The Mountains of Arizona •
Baragan Mountain & Plains Benchmark • Baragan Mountain
• Hyder Valley & Palomas Plain
• Yuma County

Baragan Mountain, Arizona
Plains BM is the pointed summit at the left, the range highpoint is at the left of the flat ridge, slightly right-of-center
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
Summit of Plains, with benchmark
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
The highpoint, as I descend from Plains
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
Now on the highpoint, a view to the east
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
View southwest, towards Plains
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
View west
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
View north, Turtleback Hill
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
Cool view of the fractal nature of the arroyos on the desert floor. Little Horn BM is the ridge on the far horizon to the left
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
As I descend, a look back up to the highpoint
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
The long gentle ridge I descended
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
View of the highpoint and the basin below it
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
Walking out over desolate "desert asphalt", with sunny skies and distant ranges
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
View of Plains Benchmark hill back at my car
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
The hills as I exit
Baragan Mountain, Arizona
Map of my movements

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Date: January 26, 2020 • Elevation: 1,284 feet (HP), 1,230 feet (P) • Prominence: 514 feet (HP), 330 feet (P) • Distance: 5 miles • Time: 3 hours & 20 minutes • Gain: 1,100 feet • Conditions: Sunny and warm, haze in the distance


Baragan Mountain is a volcanic blob that rises about 500 feet above the deserts in central Yuma County. The mountain spreads about three miles east to west, two miles north to south, with flat tops and sloping sides, all covered in black basaltic lava rock. It lies in the Palomas Plain, about fifteen miles northwest of the ghost-town of Hyder, truly in the middle of nowhere. Two weeks earlier, Scott Peavy and I hiked Little Horn Benchmark, which hems in the Palomas Plain to the north. That was my first time to this part of the state, which not on any beaten path whatsoever. No one comes here unless they make it a point to come here.

We were all supposed to convene on the Barry Goldwater range south of Yuma last weekend, so I had assembled a few maps of peaks I wanted to explore, which got me looking at peaks in this general area. Somehow I landed upon Baragan Mountain, amused by its blobby shape. I had never heard of it until that moment. Then, I happened upon one of Doug Kasian's old reports where he explored the roads and peaks in this broad plain. He said the roads were good, and we traded a few emails where he gave me some excellent details on what to look for.

Then that weekend fell apart, and we were going to try again this weekend, but then I could not get away from town until early Saturday morning anyway, which shut me out of the longer distances I'd have to drive. I scaled back my own agenda to just this peak and nearby Agua Caliente Highpoint, kind of excited to be driving in an area of Arizona very few people see.

I was up early this Sunday, on the road by 5:20 a.m., taking the usual route into Gila Bend and catching Interstate-8 there, with essentially zero cars on the road. Then, for the 40-mile segment between Gila Bend and Dateland, some guy stayed in the left lane and would get on my left-rear (I was in the right lane), and just stay there, playing formation driving, which I hate. He was in my blind spot. I'd speed up or slow down, and by gum, he'd slowly copy me and be right back on my left rear fender. It annoyed me to no end, so I pulled beside him, rolled my window down, and told him to cut it out. He couldn't hear me, of course, but he saw me, and he then took a position about a quarter-mile behind me.

I exited at Dateland, just as the sun was rising. I went north on Dateland Road for 8 miles to where the road then makes a soft right, going northeast now on Hyder Road. The road here parallels an old railroad track. Not much is out here, just a few very scattered homesteads and lots and lots of desert. Now on Hyder Road, I went past milepost 4, taking a left turn onto a road signed for White Wing Farms, a Del Monte contractor. There is also a massive solar-power generating plant here.

The road is paved but immediately curls toward the solar plant. I stayed on the obvious dirt road, called the Palomas-Harquahala Road (P-H Road), but no signs mention this. The occasional plastic road markers call it BLM-025. The road goes north, cuts east to pass through an arroyo, then continues north ... and then splits. I was not expecting this, so I guessed, took one branch and saw that both splits meet again a mile or so later anyway.

The road then continues north through the black and brown-colored gravelly plains. Up ahead, still in shadow, was Baragan Mountain. I stayed on P-H Road, passing a major split at 7.2 miles from Hyder Road (staying right). It was a good road, mostly smooth with small rocks. I could keep at a 20 to 30 mile-per-hour rate.

I had a decision to make. I could drive north past the mountain, then double back on another road and climb the highpoint directly from the northeast, which would be a short hike. Or, I could park somewhere west of the mountain, hike its western lobe and tag its highest point, called Plains Benchmark. After getting a couple miles north of the mountain, and to where the road started to get a little more ragged, I decided to go with the western route. Rather than try to visit both points on two separate small hikes, I would visit both points on one long hike.

I doubled back and pulled into a big open plain, and parked about 250 feet from the road, near a small turnaround with a couple convenient bushes to park behind. After all my driving and exploring, it was about 8:45 a.m. when I finally killed the engine and got started hiking. The day was sunny and mild. The current temperatures were in the low 50s, but it would warm into the 70s today.

I started hiking, dropping a few feet and entering into the braids of a broad arroyo, which flows south. The ground was covered in low green grasses, giving the whole area a green look like a park. I would weave through the woodier shrubs and small trees at the main arroyo banks, and cross their sandy bottoms. This went on for about a quarter-mile. Soon, I was on this arroyo's east "bank" and nearing the base of the hill. The demarcation is sudden. Suddenly, in a matter of about five feet, I went from low grassy desert to black basalt slopes.

The slope from here to the top was long and gentle. I walked at a fast clip up this slope, and soon had topped out on its highest point, marked by a five-foot tall cairn. The one-way hike covered a mile and took me about a half hour. This is Plains Benchmark. I found the benchmark flush in a rock near the big cairn. The register went back many years, but there was no pencil to sign in with. I was bummed not to put my name down next to such luminaries as Richard Carey, Bob Packard and Doug Kasian. He was here in 2018. Another group was here in 2019. I might be the only summitter in 2020, we shall see.

I had great views from up here, including of the highpoint, about a mile and a half to the northeast. I spent about 20 minutes on this summit, much of it looking for the pencil. Why I cared so much, I don't know. The day was warming nicely, now in the low 60s.

Staying on the plateau top is not a practical way to get to the highpoint, as it is cut by a 350-foot deep fissure, forming a very abrupt saddle. Instead, I walked on the plateau top until I could see a friendly way down the east slopes of Plains Benchmark. The downhill went well, and I was quickly in the basin below the highpoint (to the north) and Plains Benchmark (to the southwest).

I trudged up a ridge with a shorter profile, meaning a steeper gradient. It was slow, but the rocks were mostly solid and easy to hop on or around. A few would move, which would give me an adrenaline boost. About a half-hour later, I had climbed this ridge and was on the highpoint of the whole mountain. I took another break here, running about 20 minutes.

I found a register and happily, a pencil to sign in with. The same people who'd signed in over at Plains Benchmark signed in here, which suggests they all had the same general hiking plan as I did. I sat for a spell and stared out at the desert plain and the fractalous patterns of the arroyos down below, and the distant mountains in all directions. I enjoyed this summit and did not feel the need to rush.

For the descent, I angled more east, then followed a long tendril that trended southward, a little southeast of the highpoint. This went very well and was enjoyable. When I had dropped most of the elevation, I then angled off this tendril and took a more direct route down to the desert floor, happy to be off the rocks. As much as I like these volcanic boulders, it is also nice to be off them and not have to worry about my ankles the whole time.

From here, I simply walked south on the flat terrain, then cut west, covering about two-and-a-half miles, until I was west of the mountain mass again. I then entered into the arroyos again and the trees and brush. By now, with temperatures in the 70s and growing a tad warm, a lot of the bushes were buzzing. Nothing menacing, but I was hyper-aware of any bee hives. Once past the arroyo, I spotted my car up on the bluff. I did not use GPS. I figured I'd see it, and that's what happened. I was back to the car at noon, a three hour and fifteen minute hike covering roughly 5 miles.

I did not linger, because I still wanted to hike a second peak, that of the Agua Caliente Range about fifteen miles southeast of here. I drove south back to Hyder Road, then followed Hyder Road about eight more miles, getting to the base of the peak, called Morris Benchmark. This is also a big mound of volcanic boulders. But here, it has been mined and a bunch of ugly road scars wiggle up the mountain to the top.

I pulled into a brushy area off the main road and then looked at the roads up the mountainside. It was unattractive and not of interest to me. I spent maybe a minute debating it. I decided to skip the hike and just head home, happy with my two-peak haul on Baragan Mountain.

On the east side of the Agua Caliente Mountains is the very old and derelict ghost town of Hyder. There is nothing here that functions. People do live here but in scattered homesites (mainly trailers). North of Hyder Road is a few miles of farms, but I can't imagine more than a hundred people total live out this way, spread out over about 50 square miles.

Hyder itself was a railroad "town" back when the railroad functioned, the town mainly populated with a handful of railroad workers. Later, during World War II, it was one of the staging towns for General Patton's Desert Warfare Program. A few old buildings looking like barracks still stand. With some stewardship, some of these places look like they could be maintained to some basic level, but they all seem to be just falling apart slowly.

I followed a road called Avenue 76 E south through a pass in the Agua Calientes. This then put me in the town of Agua Caliente, which used to have a hot springs resort ("Agua Caliente" means "hot water"). I drove slowly, just taking my time. This road then fed me onto Sentinel Road, which I followed about ten miles southeast to the town of Sentinel on Interstate-8. Once back on the highway, I just drove back home.

I enjoyed my day exploring such a remote mountain. The hiking was easy and I was more into the experience of just being in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the solitude. I did see a couple people on ATVs and Polarises, but there was essentially no one out here. I may not get to Hyder again for twenty years, but I enjoyed it while I was here.

(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.