The Mountains of Arizona •
Big Caprock Peak • Tortolita Mountains
• Highpoint: Town of Marana
• Pima County

Start of the Wild Mustang Hill

The peak finally comes into view

Now seen as I approach via the use trail

Almost at the rocks

At the rocks

Summit rock

South: Mount Wrightson and Mount Hopkins far back at left, Tucson Mountains and Wasson Peak closer in, centered, and Baboquivari to the right

East: Ridge Crest Peak and the Santa Catalinas in back

The lower summit boulder

All images

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Date: November 23, 2023 • Elevation: 4,416 feet • Prominence: 496 feet • Distance: 8 miles • Time: 4 hours • Gain: 1,630 feet • Conditions: High clouds, muted sun, cool but not cold

ArizonaMainPBLoJCity Highpoints

Peak 4416, known colloquially as "Big Caprock Peak" for its notable rock-bound summit, rises on a southwest ridge of the Tortolita Mountains, accessed by trails contained within the Tortolita Mountains Park. I was here in January hiking nearby Ridge Crest Peak, which rises one ridge to the east. That was my first time here and I enjoyed it very much. The trails are well maintained, easy to follow, with options to make them more challenging if one desires.

I was heading to Bisbee this Thanksgiving Day, with the whole day open. I left Tempe around 7 a.m. and was in the Marana area about two hours later, exiting at Tangerine Road, and taking that east to Dove Mountain Road, which curls around north and west to the Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain. The wild Burro Trailhead is the main starting point, with a large parking lot that adjoins the hotel property to its south.

The day was cloudy and moderate, temperature in the 60s. The clouds were the milky-white high-level type that just sit there like a shroud, muting the light. There wasn't much of a breeze either. I got properly attired and started walking about 9:15 a.m..

I wanted the Upper Javelina Trail that goes northwest of the hotel property and I was aware there was a spur trail from the hotel itself that caught the Upper Javelina Trail, but I could not find the trail. Later, on the way down, I "found" it and yes, unless you knew exactly where to look, it wasn't obvious at all. Instead, I backtraced and dropped into the main drainage where all the trails converge, found the Upper Javelnia Trail, and started up it.

The trail is hewn into the rocks, and while easy to follow, is more than just a path. In places, one has to clamber over clumps of rocks, although hands are never needed. Every couple minutes someone or some group were coming down, everyone wishing one another Happy Thanksgiving.

I kept walking it upward until it achieved a saddle, then down a little and up again to another saddle. I found the "Hotel Spur" trail here and noted it for my return. There was a fellow here taking a break, then a couple women joggers came running down, followed by six more women hiking downward. I eased onto the Wild Mustang Trail, which runs northeasterly and below Big Caprock Peak, still a couple miles away.

I passed one more guy, then after a short but steep little segment, I took a break at some park benches. That guy I passed then passed me. He would be the last person I would see for the next two hours.

The trail walk went well as it was smooth so that I could move quickly. It would drop into and up out of a few small side drainages, gain a side ridge, drop a little, that kind of thing. It was easy hiking and during those couple miles, I netted maybe 500 feet of gain. The weather was staying steady.

My first views of the peak did not come until I was within a half-mile of it. It stands out because it is topped by a crown of heaped granite talus, hence its name. I was aware of an unofficial path that left the main trail, always a little concerned I'd walk right past it, but I found it. It was plainly obvious once I was upon it.

This secondary trail is not maintained but it is well defined and easy to follow. It wanders up a small canyon and through a prickly-pear field. As it gets closer to the rocky crown, it wiggles up steeper slopes, in places cairned because it grew weak, and then ends at the base of the rocks. I was about a hundred feet below the summit.

The climb up and through the rocks was fun and not difficult at all. The rocks are granite with great traction and sloped so that I could just walk up them at times. I used hands in a couple spots, but there wasn't a single move or segment that would rate Class 3. This was about as canonical Class 2 as a peak could be. I was on top in about ten minutes.

The top features two boulder heaps, the northern of the two being highest. I clambered up its rocks and brush, slapped the top, then sat in a crook near a strong box holding a register. I didn't closely track my time, but going by my photographs' metadata, it had taken me a shade over two hours to get here.

There were a lot of signatures in the register, many being the usual names, and also the Southern Arizona Hiking Club, as well as plenty of other names I did not recognize. It seemed during the cooler months, two or three people a week were up here. Someone was here yesterday, I noted.

I spent about ten minutes sitting in the crook. I snapped a few photos too. I scooted down off the rocks and then walked over to the lower rock outcrop and partway up its backside for some photos. I then descended the rocks back to the trail, the rock scrambling easy as cake, the only challenge being clumps of brush that grew in the cracks that sometimes got in the way.

For the outbound hike, I moved fast, almost jogging. The trail is free of annoying loose ankle-turning rocks so that I could "fast walk" much of the trail back out, making excellent time for an old man. I got back onto the Upper Javelina Trail and that's when I saw another human. By now, after noon, I think people were starting to get ready for the Thanksgiving feast. We chatted, and that was it for people until I was back at my car.

I took the Hotel Spur Trail back to the hotel, which cut off a half-mile of distance and probably twenty minutes. It ends near the main road into the Ritz Carlton. If walking the main road toward the hotel, there's a meager side road that just dead ends. There's a trail that starts here (unmarked) that acts like a sidewalk, then it goes behind a wall that fronts the main road. It is back here where the Spur Trail starts, or ends, depending on direction.

I was back to my car a little after 2 p.m., I figured about a 90-minute egress, covering 8 miles total. I was feeling good and the hike had gone very well. It was a pleasure to hike these trails and I will probably come back for more in the future.

I got back on the Interstate and was in Bisbee about two hours later, having my own Thanksgiving meal: a turkey sandwich purchased at the Circle K in Tombstone.

For trivia fans, Big Caprock Peak is also the highest point in the town of Marana. The boundary between Marana and the Tortolita Mountains Park runs along a section line that by dumb luck also crosses over the summit.

(c) 2023 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.