The Mountains of Arizona •
Agate Ridge • Peak 5239 • Mogollon Rim Foothills
• Tonto National Forest
• Gila County

Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
The Agate Ridge Highpoint hill appears in the distance as I round a bend.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
Now closer in.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
The power line stanchions on the hill's east slope.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
The moderate brush as I hike upward.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
First rock outcrop.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
View southwest toward the Granite Dells and Gibson Peak.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
View north at Diamond Peak and the Mogollon Rim.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
This is the probable highpoint rock outcrop.
Agate Mountain Ridge, Arizona
Montage: Another rock outcrop, flowering cactus, agate, a gate.

All images

• • •

The Arizona
Mountains Gazetteer

Click to find out more!

Date: May 5, 2020 • Elevation: 5,239 feet • Prominence: 339 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes • Gain: 720 feet (gross), 320 feet (net) • Conditions: Sunny and warm


Agate Mountain is a well-known rockhound site due to the abundant agate that just lies on its slopes, there for the picking. The peak lies at the south end of a long ridge east of Payson. The summit is not visible from within Payson and is not much of a summit anyway, just a slight rise at the end of the ridge. The highest point of this ridge is a hill, elevation 5,239 feet, about half-way along the ridge. This hill is visible from the Monument Peak/Boulders trails, being the hill slightly behind and left of Cypress Hill.

I found a number of trip reports and general information about this ridge from many different rock-hounding websites. I was mostly curious about the road, if it was drivable in a Subaru Forester, or requiring a more substantial vehicle. All reports seemed to suggest it's a decent road, only the last segment at the end demanding 4-wheel drive. I did not have much to lose: this is close to home so if I got there and the road was too rough, I'd just turn back.

From where I live, I got onto AZ-260 eastbound through Star Valley and along the highway another couple miles to a well-hidden turn off near a designated Elk Crossing across the highway. This is the same road I took when I hiked Green Valley Hills in 2018, and the same one I whizzed right past on that journey. Even knowing where it is, I almost drove right past it again, stopping quickly to make the turn ... fortunately, no one behind me when I stopped suddenly.

I drove in about a hundred feet, then went right on Tonto Forest Road 271, the road that runs along the ridge to its southern end at Agate Mountain. The road was good at first. I came upon some cattle, some inside an enclosure with barbed-wire along its top (a brush disposal site that in only open intermittently). Other cattle were outside. I'd like to know how those ones got inside the enclosure to begin with. It never fails to amuse me to see a group of cattle within a fenced pasture and there are a couple somehow on the other side of the fencing. Either they find breaches in the fencing ... or leap, when no one is looking.

I zeroed the odometer back when I exited off the highway. I drove for 3.2 miles on FR-371 to a sharp turn below a hill near a stock tank, where the map showed a lesser track veering off from here. I figured if I could get this far, I'd be within easy walking distance and would have a good place to stash the car.

The road was in overall good shape. There were no large embedded rocks or horrible ruts two feet deep. There were some sections of deep tire ruts when someone drove through here in wet conditions. The junction of FR-371 with FR-373 (about a mile in) appeared to be one massive mud field, although dry today. The grades were gentle, and only a few spots was the road narrow with steep drops. I went slow and carefully, seeing no one. There is a gate about two miles in, but it's not locked, just signed to keep it closed afterwards.

I was able to get to that bend near the stock tank. I eased back into a clearing and got my stuff together. It was a little past 7 a.m., the day already sunny and warm, about 65 degrees. I was at elevation 4,920 feet.

I walked the road south another couple miles. The road is in good condition and I could have driven it, but the walk went fast and was easy. Twice, the road dropped a hundred feet, meaning I had to regain these drops twice ... and twice more on the exit. I was at the peak quickly, but opted to walk around it to its south side, to inspect all possible ways up.

I got as far as Power Line Tank, so named because a massive set of power lines run through here, two of the big stanchions on the east slope of the peak. Nothing looked promising at Power Line Tank, so I backtracked to a clearing and apparent old track that cut uphill to one of the stanchions. I followed it up, gaining about a hundred feet, leaving me just a hundred more to the top. On these slopes I found what I think are agate rocks. I took an image seen in the left sidebar.

I hiked uphill, now off any semblance of a road. The terrain was open but I had to weave a little to stay in open lanes. I did not have to go far and was soon on top the summit ridge. I angled right and walked up and up and up ... to a rock outcrop, which seemed to me to be the highest point. It was a broad rock with a flattish top, with perfect places for sitting. I snapped a few photos and spent about ten minutes relaxing. It had taken me an hour to get here. The temperature seemed to have risen another ten degrees.

I had this nagging feeling I should look for more rocks, even though where I stood appeared highest. I hopped off the rock and wiggled my way through more trees, branches and brush another couple hundred feet where I found another rock outcrop. I stood atop it and looked over and saw yet another! I walked over to it, and this one was it, as the terrain dropped very steeply afterwards. I was on the west tip of the ridge, near the spot elevation shown on the map. I deem this to be the highest point, but I tagged them all to be sure. I am happy I took the time to check more thoroughly.

Once I had exhausted all the rocks, I egressed the same general way, getting back down to the road cut then onto the main road without too many errors. Conditions were actually extremely pleasant, if slightly warm. There were lots of bugs and buzzing insects, but the weather was warm and enjoyable, very sunny and clear. I was in no hurry.

The walk back took about an hour, with those two separate hundred-foot gains along the way. My wife is into crystals and gems and has a good eye for rare minerals and rocks. We will be rockhounding soon, and I hoped that what I found are agate rocks. The whole area was generally pretty, with light forest and good sight lines. I was close enough to see parts of Payson from the ridgelines, and even some roads that come up directly from town, but these appear to be on private property down below.

I was back to my car at 9:20, a two-hour, ten-minute journey. I drove home and showered and then went to work answering emails.

(c) 2020 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.