Palo Verde Hills HP • Range Highpoint: Palo Verde Hills
• Western Maricopa County

View from the power line road, early morning, sun still low

Looking up from the first main saddle.

Now higher, the rest of the ridge is in view

Looking back from where I started

The summit is up ahead

Stick Scott is successful once again

Northeast view of the other two main bumps in the range

View of Saddle Mountain from the summit

Another view of the surrounding desert on the descent

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Prominence Peaks


Date: December 9, 2015 • Elevation: 2,172 feet • Prominence: 1,012 feet • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 1,100 feet • Conditions: Chilly with high clouds

The Palo Verde Hills are a small range of volcanic mounds in western Maricopa County. The summit has no given name, but does have 1,012 feet of prominence, which is why I was aware of it in the first place. This past May, Scott Peavy and I climbed nearby Saddle Mountain, and afterwards, we scouted the roads to see how close we could get to the base of these hills. We were able to get very close, which meant that a hike would be easy and not last all day. I kept this peak in mind for a future trip.

I decided to get away from town for half a day during final exams week at ASU. I awoke early and was on the road at 5:00 a.m., covering 70 miles and exiting Interstate-10 at Wintersburg Road (Exit 98). I drove south four miles to where Wintersburg Road and Salome Highway intersect. On the southwest corner is the Wintersburg General Store. I rolled in and got some snacks and drinks, plus killed a little time since it was still dark. This stretch of road gets a lot of traffic, as the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is located a couple miles to the south.

As the sun rose, I got moving again, driving another five miles south on Wintersburg Road to Elliott Road, then west 3.8 miles to 415th Avenue, north on 415th Avenue one mile to a track, now on BLM land. I followed the track 0.7 mile to an access road underneath a major set of powerlines that emanate from the Palo Verde Station. I drove northwest for 3 miles, and parked below one of the stanchions, slightly north of a small pointed hill to where I had an unfettered of the peak.

The roads are paved to 415th Avenue, which is hard-pack but solid. The track past the last residence on 415th Avenue is still solid but not as well defined. The access road underneath the powerlines is regularly graded and in good shape. Most passenger vehicles would be able to drive these roads, but there are small patches of sand or rocks to pay attention to. The range and powerlines are on a patch of BLM land surrounded on all sides by private lands. In May, we looked at possible entry points from Salome Highway on the north side, which would cut off a lot of miles, but we couldn’t see anything that looked like it was open to the public. This route works, but there may be other ways to get onto this land.

Anyway, it was about 7:30 when I finally got everything situated and the truck locked. The day was cold at first, but still. To the east, it was clear. Above me were high wispy clouds, while to the west, the clouds were thicker, a front evidently moving through. I started walking northeast and east across the initial desert plain, crossing a downed fence line early on, then having to shimmy underneath the same fence later. The walk crosses sparsely-vegetated plain with lots of volcanic rocks strewn about. There were a lot of creosote bushes, and where the route would cross the arroyos, small copses of trees and brush. The going was very easy. Within a half hour, I was on the south-facing slopes of the range.

I angled left and hiked toward a saddle at elevation 1,370 feet, then angled right and started up the first steep slope, gaining about 350 feet to a rock outcrop. The volcanic rocks were everywhere, offering good footing and steps nearly the whole way up, but in a couple spots, they slid out from under me, so I had to go slow as usual, to be sure the rocks were solid.

Once at this knob, the rest of the route appeared before me. I had a little level ridge to walk across, another steep slope, then above that, much easier slopes to gain the summit. The hiking was easy and enjoyable. There were no cliffs or unnecessarily complicated parts. I used my hands a couple times to hoist myself above a couple three-foot “steps”. I was on the summit at 8:55 a.m., a one-way hike of 1.5 miles and a gain of 1,100 feet.

The top is flat, and the summit cairn featured a wooden lathe with old wiring, which may be original when the first surveyors came up here decades ago. The log book went back 20 years and held about 25 names, most being the usual suspects I know from past hikes, and the rest being locals from the Tonopah area.

The views were nice, but the clouds dampened the good light. Saddle Mountain was visible to the northwest. Big Woolsey Peak was easily visible south, looking into the glare. But the air was moist and there was a lot of general haze which made the farthest peaks hard to see clearly. I spent about 20 minutes up here enjoying a rest and a breakfast.

The hike down went well, and I was back to my truck after a little over an hour. Adding up all my times, I was gone for 2 hours, 50 minutes. I exited out the way I came, and started for home, but along the way, I stopped by Monument Hill near the Phoenix International Raceway. Monument Hill is the location of the Arizona Public Lands Surveyor’s Origin. I had to see this for once.

I enjoyed the hike up to the top of Pale Verde Hill’s highpoint. It was easy with no challenges, but remote enough to feel like I was in real wilderness. It did not take long, the road access was simple, and overall, a good way to waste 3 hours of time.

My trusty truck, with over 246,000 miles on it to this point, performed well, as it usually does. However, the next day, suddenly the clutch started to act up (it’s a manual). I drove it carefully to and from work, no negative issues… until Friday when I drove home. I stopped at our local grocery, and the clutch started to go south again. There’s a repair facility in the same complex, and I only live a quarter-mile away, so I walked over and asked if they could take a look at it.

I went back to where I had parked, drove it over to their shop, and when I tried to reverse it into a spot, that was the end of mister clutch. It completely fried on me. There was no way to engage the gears. I used gravity to back into the slot. This is my truck’s original clutch. It held up well for nearly a quarter-million miles. Of course, I am grateful this all happened twenty feet from a repair shop, not in the middle of the desert. I used up some of my good karma credits today.

(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.