Maverick Hill • (South) Big Lue Mountains
• Eastern Greenlee County


Distance shot, taken from highway NM-78
 

Hiking in White Mule Creek, amid the tall pines
 

Maverick Hill, still a ways away
 

Looking back at Peak 7242, and "Mule" Hill. The white blotch is where highway AZ-78 surmounts the mountains
 

General summit area
 

The summit cairn
 

Hiking back, there's an old dam there
 

The Big Lues from AZ-78
 

Spectacular cliffs from our campspace at Black Jack campground

Arizona PageMain Page

Arizona's
Prominence Peaks

Summitpost

 

Date: May 9, 2011 • Elevation: 7,488 feet • Prominence: 1,328 feet • Distance: 7 miles • Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes • Gain: 1,350 feet • Conditions: Sunny with breezes

Maverick Hill is located in Greenlee County, rising just a mile or two west of the New Mexico boundary. It is the highest point of the Big Lue Mountains which extend into New Mexico. Despite its name, it is a good-sized mountain with over 1,300 feet of prominence. An ATV track gets close to the summit, but visitation to this peak is low, due to its distance from everywhere.

Beth and I were heading to New Mexico for a short vacation, the plan being to camp a night at the Black Jack Campground, which lies at the trailhead for this peak, to break up the drive. We left home and followed the usual route, US-60 aiming for Globe. We got as far as the Picketpost Mountain area about five miles west of Superior, when we had to stop. There was a brush fire!

It must have just started because there were no fire trucks or police there yet. We could see plumes of smoke about a half-mile ahead, as well as actual flames. Fire trucks were arriving, riding the right shoulders to bypass all us stopped cars. We were stopped for about 45 minutes. Everyone was walking around, some people having walked up a ways to report back what was going on. The smoke was dark, suggesting no water was being dumped on it quite yet.

Soon, traffic started to move. The police were forcing us back onto the westbound lanes of US-60. As we drove by, Beth snapped a few images of the fire in action. We were forced to make a big detour to get to our destination. Rather than complain, we rolled with the punches and took the big loop south onto AZ-79 at Florence Junction to Oracle, then AZ-77 back north through the mining towns of Hayden and Winkelman into Superior, back onto eastbound US-60. This added about a hundred miles and two hours to the drive, but it was scenic, and for both of us, our first time on this section of AZ-77.

After all that drama, the drive to the Black Jack Campground went without incident. We followed state route AZ-78 up into the mountains, arriving to the campground in the dark. There was no one there and it was completely black and quiet. We found a spot to camp, the night being peaceful, and I was asleep by 9 p.m., in the back of the truck.

The next morning, I started the hike at 6:45 a.m. in pleasant conditions. The hike follows Trail 568 (as shown on the map), but no markers are found along the actual trail (the ATV track). But it was the only trail, so this had to be it. It bends north at first, away from the peak, curling around the north slopes of "Birthday Hill" (Peak 6467). The track reaches a pass, then drops about 80 feet into White Mule Canyon, now heading south.

For a short while, the trail runs deep in the canyon, shaded by tall ponderosa pine. Then it ascends steeply out of this canyon, now gaining along long slopes and ridges, often atop the ridgeline itself, Maverick Hill's anvil-shaped summit now visible dead ahead.

I made good time along the path, following it up and down the ridge, keeping on it until it ended a mile short of the top. Now the fun began. The map shows a trail to the top but it is suspiciously straight for the last half-mile, suggesting the map-draftsman got lazy. In reality, the trail to the top is overgrown and hard to follow. The first few hundred yards were the worst. Here, the "trail" is supposed to surmount a hill marked "7025" on the map. I followed what seemed like openings and a few cairns. Whenever I had doubts, I stayed close to the ridge, and this worked well. The brush and trees had closed in, and I was forced to hunker down and plow forward.

The alleged trail seemed to re-appear near the saddle between Peaks 7025 and 7242, but it was still overgrown. I made better time here and usually could see what to do, but a few times had to backtrack and try other ideas when not sure. Any semblance of a path ends about 150 feet short of the top. The final slope was easy, though ponderosa, grass and hidden rubbly rocks. Soon, I was on the top.

The top is flat, so finding the highest point took some seaching, but I found it, a small cairn amid rocks surrounded by trees. I was the second person to sign in for 2011, but only the 8th or 9th since 1992, when the register was placed. One group surmised this peak to be the location of an old heliograph station, which might explain the trail, and the lack of upkeep. I didn't stay long as there were no views.

The descent went a little faster, now able to follow the trail a bit better (given that I had broken a few branches of my own to act as sign of my passage). Here, the views were better, being able to see the big mine pits near Clifton, and the Mogollon Range in New Mexico. Once back at the road, I jog-walked almost the whole way back to the truck. I took a small detour to inspect an old dam built into White Mule Creek, but there was no water in the reservoir.

I was back to the truck at 10:00 a.m.. Beth had caught some sleep while I was gone, and we spent another hour or two relaxing in the campground before leaving, heading into New Mexico and Silver City for two nights. We had fun in S.C., but alas, our main destination, the Gila Wilderness, was shut out due to a giant fire.

On our return, we made a visit to the confluence at North 33, West 109 inside New Mexico, nearby Brushy Mountain, then came back to the Black Jack campground, with plans to spend the night here again. This time, we camped as far south as possible, nearly on the cliff's edge, with spectacular views south into Black Jack Canyon with its tremendous cliffs and views into the lower desert hills of the Gila River valley. There were a few people here this night, but it was quiet.

(c) 2011, 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.