The Mountains of Arizona •
Durham Hills Highpoint • Durham Hills
• Arizona State Trust Lands
• Pinal County

Durham Hills Highpoint from where I started hiking

Closer in now

From an elevated ridge

Almost to the main ridge

At the saddle below the top

The last 30 feet or so

The summit yonder

West view, Picacho Peak and Newman Peak

East view, Black Mountain

South view, the Santa Catalinas in snow

All images

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Date: January 1, 2022 • Elevation: 3,180 feet • Prominence: 460 feet • Distance: 3.5 miles • Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes • Gain: 460 feet • Conditions: Sunny and cool with a breeze


I was on an impromptu driving tour of the mining towns south of Superior, partly through circumstances dictated by my experience on Lime Point earlier today. After being nearly blown off the mountain there due to strong winds and having to cancel the second part of that hike, I now had more time on my hands. So I drove south on AZ-77 through Kearny, Hayden and Winkelman, then to Oracle Junction, then northbound on AZ-79.

I had the Durham Hills in my sights now. I had not planned to be here today, so I did not have any maps. However, a couple months ago while driving through the area, I scouted the roads toward Durham Hill, just to see what I would encounter. So I had some sense of what to expect.

The road I took leads to a quarry facility about a half-mile west from the highway. Today being New Years, no one was here today, not a soul. From the front gates of this facility, I turned left onto a scanter track and drove in not far, just enough to kind of hide my car.

The Durham Hills Highpoint is easily seen, a big round summit on the north end of a ridge, about a mile west of me for now. I could hike by sight to it. From my car, I aimed generally west and got myself into some nasty tamarisk and other dense foliage that usually grow along arroyos. I had to battle this for a few minutes. Suddenly, I came to a berm about 6 feet tall. This was unexpected. Berms just don't happen like this in the desert.

I scampered onto this berm and saw what it was: it surrounded an area that was being dug out for the quarry. I walked the berm around this one area. When it ended, I dropped off and walked through these open areas, passing more berms along the way, some I went past, some I climbed and walked. The areas hemmed in by these berms were flat with standing water, like big ponds. These ponds were big enough to delay me. It took time to find a route past them. Some covered a half acre. There were random heavy machinery parked herein, but totally quiet.

Soon, I was past all this stuff and now back onto more natural desert terrain. Above me was a small hill, topped by a big saguaro. I used this hill as a bearing device. I could see it from just about anywhere and knew my car was east of it. Continuing west, I followed tracks, open terrain and light brush up and down and up and down low ridges, gaining and losing about 30 feet at a time.

Closer to the main peak, I crossed a good dirt road, then more desert terrain, coming to a fence. This fence was well contructed and hard to bypass. There was nowhere to push down the wire strands to step over it, and going under wasn't much better. I finally found a weak spot, and got myself over the wires without a scratch.

For all intents, I was now on the lower slopes of the highpoint hill. The summit is a big dome-shaped feature. The main ridge comes off it to the south, and off the ridge, a subridge comes off to the east. I was at the base of this subridge. I started up this ridge, trending right, the plan being to go up and over, rather than just up, since I should catch the higher ridge behind the nubbin above me and avoid unnecessary elevation gain and drop.

This plan worked but was rocky and brushy, and I was forced to use my hands in places to get up and past heaped boulders. I was soon on the subridge proper, from which it was another fast five minutes up more slope to the high ridge, now in the saddle below the summit. Looking up, it was rocky and brushy, but laid back nicely, no obvious rock barriers to worry me.

I started uphill, hopping from rock to rock, bypassing the brush (lots of palo verde, perhaps the most dense concentration of palo verde I've seen in the state). This went well and I was quickly on top, the highest point a rock outcrop toward the north end of the short summit ridge.

I took a ten minute break here, snapping photos, having a snack and drink, looking at the register log, and relaxing. The breeze up here wasn't as bad as it had been earlier today, but it was chilly when it did blow. The views were magnificent. The Santa Catalina Mountains rose on the south horizon, covered in snow, the air so clear I could see detail this far out. It looked like a painting.

Going down, I essentially retraced my route back to the good road I mentioned earlier. I was not eager to retrace my route through the quarry back to my car. Instead, I walked south on this good road a ways, then came to a left (east) turn and a "no trespassing" sign. I did not see any homes or other structures, so I trespassed on to this road that went east, but quickly hopped back into the brush and back on non-private land (it's almost all Arizona State Trust Lands out here). I could see the saguaro hill the whole way, so I just walked on an angle toward the hill, slightly right. This walk was a delight. There was no up and down, and the grass and trees and cactus were spaced nicely so I could find lanes at will.

I didn't entirely avoid the quarry grounds, but I was able to skirt them on the south. I could now see some of the buildings near the front gate, and suddenly, there was my car, right where I had left it. The round trip took 90 minutes and covered about 3.5 miles round trip, perhaps more when all the wiggles are accounted for. I liked this peak and hike a lot. As usual, what looks drab and boring from the highway is much prettier up close. The Durham Hills have a lot of big rounded rock outcrops all around. You'd never know that from the road.

I was now two peaks into the new year. At this pace, I'll have 730 by the year's end. I was pleased that things worked out and I could get in an unplanned second hike. From here, I drove back to Tempe to get dinner (Greek), clean up, eat and veg. Sayonara 2021, yokoso 2022.

(c) 2022 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.