Salt River Peak • Highpont: Salt River Mountains
• Tonto National Forest
• Gila County

Salt River Peak at dawn

The track toward the saddle and peak

Approaching the saddle

Matthias hikes up the slopes. Above his head is Armer Mountain, Matthias' favorite peak of all time

View northeast. Rockinstraw Mountain is the domey bump to the right

The peak appears

A slightly-closer view

From the summit, looking back at the road we hiked. In back is Webster Mountain

View northwest at Lake Roosevelt

View north, with Black Mesa in back, Redmond Peak and Squaw Peak closer in

Me, with the benchmark

Hiking out, Apache Peaks in back

The peak again as we exited

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Prominence Peaks


Date: January 27, 2018 • Elevation: 4,857 feet • Prominence: 977 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes • Gain: 1,257 feet • Conditions: Very cold at first, warmer later, clear skies • Teammates: Matthias Stender

Salt River Peak rises about a dozen miles northwest of Globe, just north of where highway AZ-188 reaches its apex before dropping downhill toward Lake Roosevelt. The peak is pretty obvious: a pointed summit about a mile north of the highway. Salt River Peak is the highest peak in the Salt River Mountains. The Geodetic Survey mentions (from 1948) an alternative name for this peak: Smoke Signal Mountain.

I wanted to climb this peak since it appeared to be a moderate hike and would leave me time to explore and scout roads in the area for future hikes. I was joined my Matthias Stender. We met at the WalMart in east Mesa off of Signal Butte Road at 6 a.m.. I drove us into Globe. We then followed AZ-188 northward just as the sun was rising.

After a few miles, the highway bends west and starts a steep incline toward its own highest point. Following Scott Peavy's notes from his hike here a year ago, I found Shute Springs Road on the right, about a half-mile past milepost 225. This road used to be the old roadbed for highway AZ-88, before the 188 was constructed. Shute Springs Road drops toward a sandy arroyo and its pavement ends here. I was able to get past the arroyo and up another mile to a small perch that offered a good place to park and orient the vehicle downhill.

The sun was still low to the east, so we still had long shadows, and it was very cold, temperatures about 27 degrees going by my car's thing that tells temperature. It felt like it. It was very nippy, enough to make my fingers hurt if I didn't stuff my hands in my pocket or put on gloves. We were hiking at 7:30 a.m.. Despite the cold, the sky was clear and cloudless. We were expecting it to warm up a lot as the sun rose.

We walked north up the continuation of Shute Springs Road to its own highpoint, called "The Summit" on the topographical map. At times, we were just a few dozen feet from current AZ-188, with its cars whizzing past. However, there was no convenient place to park along the current highway that would save distance. The walk to "The Summit" took about 45 minutes, covering about 2 miles (probably less). The gain was just a couple hundred feet and it went fast.

At "The Summit", we scaled a gate, turned right and went east on a dirt track. This went up about 15 feet to a small rise. We could see the track run in and out of many arroyos toward a saddle north of the peak. Up to here, the road had been pretty good, and passable by high-clearance 2-wheel drive (when dry). However, this secondary track was undriveable, except for the hardiest of vehicles.

We walked this track east. It would drop about 40 feet, then gain it back, then lose it again. The tread was slippery, with small gravel on top of hardpack, with steep ruts. We went down and up through about four arroyos. The track then gains to the saddle. We had sun up to now, but now were back in shade, and the cold temperatures --- with a breeze.

We then started trekking off-trail up the slopes, angling a little to the left to catch the ridge lower down, well north of the summit. The brush was moderate and almost always allowed a way through. The rocks were lose and covered over in grass. I fell hard once into a sawgrass clump when a rock rolled out from under me. I got some scratches on my hands and wrists.

We achieved the ridge and then turned south, coming to a small nubbin. From here, the summit was close by, a "narrow" rib of rocks leading steeply to the top. We hiked through rocks and brush, and the slope wasn't too severe. Only the final ten feet required the easiest of scrambling, and soon, we were on the top. Matthias had our time as 1 hour, 45 minutes.

We had fantastic views in all directions, helped by bright sun, no clouds and no humidity. Lake Roosevelt was to the northwest, with the Four Peaks in the background. Looking north, we could see the many mesa-tops of the southern Sierra Ancha. Looking east and south, we could make out the Apache Peaks, Pinal Peak, and way in the distance, Turnbull Peak.

The benchmark is in the center of the summit, easily found. Nevertheless, two witness markers lie nearby to point the way. I was surprised all of these disks were still here. The summit log was jammed with paper scraps. The last people here signed in about 6 weeks earlier. However, signatures went back to the early 1990s. This peak probably sees a few dozen summitters every year.

We spent about 30 minutes up top, in no hurry to stay on a schedule. The steady breeze and the cool temperatures made sitting a little uncomfortable. When we were done up here, we started down, following essentially the same route down the slopes back to the saddle.

I had thoughts of climbing the peak just to the west, Peak 4655. It looked fun but also was covered over in prickly-pear cactus. I did want to scout some roads near Lake Roosevelt, so I decided against that hike, so we just walked out the roads back to my vehicle, arriving about 11:15 a.m..

We exited back to the highway. I drove us about 15 miles toward lake Roosevelt, just past the dam, wanting to drive and scout a road up to the Mills Ridge Trailhead for a future hike up Buckhorn Peak. I then drove us back to Globe and then back toward Phoenix. It was not yet 2 p.m., so when we entered into Apache Junction, we stopped to hike Silly Mountain, a nice bonus peak for the day.

(c) 2018 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.