The Mountains of Arizona •
East Mountain • Pinal Mountains
• Tonto National Forest
• Gila County

East Mountain is the bump in the middle, I think

East Mountain as seen from about a mile from the south

Slightly closer in

Last saddle below the top


• • •

The Arizona
Mountains Gazetteer

Click to find out more!

Date: November 20, 2020 • Elevation: 6,892 feet • Prominence: 692 feet • Distance: 4.4 miles • Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes • Gain: 1,180 feet (gross) • Conditions: Sunny with high clouds and haze then clearing, mild overall • Teammate: B.


East Mountain is east of Pinal Peak in the Pinal Mountains south of Globe. We came here today, a "mental rest day" for me from work. This would be our first time together back in the heart of the Pinals since 2006, when we camped and tagged Pinal Peak's top. I was interested in the peak as a short day-hike adventure, and figured on a weekday, traffic on the narrow forest roads would be light and that we'd see very few people or vehicles.

We left Payson about 10 a.m. and drove the 75 miles to Globe via state route AZ-188. I had not driven this highway since last Spring, well before the massive Bush Fire of June 2020 burned just about everything west of the highway and closed much of it down for days at a time. Today, traffic was light, and there were a couple of spots where we had to stop and wait for the pilot car to lead us through stretches where a lane was shut down entirely. We were in Globe about 11:30.

In Globe, we followed US-60 through town, following signs for the Besh-Ba-Gowah archaeological site. This entails following narrow residential streets and making a few quick turns, but we had no trouble staying on route. A couple miles later, we turned southbound onto Icehouse Canyon Road, just past the Besh-Ba-Gowah site. We followed this road a couple miles to a junction, Tonto FR-112 going straight, and FR-55 going right toward Pinal Peak. We stayed straight on FR-112. The road is paved for a couple more miles, passing by a bunch of homes and small horse properties, but nothing grand or fancy, the kinds of places you'd expect in a mining town.

Pavement ends after the last home, the road hereafter hard-pack dirt. It gains toward the base of the range, and then heads south into Pinal Creek Canyon, aiming for the Pioneer Pass Recreation Area (and Pioneer Pass, the actual pass). The road goes in and out of each and every fold in the ridge. We went slow, no faster than 10 m.p.h., and had no traffic except for one vehicle coming down. We were able to scoot by one another carefully. In time, we arrived to the Pioneer Pass camping area, about 5 miles from where pavement had ended. I backed us into an open spot. It was noon when we arrived. I set up the camp chairs and shade tent. The day was sunny but hazy with high clouds, and mild, about 65 degrees here.

I planned to hike to East Mountain while βð would go on adventures of her own. I left at 12:15, hiking uphill toward Pioneer Pass. I was closer than I thought, and arrived to the pass in about fifteen minutes. The road to here was good and we could have driven it, but the pass itself was shadeless, whereas back at "camp", we had tall pines and lots of shade. I hung a left and started hiking up Trail 214.

The trail gains steeply at first, then drops about 40 feet, then regains the elevation and conforms to the western slopes and ridges coming off Peak 6520. I was in thick forest and saw a couple piles of fresh bear scat, so each time I'd round a blind curve, I'd bang my sticks and make noise to scare off any theoretical bears. I was soon at a pass, elevation 6,390 feet, between Peaks 6520 and 6780. There is a fenceline here, and a narrow pedestrian stile to allow people though but keep out ... horses maybe? Or bears?

The trail is now on the east side of Peak 6780. It gets a little narrow in places with steep slopes below, but it was always safe, just a matter of minding one's steps on the narrow bits. I was quickly past Peak 6780, at the last saddle below East Mountain. The trail stays on the lower west slopes of East Mountain. I left the trail near the saddle, walking up an old clearing now covered in low mountain oak, about two feet high with open lanes most of the way. This worked well, only a few spots requiring actual bushwhacking. Closer to the top, the lower brush ceases and the big trees resume. I was able to find better lanes and was soon on top, the time 1:30.

The top was mostly open, the summit log in a jar in a cairn partially hidden by a bush. I signed in, four days after the past party. It seems the peak sees regular visitors, perhaps a few per month when the weather is nice. I had good views mainly to the east, looking down at Globe and the lands toward the San Carlos Indian Reservation. I did not stay long, perhaps 10 minutes. I started down, following the same general route.

Going down went well, but I ended up doing more bushwhacking than necessary, not trying to stick to lanes. One back on the actual trail, it was almost a jog-walk back to the pass and back down to camp. I was back at 2:30, a descent of slightly under an hour. I had not seen any other hikers, and my only human encounters were with some 4-wheelers out driving the roads. I saw no bears, but at one point spooked something large, listening to it slowly lumber through the trees below. I bet it was a bear.

βð had been on a hike of her own, walking up a ridgeline about 400 vertical feet, getting to a point roughly below the pass between East Mountain and Peak 6780. We may have been no farther than a quarter-mile from one another. She found an old burned-out A-frame cowboy shack, from back in the old days when this was someone's ranch. She was back to camp before me, relaxing in the shade-tent with the tunes playing. We stayed here another 90 minutes, just sitting and relaxing in the pleasant conditions, in no hurry to get moving. This was good medicine for both of us. By now, the day-users had left, so we were alone up here.

We got moving about 4 p.m. as the shadows started to grow long. Being a friday, we expected people would be driving up here so we wanted to be down before to soon. The drive went slowly, as I was in low gear the whole way, and we only saw one vehicle and one ATV going up. We were back in Globe about 4:30. We did not stop, just driving back to Payson, arriving as it got dark. My hike had gone well, βð got in a hearty hike herself, we both fell and got bloody scratches, and we celebrated with tasty Mexican food takeout.

Alas, my camera had a smudge on its lens, so all my images came out with an ugly blur in the upper left corner. I had to do some clever cropping to get decent photos out of the raw jpegs. You can probably see the smudge on my photos. The day's hazy skies did not help either and unfortunately, my photos overall weren't that good.

Comment on the road: I drove our Subaru Forester, which handled the road well. A decent two-wheel drive sedan would be fine if driven slowly, assuming dry conditions. The main issue were small erosion ditches in spots, and short stretches of rocks. The road is narrow and winding, and if a vehicle is coming the other way, demands a little care to pass. There are wide spots to pull aside too, but not always. The inner ditch along the road is deep and easy to get stuck if not careful. We saw one person with a short (12-foot) trailer. Anything longer would be difficult to drive up, prone to tipping into the ditch, and up high, the camping spots aren't really designed for pulling through.

(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.