The Mountains of Arizona •
Brandenburg Mountain • Galiuro Mountains
• Aravaipa Canyon
• Pinal County

Brandenburg Mountain as seen from Aravaipa Canyon Road

From the trailhead

Walking up the drainage

Now on the slope: lupine, palo verde, saguaro, cholla

The trail passes through colorful flowers

Ocotillo, prickly pear, pencil cholla, creosote

Now on the old road, which now serves as a flower bed

The peak reappears

I left the road and went up this slope to bypass the cliff to the left

On the high saddle now

The top is near, much brushier now

East view into Aravaipa Canyon

The summit looking south, Table Mountain in the distance

Two more views of the peak, another road shot, desert marigolds

All images

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The Arizona
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Date: April 14, 2024 • Elevation: 4,366 feet • Prominence: 354 feet • Distance: 5.2 miles • Time: 3 hours & 10 minutes • Gain: 1,705 feet • Conditions: Clear skies, warm but with a breeze up high


Brandenburg Mountain is a beautiful peak located at the west end of the Aravaipa Canyon in eastern Pinal County. It does not get much attention because it is set far back from the main highways, and as a result appears as just another dull pointed peak in the distance. However, when viewed from closer in, it reveales itself to be a stunning mountain that looks like it could be somewhere in the Grand Canyon. It has tiers of giant cliffs on its south and west faces, and a gently pointed summit above it all. The slopes are covered in the classic desert flora such as saguaro, palo verde, ocotillo, assorted other cacti and succulents, and on this mid-April day, blooming wildflowers.

Aravaipa Canyon is one of Arizona's many famous canyons, and as I've mentioned on other pages, were it not for the Grand Canyon grabbing all the spotlight, this canyon would probably be a National Park too. Maybe having the Grand Canyon helps, since relatively few people come here, certainly not so many as to clog up the roads and make the place so crowded. Many people hike the Aravaipa Canyon along its full length, from Klondyke on the east side to here on the west side. It is a multi-day backpack (2 or 3 usually) and often requires some wading through the waters to get through the entire canyon.

I was driving to the Phoenix area today, getting set to leave tomorrow (monday) for Washington D.C. to attend my father's funeral and interment at Arlington National Cemetery later in the week. I had a hotel room set up in Chandler, as my flight the next morning was early and I did not want to leave Bisbee at 3 a.m. to make it there in time.

A couple months ago, Matthias and I hiked Johnny Lyons Hills Highpoint, north of Benson, which is accessed by Cascabel Road. This road actually connects Interstate-10 near Benson to state route AZ-77 near San Manuel, east of Oracle. I would be driving on AZ-77 anyway to get to Brandenburg Mountain, so I chose to follow Cascabel Road all the way through, my first time on this back-country route.

The days are warming now, but still pleasant. Highs in the deserts were expected to be in the mid 80s. I figured it would top out about 75° where I was going to be, so still in the comfortable range. Nevertheless, I left home early and was in Benson by 7 a.m., then followed the roads through Pomerene and onto Cascabel Road. This road is paved for the first ten or twelve miles, then is graded dirt for the next twenty or so.

There are a couple small communities back here, Cascabel and Redington, consisting of scattered ranches and homesteads. The road parallels the San Pedro River Valley and is cut by numerous side channels so that the road often has to follow the contours of these channels rather than a simple straight-shot. As a result, speed limits are in the 15-40 miles per hour range. The unpaved segment is in fine shape and often very wide, although it narrows sometimes when passing through a homestead.

I enjoyed the drive and kept to the speed limits. The only annoyance was encountering three or four motorists who were going way too slow, e.g. 10 miles per hour on a segment posted for 30. Judging by the makes and models (minivans, small sedans), I suspected they are probably not familiar with these kinds of roads and were spooked a little. I'd have to wait until I had an straightaway to pass them. One guy hugged the center of the road.

The segment from Interstate-10 to San Manuel covers about 50 miles, give or take, and took me a little over an hour. Today, this worked well because it saved me probably 50 miles had I gone through Tucson, but in general, if going to Phoenix, does not really cut off much mileage. It is scenic and I will come back, but only for specific points of interest accessible by this road. I would not recommend it as a Tucson bypass route.

Now on AZ-77, I followed it north about a dozen miles to Aravaipa Road, then followed that in eastbound toward the canyon and the mountain, now visible as a dull pointed peak in the distance. Aravaipa Road is paved for the first 4.5 miles, then graded dirt for the remainder. It starts to hig the steep hillsides toward the end, becoming narrower and steep in spots, one segment easily above a 10% grade. As I got closer, the full grandeur of Brandenburg Mountain became evident. I stopped a few times to snap images from the road. At about nine miles in, I parked at a de-facto trailhead directly below the mountain west-facing cliffs.

It was pushing 9 a.m. when I backed in, sunny and clear, and warm, but in the high 60s for now. The warmth was more from the direct radiant heat of the sun than from the ambient air temperature. I suited up, and just then, four more vehicles rolled in all at once. I later learned they were all from a nearby yoga retreat place out for a day hike. I said hi to a couple of the hikers, mostly women, but figured it be wisest for me to get moving now and put some distance in.

The route first heads north up a gently-sloping drainage, then catches an old trail that gains the lowest lip of the upper plateau. Here, an ancient Jeep track wiggles along this plateau lip and below the peak. Then from there, it's just a steep off-trail trek to the top.

The drainage was very wide at first but slowly closed in. With today's warmth and it being April, the flowers were blooming, so the whole area was a mix of yellows, blues, oranges, purples, reds, and then the greens from the leaves and the cacti. It was all very beautiful, but sometimes tough on the sinuses. Also, it seemed every third tree or bush was buzzing, so I was cognizant to avoid any bee hives. This drainage segment went for about a mile, gaining about 300 feet, and there was a distinct footpath in the drainage to follow most of the way. The tread was coarse gravel, so it was sturdy, not like walking through soft sand.

The drainage starts to narrow to just a few feet wide. A little under a mile in, it comes to a line of rocks in the tread, pointing to the side trail that goes up from here. There is also a large cairn so it's hard to miss. This trail is rocky and narrow, but well defined and easy to follow. It does get steep, since this is where most of the elevation gain happens in order to reach the upper plateau. This segment ran about a half mile, gaining about 500 feet. The highlight was the abundant flowers and desert plants. I suspect this trail was an old rancher's trail, since it seems so randomly placed.

I was now on the upper plateau, and soon on the old Jeep track shown on the maps. I turned right and followed the track uphill, gaining about another 300 feet in a half mile. The walking was easy but the track was overgrown in flowering plants and featured plenty of loose rocks. The map shows this track wiggles around the entire mountain, then around another big ridge, ending at a tank to the northeast of the peak. It must have been a very important stock tank to warrant the effort and cost to put in this track. These days, it appears it never gets driven, absolutely no hint of recent vehicles and in some places, mature brush in the tread. It would be very challenging even for the most rugged of Jeeps or specialized vehicles like a Razor.

I walked southish along the track until I was at the track's apex, below a west-facing slope of the mountain. At the top of this slope was a sloppy cliff band, so I walked a little farther, dropping a few feet, but eyeballing a nicer-looking slope that seemed to reach the upper ridge bypassing that cliffy segment. From here on upwards, I'd be off trail, and hoped the terrain, brush and critters would be friendly today.

The lower slope was covered in a sage-type plant but had lanes where I could usually see my feet. Up here, it was about five degrees cooler and there was a nice breeze to help cool me. The slope steepened a little, but the footing was dependable and the rocks, including limestone, offered easy scrambles and good hand placement. I was soon atop this first ridge bump. Looking up, I still had about 300 feet to gain.

The next slope was steep but straightforward, a little brushier, where I had to search left and right for lanes. This put me on top of a nubbin with about five feet of prominence. I continued upward. The final slope was as steep as the ones before, but much brushier. About halfway up, the ground was covered in grass. I had to place my feet carefully, keeping an eye out for snakes. It wasn't difficult, it just slowed me.

The last dozen or so feet was up a rocky spine, which fed me onto the summit, which ran about fifty feet long and twenty-five feet wide. It was flat, but grassy, with a few plants and lots of grass. I found the cairn and register, and signed in. A couple were here in January. Signatures went back twenty-plus years, almost all being Southern Arizona Hiking Club outings.

I sat for a spell to have a drink and a snack, then to look around at the views. To the south was the sloping summit of Table Mountain in the Galiuro Mountains. To the west as a lot of high desert and lower hills out by Black Mountain and Antelope Peak. To the north was Saddle Mountain. The best views were east, looking at the plateau and cliffs of the Aravaipa Canyon, and the distant Santa Theresa Mountains way off by Safford. I spent about ten minutes on top.

I descended the exact same way, even trying to take the same paths through the brush on these slopes. I got back to the track and walked it to where it meets the trail going into the drainage. I was curious: the women I'd talked with briefy when I started said they were also going to Brandenburg Mountain, but I never saw them on my ascent. I figured I would see them coming up as I was descending. There aren't any route variations, but I never saw them.

The hike down the trail went fast because I had gravity assisting me. Then back in the drainage, it was a fast walk out to my car, arriving a little after noon. The hike up had taken just under two hours, and the hike out, about an hour and fifteen minutes. It was warmer down here and I was bushed, but feeling good. I had been able to move quickly on these trails and slopes.

The cars were still there and a guy was hanging out. He had started on the hike with the ladies but turned back. He asked me if I saw them, and I said no, which perplexed him (and me) because I should have seen them. I said I hope they're okay. It was a group of them, about 7 or 8, so I find it hard to believe I'd somehow miss that many. We talked for about five minutes. I changed out of my sweaty hiking clothes and into roomier driving clothes, wished the guy well, and started my drive out.

I followed AZ-77 north to Winkelman, where I stopped for snacks. Then I took AZ-177 into Superior, then US-60 into Phoenix and city streets to the hotel in Chandler. It was weird staying in a hotel in and around Phoenix. The last time I stayed at a hotel in the city was in 1992, when I drove out for some job interviews. Then I lived here most of the next 32 years. Now I felt like an outsider again. The next morning I drove to the airport for my flight to Washington D.C..

I was very pleasantly surprised how well the hike up Brandenburg Mountain went, and how pretty it was. Information on this peak is not that abundant, just enough to know what the route entails. I enjoyed it tremendously and recommend it, although I would suggest to do it when it is cooler. It won't be as colorful with the wildflowers asleep, but the bees should be quieter and the snakes in their holes.

(c) 2024 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.