The Mountains of Arizona •
Deer Hill • Tonto National Forest
• Mazatzal Mountains
• Maricopa County

Deer Hill, Arizona
Starting up the old road, summit can't be seen yet
Deer Hill, Arizona
On the first rise, where the road drops. Up ahead it meets a crest. The summit may be the rounded bump to the left of the pointier one
Deer Hill, Arizona
Saguaro stand tall and vertical on the hillside across from me
Deer Hill, Arizona
This is Peak 3552. It was going to be my bonus peak for the day but I didn't want to mess with cliffs
Deer Hill, Arizona
Deer Hill to the right
Deer Hill, Arizona
A lonely cattle trough sits in a flat spot, peak in the background
Deer Hill, Arizona
Marching uphill to the top, a hawk was circling around me and I was able to catch him in the image
Deer Hill, Arizona
Summit! The prickly pear sits right on the top. In back are Four Peaks and shadows made by the clouds
Deer Hill, Arizona
West view, more big peaks
Deer Hill, Arizona
Lake Roosevelt. Windy Hill is the island. I hiked it in 2019 where an isthmus connected it to "mainland".
Deer Hill, Arizona
Hiking out, the road drops then gains that bump, where I was standing when I took photo #2 above
Deer Hill, Arizona
Walking down to the trailhead near the marina (blue roofs). The lake level is so high it has inundated some shoreline RV spots

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Date: March 25, 2023 • Elevation: 3,831 feet • Prominence: 391 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 4 hours • Gain: 1,850 feet • Conditions: Sunny with a few puffy clouds


Deer Hill is one of many ranked peaks in the Mazatzal Mountains clumped near the Roosevelt Dam and overlooking Lake Roosevelt. I have not been here in a long time, the last time being when I hiked Vineyard Mountain back in 2018. I found Deer Hill while browsing maps and also saw that it's close to a couple other ranked peaks and also has roads in the area which would expedite travel. It all looked like a good excuse to come back this way.

I left Tempe around 7 a.m., stopped in Globe for snacks, then drove AZ-188 for 30 miles to the marina area alongside Lake Roosevelt. Opposite the main marina entrance is a small mobile home community, and within this community is a tiny trailhead parking lot, a let-in point for the Arizona Trail. I arrived to this lot at 9 a.m., the only car here (it can hold three comfortably). I was ready to go in minutes, locked up the car and started walking at 9:15.

The trail at first is an asphalt path that runs a few hundred yards to a historic cemetery. Near the entrance to the cemetery, the actual trail picks up to the left. It's well defined but steep with loose rock, but not difficult. It gains elevation fast, makes a leftward traverse and meets with Tonto Forest Road 1080, which parallels power lines that run up and over the mountains here, to where I have no idea.

This road is also steep, aiming for a pass up ahead. The rock here was also loose, lots of baseball-sized rocks that would roll at the slightest touch. Another hiker came walking down and we stopped to chat. He has a place in that mobile home community and hikes this road often. For exercise, it can't be beat. It doesn't take too long to gain good elevation and get some excellent elevated views of the lake and of the Sierra Ancha mountains across the lake. We talked for a few minutes, which helped me relax after a few minutes of strenuous walking. We went on our ways, and I was glad to meet him. I was not expecting anyone to be honest.

The road achieves a saddle. I stopped here for another break and studied what was ahead of me. Across the canyon stood Peak 3552, which was going to be my bonus peak for the day. Looking up-canyon, the road drops into it, then steeply up the slopes about a mile away. These would be the slopes on the north flanks of Deer Hill, which for now was not visible.

I continued on the road, dropping about 120 feet into the canyon bottom. It crosses the creek therein, which was flowing. Beyond the creek, the road drops about five degrees in quality. Up to now, a stout Jeep with proper tires, suspension and clearance could be driven up to the pass and down to the creek. It would be rough but not impossible. But beyond the creek, it gets bad. Even the guy I talked to, who said he likes to explore these roads in a side-by-side, said he tought this road would be impassible. And I might add, there is no room to turn around once at the creek.

For me, this "road" was now just a wide pile of rocks and deep ruts that served as an ad-hoc trail. It becomes extremely steep as it gains the slopes. In places, erosion had dug channels easily four feet deep. There'd be no way anything could travel on it. There'd be no way to straddle the sides, nor squeeze within the channel. Even for hiking, it was rotten. I didn't even bother. I got onto the grassy slopes and busted directly uphill, about a hundred-foot gain, to get myself onto this saddle, Deer Hill now close by south along this ridge. I stopped again for a break. So far, everything was working out well. The weather was sunny and cool with puffy clouds moving through.

I took a look at Peak 3552 and saw its many cliff bands. I gave up on my plan to hike it. It was going to be my bonus peak and I did not want to expend any unnecessary energy for a peak that wasn't that important to me. It is a lovely peak, and I took an image of it. I just wasn't going to climb it.

I got up and started the ridge-walk to Deer Hill. I gained an easy slope to top out on a broad bump, where I could see Deer Hill finally. It was on the far end of the ridge and had a long sloping profile, no cliffs or other barriers. I then descended to a clearing with a water trough in the middle. In moments, I found a cattle trail and followed it as far as it would go. This trail was welcome. The cross-country hiking would not have been difficult, mostly grasses and cactus and scattered small trees, but any path is always welcome.

I followed this cow path as it gains upslope and toward the higher ridge. This path stayed well defined the whole way, and went farther than I expected. It "ends", kind of, in a clearinng below Deer Hill, a grassless area that cattle obviously use for a hanging out. I never saw any cattle, and interestingly, saw no sign of them, not one pile of cow dung to step into. I was now on the long slope below the summit. I started walking uphill, and wouldn't you know, I found a cow path! So I followed it uphill to where it finally disappeared. The cattle evidently get pretty close to the summit. They're very close to figuring out how to summit peaks. It's just a matter of time for them.

The final few feet went well. A hawk was circling me almost the entire time. It wasn't squawking or swooping me, but it was definitely aware of me, probably making sure I wouldn't mess with its nest. I was on top of Deer Hill, roughly two hours after starting my hike, a three-mile walk with about 1,700 feet of net gain. A prickly-pear cactus grows exactly on the summit. I found the register and signed in, the first here in 9 years. I snapped photos and rested. I had great views of Vineyard Mountain, then the big Four Peaks massif with a big puffy cloud over it, and the long sweep of the Mazatzals as they head north fronting Lake Roosevelt.

I also studied the lake. Given all the recent rains we have had, the lake has filled to capacity, enough to where it has inundated some lake-side RV spots and docks down by the marina. What are normally spits of land into the lake are now islands, the various isthmuses (isthmi?) now under water. Windy Hill, a ranked peak in the middle of the lake that is normally connected to the mainland by such an isthmus, was now an actual island.

I also took a look at another ranked peak to the west. It was about a mile away and I thought about going over to it, but frankly, wasn't that enthusiastic about it. This had been a good hike already and I got what I came for. A couple bees were hassling me anyway, so I started down after about ten minutes up here. It is a lovely summit, not too exciting, but worth a visit.

I descended the same way, finding that cow path which turned out to be the same one I had been on. It connects to that cleared area, then on down to the trough. I was back to the main road quickly, which I walked out without too many hassles, just needing to go slow over the loose terrain. So I get to the long slope above the mobile homes, about where I met the other hiker, and an effing rock rolled laterally from under me and down I went. It's one thing to pitch forward or fall back because you can usually catch yourself or at least mitigate the fall. But in this case, the fall to the side happens so fast there is little time to react. So I fell. I was able to keep it to a controlled plop, but I landed hard on my butt and also gave my knee a hard bend. This is the second time in three hikes I have done this, and it's always on a road like this. I was fine. I lay there a few seconds and said some bad words, then got up and started walking again.

The remainder went fast, an easy walk down the trail to the cemetery and back to my car, a four-hour hike covering six miles. It was 1 p.m. now. I stopped into the store in the main marina building. They didn't have very much of anything. I wanted an Aleve for my knee but they were sold out. I headed back into Globe, looking at a couple other peaks alongside the highway as maybes, but I didn't stop for any of them. In this case, I figured it best to rest and let my knee relax. Within a day it felt 100% fine.

Traffic was moderate into the city. The usual pinch-point along US-60 where people leaving the Renaissance Fair wasn't too bad, and I think it's winding down anyway. However, in Mesa, the entirety of US-60 was closed west of the Loop-202 interchange, so everyone was shunted onto the 202. But traffic was okay too, no problems. I rewarded myself with a chicken shawarma plate at a nearby Greek place, then on home to shower and rest.

So, Deer Hill won't ever be over-run with hikers, and it's hard to see anyway from the highway, but it was a fun and fairly simple hike, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being back in the area after so many years and marvelling at how much Lake Roosevelt has changed with all the rains we have had. Speaking of rains, the wildflowers were starting to bloom. It wasn't too heavy now but there were patches of them. The hillsides were all green with grass. In a week or two, I bet these slopes will be very colorful with flowers.

(c) 2023 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. WHA