Usery Mountain • Highpoint: Usery Mountains
• Tonto National Forest
• Maricopa County

Usery Mountain is the second bump from the left. The hill in front has the letters of PHOENIX spelled out to alert wayward aircraft

View up the sandy wash

Halfway up, looking back at Lone Mountain, the Goldfield Mountains, and the Four Peaks

View of "Usery Mountain South"

Looking up at the final segment of climbing

View south from the summit

North view, with Mount McDowell

Descending away, a look back at the summit rocks

Departing view

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Prominence Peaks


Date: January 24, 2016 • Elevation: 2,972 feet • Prominence: 857 feet • Distance: 3.2 miles • Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes • Gain: 950 feet • Conditions: Clear

The Usery Mountains (or Hills, as seems to be a better description) are a series of stand-alone bumps located south of the Salt River in north Mesa, and west of Usery Pass Road. The mountains to the east of Usery Pass Road, such as Pass Mountain, are part of the Goldfield Mountains, despite the fact that those peaks are contained within the Usery Mountains Park.

The highest point of the Usery Mountains has no name other than "Usery Mountain" or "Usery Benchmark". It is west of Peak 2933, which is famous for the big white letters spelling "PHOENIX" on its side, put in to tell aircraft pilots that Phoenix is still farther west. Evidently, this was an issue years ago. South of the highpoint is another peak, Usery Mountain South, which happens to be the highpoint of the city of Mesa. The highpoint, elevation 2,972 feet, lies north of the Mesa city limits, inside land administered by the Tonto National Forest.

I drove by this peak in December, after climbing Stewart Mountain. I wanted to take a look at it for possible routes. I've been in the area many times before, usually visiting the Usery Mountains Park, or driving to and from the Salt River, and once during a night search for a missing child during my time with MCSO-MR/CAMRA. We were given some information that searching the arroyos north of Usery Mountain might be wise. We found nothing, except for unbelievable amounts of garbage. People would come here and just dump anything and everything.

Anyway, I was here today, on a whim. The day looked to be nice and sunny and I wanted a short hike close to home. I found my way to northbound Ellsworth Road in east Mesa, then north toward the hills, where the road now becomes Usery Pass Road. I drove to its crest, then down briefly to a large pullout on the east side. This is a parking area, but is large enough for horse trailers. This area is very popular with horseback riders and mountain bikers, but not so much with hikers. I started my hike at 8:25 a.m.

I walked across the road, then through a stile in the fence, which put me on a sandy stream bed. The stream bed was wide and flat, with tire tracks, shoe prints and lots and lots of horse poo. Walking in the sand was a chore, but it went where I wanted to go, so I walked the streambed for nearly a mile. Higher up, it narrowed and became brushier, so I emerged from it onto a ridge. I was close to the peak and had gained about 400 feet, although it didn't feel like it.

Now on a ridge, I angled southwest and aimed for the main saddle east of the summit, gaining another 150 feet. I could hear voices, and looking back, saw bicyclists coming up a track. I was unaware of any track. Had I known of it, I would have followed that, and not the streambed. But I was close to the peak, so I got to the task of putting one foot in front of the other.

Looking up, the slope was steep and minorly brushy, but nothing I haven't dealt with before. It looked like 300 feet of hard work, but then I'd be on top. So I started up the slope. At first, it was easy going. Soon, it steepened. The slope was loose. The soil was a coarse-grain sand, and stepping on it, I would slide back a foot. Big rocks would come right out if I put weight on them. I had to keep a very low center of gravity and a wide gait, often using all fours. I got up it all, but it was ugly. I decided I would explore the track on the way down. Anything other than what I had just come up.

I emerged onto the ridge immediately north of the summit rocks. Looking south, there was a lower subpeak with a flag on it. I snapped images in all directions, but there was significant ground haze (light fog) and with the sun still low in the east, any views east or southeast were mushed out by the glare. Some of my photos show this. Above me, the sky was bright blue, and the temperature was very pleasant. It had taken me one hour to get here, a 1.6-mile one-way hike with about 950 feet of gain.

I stayed up top about 10 minutes, resting and looking at the surrounding views. The summit is a rock about 5 feet tall, offset from the main ridge. I reached up and tagged it. I also hiked north on the ridge a little, but did not bother to hike south to the flag.

Going down, I hiked to a lowpoint in the ridge and found cairns, which led to a very rough and eroded footpath. It was slippery and loose, but nearly as bad as what I dealt with going up. I carefully walked down this path, losing about 300 feet and putting me on top of a mound of mine tailings. Here, I could see a path and many bicycle tracks. I simply followed the tracks downward. Eventually, these led down back to the sandy streambed, so I followed that out to my truck, the exit hike taking me 45 minutes. I met a bicyclist on the way down, and the lot was getting filled fast.

So, now wiser to the route, I would suggest to hike in the streambed about a quarter mile, then start looking for routes out of the streambed on your right as you face west. There are some lowpoints where the ridge drops to almost streambed level. You should catch the track soon, and then follow it all the way up.

This wasn't a bad hike. I got a workout and a peak to add to my list. I can see why few hikers come here, and why it's almost all bicyclists and horseback riders. For hiking, there are better options nearby.

(c) 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.