West Spruce Mountain
& Porter Peak
• Sierra Prieta
• 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 bump in the forest west of Prescott in the southern portion of the Sierra Prieta. It is the highest point of the south half of this range, rising above the forest communities of Iron Springs and Highland Pines. The city of Prescott is a few miles to the east, and West Spruce Mountain is visible from most of Prescott, even though it doesnít stand out visually. It is surrounded by peaks of near-equal height, so the actual summit is not 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 two-day driving tour of central Arizona. We wanted to visit Bagdad, the mining town about an hour northwest of Wickenburg. We drove into Bagdad and milled around town for 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 the mines. A Yavapai County deputy was sitting in his vehicle atop the airport mesa, so we had a chat with him.

After Bagdad, we drove east through the picturesque countryside through Hillside, Yava, Kirkland and Skull Valley. This is a stretch of road that sees little traffic, being way off the main highways. The land here is a mix of hills, mountains and high-desert valleys.

From Skull Valley, we went northeast through the town of Iron Springs, entering onto Prescott National Forest. It was late in the day, and our plan was to camp near the peak, and hike it the next morning. We followed Skyline Drive, drove through the little village of Highland Pines. The road is paved for two miles, then turns to dirt near the end of the homes. The condition of the road dropped, becoming rutted and full of rocks. We bashed forward a half-mile before coming to 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. We pulled into a flat area near the junction and claimed it for the night. Normally I donít like car-camping along a road, but there appeared to be no traffic, and once darkness fell, no one ever came by. The night was cool and breezy.

The next morning, I awoke at 6 a.m. and let Beth sleep in a little bit. About 7 a.m. she let me go on ahead while she stayed back. I walked up Trail (road) 264 for 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 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 thickets of adolescent trees all the way to the top. The one-way hike took 40 minutes with 550 feet of gain. The top is covered in a small copse of (dead?) trees, a cairn marking the highpoint. The views were good, mainly to the west. I stuck around for about 5 minutes.

I descended east and found a good trail, which I followed, now trending south. This trail eventually bent east again and started up more slopes before coming to a major junction marked by two posts and a rock cairn about 5 feet tall. So far so good for me, but the mapís placement of the trails and junctions seemed off. 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 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.