West Spruce Peak • Sierra Prieta
• Central Yavapai County

Date Climbed
April 24, 2011

Elevation
7,160 feet

Distance
2 miles

Time
1.5 hours

Gain
750 feet

Conditions
Windy but nice

Prominence
1,160 feet

Click on the thumbnail to see a full-size version


The Sierra Prieta as seen from the west, near Skull Valley
 

Our humble campsite
 

Late-day glow on nearby Granite Mountain
 

A stately old alligator juniper
 

West Spruce summit at left
 

The summit
 

The peak as seen from Porter Mountain
 

Looking east at the rest of the range, from atop Porter Peak

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West Spruce Mountain is a gentle hump of forested land west of Prescott in the southern portion of the Sierra Prieta, whose highest point is the rocky Granite Peak. West Spruce is the highest point of the south half of this little range, due south of the forest communities of Iron Springs and Highland Pines. The city of Prescott is just a few miles to the east, and West Spruce is visible from most of Prescott, even though it doesnít really stand out visually. It is surrounded by peaks of near-equal height, so the actual summit is not be immediately obvious. Even viewed up close, itís not clear which is the highest point. Nevertheless, itís an easily-reached peak with decent road access and a good way to kill an hour or two in the forest.

Beth and I were on a short two-day driving tour of central Arizona. Our primary goal was the mining community of Bagdad, located north of US-93 about 50 miles northwest of Wickenburg. Given the many dozens of times weíve driven up and down US-93, weíve never made the side journey to Bagdad, until today. We had no trouble getting through Wickenburg and to the AZ-97 junction which leads into the hills toward Bagdad. Immediately the route becomes very scenic, with hilly desert country and rocky peaks, and the highway winding through the hills and canyons. No one comes up here by accident, and traffic was light. We drove into Bagdad and poked around town for about an hour, including a drive to the airport where we had good views of the gigantic mining operation down below. We were amazed at the scope of this operation. The mines seem to go for dozens of miles. A Yavapai County deputy was sitting in his vehicle atop the airport mesa, so we had a short chat with him.

After Bagdad we drove east through the picturesque countryside leading through Hillside, Yava, Kirkland and Skull Valley. Again, not many people on these roads, and some unexpectedly beautiful country. The drive overall was the real treat of this journey and we enjoyed every kilometer of it!

We rolled into Skull Valley and northeast through the town of Iron Springs, entering onto Prescott National Forest lands by now, roughly 5 p.m. Our plan was to camp near the peak, and hike it the next morning. We found Skyline Drive easy enough, drove through the little "town" of Highland Pines which seems to consist of second homes, a lot that are for sale. The road is paved for about two miles, then turns to dirt near the end of the homes. The condition of the road dropped about three notches, becoming very rutted and rocky. We bashed forward a half-mile before coming upon the West Spruce Trail #264 junction, which was marked by a sign facing the other way. The "main" road went straight while the Trail #264 (which is still a road) went hard-right. Its condition was pretty rotten, so we opted to pull into a flat area near the junction and claim it for the night. Normally I donít like car-camping right along a road, but there appeared to be no traffic whatsoever, and once darkness fell, no one ever came by. The night was cool and breezy.

The next morning I awoke around 6 a.m. and let Beth sleep in a little bit. About 7 a.m. she let me go one ahead while she stayed back. I walked up Trail (road) 264 about 0.3 mile to a junction on a ridge, going right (west) on Road 47-B. This drops about 60 feet to a creek, then gains about 200-something feet before making a sharp-bend left, now on the northeast facing slopes of West Spruce Mountain. The map did not show this last bend, so I left the road and went directly up the slope, dodging some thickets of adolescent trees all the way up to the top. The one-way hike had taken me about 40 minutes and 550 feet of gain. The top is covered in a small copse of (dead?) trees, a cairn marking the highpoint. The views were pretty good, mainly looking west. I stuck around for about 5 minutes.

I descended due east and found a good trail, which I followed, now trending south. This trail eventually bent east again and started up some slopes before coming to a major junction marked by two posts and a rock cairn about 5 feet tall. So far so good, but the mapís placement of the trails and junctions seemed off a little bit. I took this "other" trail north, now paralleling a ridge topped by Porter Peak. When I was below its summit, I left the trail for the easy 150-foot ascent to its rocky top, where I had great views east and a good view west of West Spruce.

Back to the trail, I followed it until it came back to that first four-way junction I had been at about an hour earlier. From here I just walked back to the truck, where Beth was now up and enjoying the cool breezes. I had been gone just shy of 90 minutes, feeling pretty good for the short hike. After changing, we spent some more time just relaxing before the drive back home. In all, a pleasant weekend of driving and an easy peak along the way.


Annotated thumbnail map

(c) 2011 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.