The Mountains of Arizona •
Colcord Mountain & Lookout • Mogollon Rim
• Tonto National Forest
• Gila County

Colcord Mountain Lookout, Arizona
Walking along the lower road.
Colcord Mountain Lookout, Arizona
Now higher, in thinner forest.
Colcord Mountain Lookout, Arizona
This is the top.
Colcord Mountain Lookout, Arizona
The lookout pokes through the trees.
Colcord Mountain Lookout, Arizona
The lookout, plus benchmark.

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Date: April 22, 2020 • Elevation: 7,553 feet (per Lidar) • Prominence: 301 feet (per Lidar) • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes • Gain: 430 feet (gross) • Conditions: Pleasant with puffy clouds


Colcord Mountain lies just below the Mogollon Rim, the eastern-most bump along a ridge of forested hills that also include Turkey Peak and Christopher Mountain. There are decent forest roads to the top from both the west and east sides. I chose the east side.

I spent the morning working from home. Things were slow. I decided to bail for a couple hours and go for a hike. This peak looked good, since it was relatively close and easy, as I would be walking forest roads most of the way. An epic this would be not, but it would be exercise and a chance to get away from things for a little bit.

I left home about 12:45 p.m. and drove up AZ-260 eastbound, topping out on the Rim. I went another couple miles to the Young Road turn off (Sitgreaves Forest Road 512). I stayed on this road about two or three miles to near the end of the road's pavement. Colcord Campground lies to the east, and the Colcord Lookout Road (Tonto Forest Road 291) to the west. This junction is at 7,621 feet, higher than the summit of Colcord Mountain, which is 7,550 feet. Technically, I was still "above the Rim". The sign said the lookout was 3 miles from here.

I was expecting to park at the start of FR-291 and walk the whole thing, but the road looked pretty good. It drops about 250 feet at first, and I hoped to drive down it and park there, cutting off a mile each way and removing the need to hike up that elevation as I exited.

A whole swath of trees have been removed to create a corridor for massive power lines. At one point, when I got out to walk the road to inspect it, I could hear the humming and buzzing from the power lines. I drove down the road, which, without the trees, is an exposed shelf road with a steep drop. But the tread was smooth, and I puttered at about 10 miles per hour. The road bent once and entered the trees, becoming wider and smoother. I was now at a low point, elevation 7,364 feet. This little glen had small grassy meadows and mature ponderosa, and looked like a great place to camp. There were two groups here doing just that.

I kept driving, the road gaining to about 7,400 feet up the side of a small hill. While I wanted a hike, I was willing to drive as much as I safely could, maybe cut off another mile if possible. At the apex of the road, I encountered deep ruts. Conveniently, there was a pullout about 50 feet back, so I took the hint and eased into the pullout, starting my hike at roughly 7,400 feet, the time 1:40 p.m.

I walked the road, and for the next quarter mile, it was rutted from when someone came through here when still muddy. The road was rocky and steep, too. It drops about 140 feet to bottom out at the lowest point, elevation 7,250 feet. I was less than half a mile from the top, but it would have meant barging up steep forest hillsides to get there. I was content to take the scenic route by keeping to the road.

That initial quarter-mile segment of road probably would have been a little much for the Forester. The rocks weren't big but there were a lot of them, the grade was about 10%, but the kicker was the ruts. There was no easy way to manage the rocks and gradient while trying to either avoid or straddle the ruts. I felt I made a wise choice to park where I did. Beyond that, the road was actually quite good.

I followed the road as it contoured with the land, staying on it for almost two miles, to where the road makes a hard right, almost a 180-degree turn, to begin a long and easy uphill toward the lookout. From the bend to the lookout is about a half mile. The lookout sites beside the road, and today it appeared unmanned. It is surrounded by fencing and razor wire, all of it locked up for now.

I continued on the road past the tower for another few hundred feet to where it dropped about 60 feet then started a steeper downhill heading west. Here, I angled right and started heading uphill toward a low ridge. Once at the ridge, I turned east and kept to its spine as best I could, the highpoint about a half mile away and 60 feet higher.

The ridge was a little more open than I was expecting, which was good news. I was able to keep to the ridge and not lose a bearing in the thick trees. I walked until I was at the highpoint, which was just a soft hump of rocks and ground and pine needles. There was not much to see here so I did not stop. I walked around a little to be sure I did not miss any other hidden humps. I exited the same way.

Back to the road, I walked back to the tower and looked around. The map says there is a benchmark "Cord" here. I found a benchmark, this one from the Forest Service, stamped "Colcord". It was in a rock about 40 feet from the southwestern tip of the fencing. I took a photo, then resumed my trek. About this time, two people in a quad came rumbling by, the only two people I saw. I was back to my car at 3:20 p.m., a 1 hour and 40 minute hike covering about 6 miles.

For the drive up that exposed portion of the road, I hoped no one would be coming down. It is narrow and would be hard to make room. So I get up about 75% of it and see the gate up ahead when another quad shows up. Protocol is that the uphill driver (me) should be allowed to continue since it would be trickier for me to backtrack. Plus, I was on the downhill edge. But this guy never stopped; just came down and down. I had no choice but to stop as he passed with about 6 inches to spare. I glared at him.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. I was home a little after 4, and surprisingly tired. I had walked about 6 miles and even though it was mostly along forest road and the grades were usually gentle, it was still an energetic hike. I did walk fast, I'll admit. Maybe that tired me out.

I enjoyed this hike. I was expecting more closed-in forest like I'd had on Turkey and Christopher Peaks, but this went well and I had good views in segments along the way. When the road is in better condition, much of it could be driven.

(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.