The Mountains of Arizona •
Boneyback Peak • Sierra Ancha
• Tonto National Forest
• Gila County

Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Boneyback's summit is off in the distance, as viewed from where we parked
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Now on the higher ridge, we encounter a lovely meadow
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
After roughing through a brushy section, we come to another meadow
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Yet another meadow, with better views of Peak 5,531, which obscures Boneyback's summit for now
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Now a little higher
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Below Peak 5,531
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Finally, the top
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Rugged cliffs looking east. I believe that's Aztec Peak way in the back
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
South view, Lake Roosevelt and the Four Peaks
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
West view, Mount Ord and the Mzatzal Range, plus more cliffs
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Boneyback's summit from Peak 5,531
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
View down of the ridge we hiked coming up. In back are Bear Head Peak and Copper Mountain
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
View of the Conway Ranch and of Greenback Peak
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Two old dead trees look like standing guards
Boneyback Peak, Arizona
Montage: Me at the top, the benchmark, a view of the first hill we hiked and the trusty roadster right where I left it

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The Arizona
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Date: November 3, 2019 • Elevation: 5,558 feet • Prominence: 1,238 feet • Distance: 4.9 miles • Time: 5 hours • Gain: 1,211 feet • Conditions: Sunny, some high clouds, warm later • Teammate: Matthias Stender

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Boneyback Peak is in the western Sierra Ancha of north-central Gila County, about twelve miles east of Lake Roosevelt and the town of Punkin Center. The peak is about a thousand feet lower than most peaks in the Anchas, yet a couple thousand feet higher than the desert valleys to the west. As such, it has a unique position for viewing the larger surrounding peaks, as well as the surrounding desert valleys and the Mazatzal Mountains to the west.

I found a good trip report from HikeArizona, written almost exactly ten years ago. This caught my attention, along with the photographs, and I wanted to climb it myself. I teamed with Matthias. We met in Fountain Hills before dawn, and I drove us up and over the pass at Mount Ord, then down into the Tonto Basin. I followed AZ-188 about ten miles to Punkin Center, then followed Tonto National Forest Road 71 east toward the peak.

The sun was rising just as I got onto FR-71, and I had sun in my eyes, making the drive a chore. But the road was good and scenic. Hunters were everywhere, but when we were about ten miles in, the hunters disappeared. They did not want to come in this far. Boneyback Peak is visible for most of the drive as a long ridge-like mountain, with west-facing cliffs and a crown or trees and grasses.

I followed FR-71 to a pass north of the peak, then to where the road reached an apex between Hills 4,464 and 4,929, just before the road drops into the Greenback Valley and the Conway Ranch. The report said there'd be a jeep track here, and I found it. I pulled in and there was an odd "camp" set up: a couple chairs, an ancient metal cooler, a cot, and a thrashed ATV. But nothing else, no hints of recent use. I drove up the jeep track about another 200 feet and parked on a bare slope.

From where we stood, Boneyback Peak's summit was visible to the south, a top along a forested ridge, far enough to where making out the actual top was not so easy. Between the peak and us was a long ridge with gentle hills, sections of forest and sections of open meadow. The temperature was cool but not cold, and we had blue skies and some high clouds.

We followed the jeep track upward as far as it would go, which was not very far. It ends at a small hilltop. We dropped into a drainage then up the other side. We angled left more than up, the slopes covered in low grass, cactus and loose rocks. We chose not to climb that first bump, Point 4,929. Instead, we sidehilled all the way to the saddle south of that bump, now on the main ridge. The sidehilling went slow, and there were cows along the route.

The meadows were lovely and open (but with the usual loose rocks, cactus and cow poop). We made good time. We climbed a soft hill, elevation about 4,960+, getting ourselves in thick brush, with manzanita, mountain oak, agave and cactus, plus bigger brush such as palo verde, pinon and juniper trees. This stretch went slow, but we soon extracted ourselves onto the next meadow, which begat another easy uphill into more thick brush.

We were soon within a mile of the summit. After surmounting Hill 5,040+, we were in yet another meadow and could see the summit, and its foreground neighbor, Peak 5,531. From where we stood, it looked friendly. It appeared we could bypass Peak 5,531 on its left and go up mostly-open slopes to the small saddle below the summit.

We went up and left, eventually more left than up, and again found ourselves sidehilling around Peak 5,531. This was slow and sloppy, but we got past it and finally onto the high saddle, from which it was an easy trudge to the top. Our one-way hike covered about 2.5 miles with a little over 1,200 feet of gain, taking us about two hours and fifteen minutes.

We sat for awhile on the summit rocks, snapping photos and relaxing, looking around at all the peaks and valleys and rock formations. We could see the main peaks in the Ancha: Bear Head, Copper, Greenback, Armer, and higher up, Aztec Peak. To the west we could see the Mazatzal Mountains with Mount Ord, and the Four Peaks, which from here looked like Three-point-two Peaks. The conditions were calm and pleasant, but I was sneezing due to whatever pollen was kicking up everywhere. The summit register held just a few names going back about fifteen years. There was a pair from April, and perhaps one or two people per year, sometimes no one in some years.

For the hike out, we figured we might have better luck going up and over Peak 5,531, so that's what we did. We at least got up it (getting a bonus peak, with 80 feet of prominence, woo hoo). But then the brush closed in and the rocks became looser and steeper. So we angled more to the east and picked our way down the sloppy slopes, getting back onto the lower meadow.

We know better now what to do for the hike out. For the intervening hills, we generally avoided their very tops and instead stayed right (east), where the brush wasn't so bad. In this manner, we were back to the first meadow within an hour.

Neither of us wanted to sidehill that first hill from this morning, so we dropped straight down off the ridge, losing about 500 feet quickly. We then angled left (northish) whenever it felt right, following cow paths and open lanes (and some brush). We knew which hillock we had parked on, so we aimed for it, coming out from a drainage within feet of the car. Not too shabby! The egress hike had covered a shade less --- about 2.4 miles, but took about the same amount of time. It was about 12:30 when we were back to the car.

As we drove out, we inspected that "campsite", with the thrashed ATV. Everything looked like it was 40 years old, and no other signs of use. No random trash or wrappers or beer cans or spent shells. It was pretty clean aside from the handful of objects placed there.

The drive out went well, and we were back to Fountain Hills by 2 p.m.. We shook hands and congratulated eachother on another successful hike. It was my first hike with Matthias in nearly 5 months.

The peak's name, as best as I can tell, is because from a distance, its hills give it the appearance of a bony spine. It does not appear to be anyone's name. The only "official" reference I could find was an entry in the Geographical Board of Place Names (or whatever they are called) officially recognizing the peak's name in 1965. The benchmark atop the peak is stamped "Ancha".

The report on HikeArizona is still valid. I assumed the jeep road went higher, but it does not. The going isn't difficult, but it can be brushy and steep. It might actually be possible to climb the peak directly from the northeast, following a long gully and slope to the top. I am not sure how the Conway Ranch would affect access. So few people climb this peak, it seems we just go with what others did before us.

(c) 2019 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.