The Mountains of Arizona •

Peak 1649 is in view way back there

Peak 1649, getting closer

Now real close

Approaching the summit as the limit of our mutual distance approaches zero

From summit, west view, Peak 1710 is the one on the left. In back are two peaks in the "hot" zone

South view, a sweater left behind by a Mexican sentry

Hiking down, my car down there

Now approaching Peak 1710's top

From the summit, view east of Peak 1649 and Lookout Mountain afther back

View west of the two peaks you cannot officially climb

South view

My car down there. The white speck in the distance is the Border Patrol checkpoint

The two peaks, image taken on a clear blue day, Feb 2022

• • •

The Arizona
Mountains Gazetteer

Click to find out more!

Black Gap Peaks

Peak 1649 • Peak 1710

Black Gap is a low pass where state route AZ-85 passes through the Sauceda Mountains, about halfway between Gila Bend and Ajo. Both sides of the highway are administered by the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, but certain areas of the range are open to recreation with a proper pass in hand (more at the bottom).

There are a handful of peaks that lie astride the pass, three that make a natural grouping. On the west side is Peak 1630. However, the west side of the highway is never open to the public. On the east side is Peak 1710, closest to the highway, and Peak 1649, east of Peak 1710. All three are conical mounds of black volcanic boulders, each with roughly 500-700 feet of prominence.

My agenda for today were the two peaks on the east side ("Area B") which is open to the public. I had secured my pass a couple days ago, so I was legal. I was in Ajo for an overnight, a chance to bail out of Phoenix for about 36 hours and have a little Christmas celebration climbing peaks. Yesterday had not gone well, due to poor time management on my part and some unexpected issues that popped up. I was able to get one peak, John the Baptist Mountain. I then spent a mellow evening at the Copper Sands Motel on the north end of town. I think I was their only guest that night.

Peak 1649
• Sauceda Mountains
• Barry Goldwater Air Force Range
• Maricopa County

Date: December 27, 2021 • Elevation: 1,649 feet • Prominence: 509 feet • Distance: 1.4 miles • Time: 75 minutes • Gain: 570 feet • Conditions: Cloudy and gray, not too cold


I was up early, but not too early. The day started cool and cloudy, a bank of high thick clouds having moved in over the state, the kind that never break up to allow for the sun to shine through. There was no chance of rain, but it did mute the sun and kept temperatures chilly.

I did a couple errands in town, then motored north toward the Black Gap peaks. I went through the Border Patrol checkpoint, then about a mile later, eased onto the shoulder at the southwest base of Peak 1710, looking for a measly gate in the fence. I had the combination on my permit, but when I tried it, it didn't open at first. So I thought I had the wrong gate. After a little driving each way, I came back to retry the lock. This time, I wrestled with it a little and it popped open. It may have gotten a little sand in it to keep it from opening smoothly at first. In any case, I was in. I shut and locked the gate behind me and started in.

I planned to hike Peak 1649 first, then Peak 1710 second as I exited. They're both essentially twins, so choosing one first was arbitrary. I drove in about a mile and parked off the road at the foot of the main southwest ridge of Peak 1649. It was about 10:00 a.m. when I started. It was chilly, about 55°, and still.

The rocks begin immediately and I slowly walked up these big black basalt boulders. They were solidly set so that marching up them was easy, like big stair steps. The initial hundred feet is steepest, then it levels off ... then is steep again. But finally, the steep grades ceased, and I was on a long and gently-sloped straightaway, the summit about a half mile distant.

I walked carefully, following open lanes if I found any. The brush was generally light, with saguaro, creosote, low grassy brush, and in places, fields of cholla. I was able to weave through everything, somehow not getting bit by the cholla at all. They must be hibernating.

The route follows the ridgeline, and drops about 30 feet to a saddle. Above it is the last slope to the top. I arrived here about 35 minutes after starting, a one-way walk of 0.7 mile and 570 feet of gain. Up here, it was a little breezy, which chilled me. I had good views of the nearby peaks, such as Lookout Mountain to the east, and Peak 1710 to the west.

There were no benchmarks or cairns or registers to waste my time. I snapped a few images, including one of a tattered sweater left behind by a Mexican sentry. I saw no people and aside from the sweater, almost no trash or other items. They must not use this peak that much for their nefarious activities. A little lower down, I came to a rock pile that looked man made, and beside it was a large industrial pulley and some thick cable, plus a few broken pieces of lumber. It was clearly something built to haul things, but I could not see anything else up here that would require hauling, nor anything downslope either.

The walk out went well, and I took the steps slowly. I was down to my car in about the same amount of time as it took me to hike up. I enjoyed this peak. I rested back at the car, then drove to the base of Peak 1710.

Peak 1710

Elevation: 1,710 feet • Prominence: 650 feet • Distance: 1 mile • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 650 feet • Conditions: Still cloudy and gray


I sat in my car for about ten minutes, just spacing. I was already dressed for the dance, so I locked the car and started up the rocks. Unlike Peak 1649, where there was a steep portion at the start and then a long gentle straightaway, this hike would be all uphill, then boom, the top.

I stepped from rock to rock, the routine unvarying. There were no heaped "cliffs" to get past. I rarely used my hands. The rocks were solid most of the time. I slipped once. I'd walk, head down, for about five minutes, then look up. In time, there wasn't much to see as I looked up. And I was on top.

The summit ridge is small, on an east-west alignment. The highpoint is on the east tip, but I had emerged close to the west tip, and they looked about equal. I walked to the east side first and took a break. There was a register here, placed a few years ago, but not many visitors. A handful were Gila Bend hikers who called the peak Black Gap Peak. They'd be the authority. I snapped more photos and looked around, but the gentle breeze chilled me. I started down. But to be safe, I went to the west tip and tagged a couple rocks. I think the east side is a little higher, but I wanted to be sure.

The hike down went well, too. I stepped carefully and kept at it for about twenty minutes, and I was back to my car, my round trip taking an hour. It was a short hike, but steep. I changed into driving clothes, and started the drive out. I got through the gate and started driving back to Tempe.

The two hikes together took just three hours including times sitting in the car. They were easy peaks and the rocks were solid ... most of the time. A few moved, which always induces an adrenaline rush. I don't have any intention to stealth Peak 1630 to the west. Messing with the MPs is not my idea of fun.

In Gila Bend, I wanted to stop at the gas station off Interstate-8 at the Butterfield Exit, which also sold lots of interesting metal sculptures, wood carvings, painted skulls, and things like that. But alas, it was taken over by one of those big-name truck stop corporations and turned into a "travel plaza". It had been awhile since I was in Gila Bend at this exit. I was bummed. It was one of two interesting places in Gila Bend (the other being the Space Age Cafe).

Access onto the Goldwater Range: Go to and set yourself up a free account. Then watch a video that runs about 13 minutes. Don't close the browser window. Then click that you watched it, and you get your permit and one for your car, too. They're good from July 1 to June 30, every year, and are free.

There are areas of the Goldwater Range that are strictly off limits. It would be hard to get on anyway since the gates are locked. The area east of AZ-85, from Black Gap south to the Crater Hills, seems to be open. There are maps on the website that tell you exactly what's open and what's not.

The hotel: I stayed at the Copper Sands. It was cheap and rustic, but everything worked. I hate Yelp and the way people who need meaning in their lives submit negative reviews of places such as this. I guess they were expecting something akin to a fancier hotel in the city. I liked it here. It was basic but had character. I'd go back again. That's my yelp for today.

(c) 2021 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.