is probably the best in the range for summit views, given that Mount Graham itself is off-limits, and the other high peaks are usually wooded.

Beth and I came here for a day of hiking, and later, a visit to the Essence of Tranquility natural hot tubs in Safford. We left home around 9 a.m. and arrived to the trailhead around 1 p.m. in lovely, dry and stable weather.

The hike to the summit follows the service road. The road is pitched at a very lenient grade and we made the 2-mile hike in about an hour. The big Nuttall-Gibson Fire from 2004 had scorched the peak's north face but had not touched its east and south slopes. The summit has tremendous views of the Gila River Valley and of far-off ranges such as the Whitlocks and Peloncillos.

I took photos of Mount Graham and we viewed the damage wrought by the fire. Not pretty, but heartening to know the forest always recovers, and we saw new green amid the brown and black-colored slopes. Still, it will be many years before the area can be deemed "recovered". The hike down went fine and we were back to the truck by 3:30 p.m.

I always wanted to drive the road to its end at Riggs Lake, so we did, and it was worth it. It is dirt for the last 12 miles, but in good condition, and after an hour, we came upon Riggs Lake, a small lake popular with campers and anglers. We just wanted to see it. Once there, we immediately turned around and started the 35-mile drive down off the mountain, aiming to be down and to the hot tubs by 6. We made it with minutes to spare.

(c) 2006, 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.