Vulture Peak • Range Highpoint: Vulture Mountains
• Maricopa County

The peak from the south

And directly west

Beth makes the top

Me at the summit

View from the parking lot

And closer

Beth gets motivated!

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Prominence Peaks



Date: January 5, 2003 • Elevation: 3,663 feet • Prominence: 1,180 feet • Distance: 5 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 1,200 feet • Conditions: January heat wave • Teammates: Beth

Vulture Peak is a landmark mountain located 6 miles south of Wickenburg, 55 miles northwest of Phoenix. The peak has a distinct shape, a fin of rocks jutting above the brushy mountainside, and is visible from many miles. The weather for early January was warm, nearing 80 degrees. Joining me was my new girlfriend Beth. This would be our first hike together. Would she pass the test?

We left home around 10 a.m. and made our way to Wickenburg via Interstate-10 and Loop-303, then onto US-60, nearly 70 miles total. We took US-60 west out of Wickenburg and turned left (south) onto Vulture Mine Road, then 6.5 miles later, turned onto the trailhead access road and parked. The area is popular with RVs and campers. The famous Vulture Mine is just a few miles south. The Vulture Mine was one of the most productive gold mines and many buildings still stand. We would tour it years later.

From the parking lot, there is a trail and a 4-wheel drive road that lead in toward the peak. We opted to hike the road and 1.6 miles later, came upon the higher trailhead accessible only by 4-wheel drive. Actually, the road is pretty good except for one steep and rutted section at the start, and some driving in a sandy wash bottom. At this second trailhead, there is a kiosk, where the "official" trail starts. It crosses desert flats but quickly starts up the steep hillside. Not more than a half-mile later and about 700 feet higher, the trail peters out at a saddle south of the summit.

To gain the summit, we followed a scanter path, sometimes barely able to discern it. This gained another 100 vertical feet amid brushy slopes and rocky obstacles, nothing too severe. We came upon the first a small set of chutes. From below, the chutes looked a little intimidating, but every step of the way there were ample handholds and footholds. Many of the nooks and crannies were occupied by a pointy cactus or succulent. After a few minutes of this, we emerged up a ramp and onto the summit. The one-way hike had taken us a shade over 90 minutes.

The views are outstanding from this vantage point. The city of Wickenburg spread out beneath us, while Phoenix and its suburbs were visible way to the southeast. Many rugged and remote mountaintops surrounded us, Harquahala Mountain being the most visible due west. We spent a few minutes enjoying the scenery, then downclimbed the chutes back to the trail, and on out to my truck, a round trip of 3 hours.

For the journey home, I tried something new: I continued south along Vulture Mine Road another 15 miles to its intersection with Wickenburg Road (355th Avenue). This is a lonely 4-way intersection in the middle of nowhere. Left and south along Wickenburg/355th, we eventually came out onto Indian School Road in the town of Tonopah, then caught Interstate-10 at the 339th Avenue Exit. I use this now as a bypass, even though it's slightly longer. There is no traffic, which is great.

Beth was a fantastic hiking partner and did very well. So much so in fact I decided to keep her for myself, marrying her a few months later!

(c) 2003, 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.