The Mountains of Arizona •
Cornucopia Ridge • Peak 5610 • Mazatzal Mountains
• Tonto National Forest
• Maricopa County

Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
The peak viewed from where I parked
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Descending into the East Fork of Sycamore Creek
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
The peak again, much closer now
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Last bit to the top
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Summit view, Pine Butte
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Mount Peeley
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Sheep Mountain Ridge
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Saddle Mountain
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Memorial for Desert Bob
Cornucopia Ridge, Arizona
Hiking back, the road I first descended must now be ascended. Ugh.

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Date: October 1, 2020 • Elevation: 5,610 feet (5,605 feet per LIDAR) • Prominence: 282 feet (per LIDAR) • Distance: 5 miles • Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes • Gain: 1,670 feet (gross gain) • Conditions: Sunny and clear, very warm


This officially-unnamed highpoint lies on a ridge descending off the main spine of the Mazatzal Mountains, south of Mount Peeley and Pine Butte. Tonto Forest Road 201A runs along a significant portion of this ridge, popular with 4-wheel drivers. The highpoint is a hill atop the ridge, overlooking the West Fork of Sycamore Creek. Jeep tracks wander all over the place and I would be following roads or tracks the entire way.

Down in the West Fork of Sycamore Creek Canyon are remnants of large mines dating from the early-20th Century to about the 1960s. They mined mercury here, plus other metals. The mines here were called the Cornucopia Mine(s), which is a natural name to assign to this hilltop. This website has excellent photos of the mineworks that are still down in the canyon.

I intended to go to campus today, so got an early start from Payson, driving highway AZ-87 to the pass at Mount Ord, catching Sycamore Creek Road here. I followed it downhill, then drove down and up the main forest road, FR-201, that goes uphill past Pine Butte and eventually to Mount Peeley. Matthias and I were on this road in April and it was in fine shape back then. I drove to where FR-201A juts off of FR-201, almost where Matthias and I had parked six months ago. I killed the engine and got out, a little surprised how warm it was already, at 7:20 a.m. and at 4,980 feet elevation. It was going to be a warm day today.

The peak could be seen from where I stood, along with some of the road I'd be hiking. The hike follows FR-201A almost the whole way, then a jeep track for the last half mile. The trouble is, there's a 520-foot drop at the start of the hike, then the uphill to the top, then on the way out, the 520-foot drop must be regained. I packed a lot of drinks and dressed light, going minimal. I locked up the car and started walking at 7:30, air temperature about 75 degrees.

I walked down the road, losing 520 feet, to bottom out in the East Fork of Sycamore Creek. The road was shaded for now, and steep. For a hundred feet or so, it merges with the canyon bottom and its large rocks. The canyon bottom had tall trees providing shade and the barest trickle from a spring ... with lots of bees drinking it all up. I scooted past them quickly.

The road ascends out of the drainage and curls around a hillside. It is in the open here, a narrow shelf road with steep slopes above and below. It gains very steeply, coming out to a small flat stretch of road below an old mine. The road just continues on, getting steep again, but not as bad as before. I was in the open with no shade and an intense sun. I was doing fine, moving at a good rate, but I stopped often, too. It was probably in the 80s by now. Warmer than I would prefer. Otherwise, conditions were outstanding, with no clouds, no humidity and blue skies.

After gaining about 500 feet from the bottom, the road makes a soft bend right and suddenly into a low forest of pines and mountain oak, just enough to provide shade. I took a break in one spot, happy to be out of the sun. The summit was not far, a half-mile on a direct line, maybe double that in actual hiking.

The track continues uphill, rocky and moderately steep, then reaches a little plateau at about 5,300 feet elevation. Up ahead is a cleared area and a 4-way intersection, with FR-201A going right and up the rest of the ridge. Ahead is FR-3722, which drops a thousand feet into the West Fork, to the mines. To the south is a jeep track that goes to the top of the hill. At this cleared area, off to the side, is a memorial marker for Desert Bob. However, I don't know anything about the history of what happened. People take care of it.

The jeep track to the top heads south, gains a hundred feet to top out on one hill, then drops about 50 feet, then gains the final 200 feet to the top, the last 50 feet being steep and loose. The summit was about 40 feet from the road and mostly open with little brush. I looked around for a marker but found none, snapped some images, then sat in the shade of a tree for about a 15-minute break. It was 9:30 a.m., a two-hour hike, and a gain of about 1,100 feet from the lowest point in the East Fork canyon.

I had a great perch here, with excellent views of the surrounding peaks and canyons. North was Pine Butte, then Peeley, then Sheep and the Saddle Mountain, looking north to southwest. The land dropped quickly to the south. Across the way was Mount Ord. Even up here I could hear the occasional truck engine-braking going down the steep grades on highway AZ-87.

I hiked down the same route, going slow to manage the steep parts but making good time now since I had gravity on my side. I did not stop again until I was down in the canyon, back in the shade and the spring with the bees. I sat in the shade apart from the bees and had another break to rest and get my head right for the final 520-foot gain back to my car. In the sun, it was borderline hot and I was not looking forward to the uphill hike out.

I got a little lucky as there were patches of shade in segments along the road. I would trudge from one to the next, stop to rest a minute, then continue upward. In time, I had reached my car, the time now a shade before 11 a.m., a 75-minute egress. I changed clothes and relaxed, the temperature gauge reading in the low 90s outside. I was bushed. I decided not to continue down to Tempe and instead return to Payson, where I could work remotely.

The hike had gone well, the jeep road serving as a good trail, albeit steep and rocky in segments. I probably should have waited a week or two to let things cool down more. I was in the sun the whole way and ended up with a pretty good sunburn. But I had the whole place to myself, and enjoyed the solitude.

(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.