The Mountains of Arizona

Mount Ian

The lower trail, looking up at the range crest. We have a lot to go still

Patch of spooky trees about midway up the canyon

Upper ridge as we approach Florida Saddle

About an hour later, Mount Ian comes into view. It's atop the rocky ridge seen above

Mount Ian summit not too far away

Now just moments away

On Mount Ian, looking south

Big Mount Wrightson

Northeast view, Florida Peak

West: Mount Hopkins with the observatory, Pete Mountain lower right

88 Mac

88 Mac as seen from the saddle

Approaching 88 Mac

Its rocky domey summit

The summit, with Matthias rising from a bush

Look back at Mount Wrightson from 88 Mac's top. Mount Ian blends in with Mount Wrightson from this vantage

Florida Peak

Florida Peak next on our agenda

Last fifty grassy feet to the top

Cool view of the high range crest: Wrightson barely sticks up to the left, then Mount Ian and two subsidiary peaks, then 88 Mac to the right

Top of Florida

Looking north: closest peak is Castle Dome which I hiked last week. In back would be the Weigles Ridge peaks and farther back, Mount Fagan

Descending Florida Peak

As I drove out, this neat feller was just sitting in the road. I hope no one ran him over

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Santa Rita Mountains Crest

Mount Ian • 88-Mac • Florida Peak

Matthias and I teamed today to conquer the highest peaks of the Santa Rita Mountains not named Mount Wrightson. On the agenda were Mount Ian, 88-Mac, and Florida Peak, all ranked summits the lie north and northeast of Mount Wrightson. For me, it would be my first time high on the Santa Rita Range crest since 2004, when I last climbed Mount Wrightson.

We planned to start on the east side, following the trail up Cave Canyon to Florida Saddle, then catching the Crest Trail and taking it to Mount Ian. Then, as we would return we would make short side trips to tag 88-Mac and Florida Peak before hiking out. We were looking at a long day both mile-wise and time-wise, as well as over 4,000 feet of gross elevation gain. This would be the first time in a long time I have gained over 4,000 feet in a single day.

We agreed to meet at 6:30 a.m. at the junction where Coronado Forest Road 92 (signed for Gardner Canyon) leaves highway AZ-83 about five miles north of Sonoita. I left my home in Bisbee at 5 a.m., the sun just starting to rise, stopped at my usual stop in Sierra Vista for gas and snacks, and pulled into Gardner Canyon Road at 6:10. Matthias rolled in five minutes later.

We convoyed in about five miles, and I parked my car at one of the Arizona Trail trailheads. Thereafter, Matthias' 4-Runner would be better suited for the remainder of the road into Cave Canyon. There is one steep drop into a creek bottom that would be marginal for my Subaru, although we did see some on the road farther in. We got to the end of the road at a small parking area where the trail up Cave Canyon begins, elevation 5,700 feet. It was a little before 8 a.m., the day already sunny and calm with no clouds, temperatures for now about 55°. With a lot of miles and elevation gain ahead of us, we got busy walking, starting nearly exactly at 8 a.m..

Mount Ian
• Santa Rita Mountains
• Coronado National Forest
• Santa Cruz County

Date: May 4, 2024 • Elevation: 9,146 feet • Prominence: 346 feet • Distance: 11.4 miles • Time: 7 hours & 50 minutes whole hike • Gain: 3,602 feet (gross) • Conditions: Sunny cloudless skies, calm and pleasant • Partner: Matthias Stender • Wildlife: Desert tortoise!


The trail at first is an old road that went in another mile and a half toward the Rock Candy Mine site. We walked in about two hundred feet and came to a creek crossing. About ten minutes later, we came to an odd fence and gate in the trail, the gate about four feet off the ground, our guess to keep the horses out.

The trail to the Rock Candy site was rocky and wide, crossing the creek multiple times. Fortunately, the creek wasn't flowing heavily and there were plenty of rocks to step on to get across. During this mile-and-a-half stretch, we gained about 400 feet in elevation. Down low in the canyon, we had a lot of shade and some giant shade trees such as cottonwoods. It was very pretty and this would be an easy and fun day hike for people not interested in going higher.

At the Rock Candy site, there is a metal sign mentioning that Florida Saddle is 1.9 miles farther. Any semblance of a road ends here, as it narrows into a footpath. It crosses the creek one or two more times, then starts gaining upslope. From here to Florida Saddle would be the steepest and biggest gain portion of the hike, about 1,600 feet in just under two miles.

The trail makes a few switchbacks, then at times just runs straight uphill at an angle, sometimes steeply. It was a good trail with a good tread, almost no rolling rocks to slow one down. Most of the time it was pitched at a moderate grade so that once I was in a breathing rhythm, I could make good time without needing to stop and rest.

This segment took a little over an hour and was tedious. Fortunately, we were in shade about half the time, and the views were worth the effort. We could see the range crest way up high, a reminder we still had a lot of work to do. Finally, we arrived onto Florida Saddle and took a break. We each cached a bottle of water for when we returned in a few hours.

The Crest Trail starts here. It switchbacks steeply up a slope of burned trees, then curls around a small nubbin coming to a smaller saddle about 300 feet higher, now directly below 88-Mac's northern flank. We stayed on the Crest Trail as it sidehills below 88-Mac, where it eventually rises to the saddle on the range crest itself just south of 88-Mac. So far, so good. The trail was in good shape.

We continued southbound on the Crest Trail. It gained about another 80 feet, then dropped about 160 feet in about a quarter mile. Here, the trail was just a shade haggard, needing some attention from the trail crews after a winter of snow. There were some downed branches, some water damaged sections and a couple short spots where some sloughing had taken place. In these short segments, the trail would camber outward with runouts below of a hundred-plus feet. As long as we stepped carefully, there was no problem.

The trail comes to a saddle near a rocky hill, then makes a westward turn, going steeply upslope toward the rocky ridge that includes Mount Ian. It's hard to discern which rise is Mount Ian from down below as the ridge is fairly uniform. We hiked along the trail until we were a little southeast of the peak. We hiked to a highpoint in the trail, then left it, going upslope through a thicket of woody brush and rocky tiers to get onto the high crest.

We could now see Mount Ian's rounded rocky summit up ahead. We generally stayed right (east) of the crest where the tread was safer, with occasional cairns to follow. Just the last ten feet required hands to shimmy up a tiny chute to gain the summit. Finally, we had made it, three and a half hours after starting, 5.7 miles said Matthias' GPS.

The top is open and rocky, with spots of low brush but plenty of sitting rocks and fabulous views in all directions. The summit cairn held two register bottles. We signed in, noting some people have been here recently. For people summitting Mount Wrightson from Baldy Saddle, it's not very far to make a side trip to Mount Ian, and many people do. The Southern Arizona Hiking Club also makes regular visits to this summit.

Mount Wrightson stood tall to the south. If we looked carefully, we could see some people milling about on its summit. Looking west, we could see Mount Hopkins and its observatories, and smaller Pete Mountain. North we could see the range crest and distant peaks up by Tucson. Looking east we could see the Whetstone, Mustang and Huachuca ranges. The day was a little hazy though, so crisp high-contrast views were not possible. For example, Baboquivari's big pillar was barely visible on the distant western horizon.

After such a long hike, gaining over 3,500 feet to get here, we stayed up top longer than normal, almost twenty minutes. The weather up here was fantastic. The temperature was pleasant, about 60°, and calm, with virtually no breezes. It felt good to be successful on this peak, and for me, good to be back here, over 20 years since I was last this high in the Santa Ritas.

We began our descent, easing down the rocks and through the brush back to the trail, which we followed downward (and a little upward) to place ourselves in the saddle below 88-Mac, the next peak on the agenda. We were at the saddle about 30 minutes after leaving Mount Ian's summit.


Elevation: 8,850 feet (Lidar) • Prominence: 314 feet • Distance: 0.8 mile • Gain: 314 feet • Conditions: Same


This peak is known as 88 Mac for reasons I cannot explain. The 88 likely comes from its elevation, 8,853 feet if going by the map, or 8,850 feet if going by the 1-meter Lidar data. Lidar shows definitively that this peak is a ranked peak with 314 feet of prominence. Previously, it was a soft-ranked peak.

From the saddle, we walked up a slope and into a small thicket of manzanita, finding a lane through it that required a little shimmy down five feet of rock to get back onto more open slope. We continued upward across a grassy meadow, aiming for the rocks ahead.

Once amid the rocks, we followed cairns that helped a lot. There are plenty of route options, but the brush can be thick in spots so the best idea is to avoid it whenever possible. The rocks themselves lie back well and are full of holds and ledges. We were mostly able to keep it to walking, only using hands for balance in a couple spots.

The final portion is up one last steepish rocky slope and chute system, which fed us onto the short grassy summit ridge, featuring one large bush near the highpoint. This one-way hike didn't take long, maybe 20 minutes. We took another break, signed into the register, and looked around. From here, we had a great elevated view of Mount Wrightson, then Mount Ian which blended in with Mount Wrightson behind it.

We spent about ten minutes up here. The small amount of gain put us near 4,000 total feet for the day, and yes, I was feeling fatigued. I could have spent an hour here napping, but it was better to keep moving.

The downhill went well, as we followed cairns and never needed hands to manage the rocks. We got back to the grassy meadow, then followed a different line down the slope to re-meet the trail a little lower down, which worked perfectly as it was in the direction we wanted to be anyway.

Florida Peak

Elevation: 8,186 feet (Lidar) • Prominence: 365 feet • Distance: 1.2 miles • Gain: 365 feet • Conditions: Warming but still nice


Back on the Crest Trail, we made good time descending back to Florida Saddle, arriving there about thirty minutes later. We took a short break here before starting up the trail and slopes toward Florida Peak, a little over a half mile to the east.

We got onto the Sawmill Trail, which heads east on the west ridge of Florida Peak. This trail was wide and easy to follow, cutting neatly through some thick manzanita and gaining steeply up one rocky section. The trail stayed mainly on top of the ridge but would sometimes drop a few feet to one side or the other as needed.

A little higher, the trail dropped to the north and became a little thin, but then swung right and back on top the ridge. We followed it until it made a distinct rightward bend where it starts downhill. We were about 120 feet below the top.

We left the trail and walked through clumpy grass and a few scattered trees to gain the summit, which was a big rock pile partially covered by a big bush and nearby tree. We signed into the log and sat again to rest. I was officially tired by now, happy to have a third summit for the day, and happy that from here on out, there'd be no more uphills.

We spent about ten minutes up here. The views were good, offering an elevated view of the high Santa Rita crest. I had forgotten how steep and abrupt the Santa Ritas are. It can easily mess with one's vertigo, but the views and the effect are impressive.

We walked down the grass and trail back to Florida Saddle for one last break and to recollect our water we had cached earlier. By now, about 2:15 p.m., it was warm, but only about 70°. However, it was dry and I could feel the persistent thirst. I had brought extra water so I was fine. We had about 3.5 miles to hike out, all on trail and mostly in shade, and most importantly, all downhill.

We got moving, Matthias ahead of me. He stayed in sight for the first ten minutes but then took off at his own pace, which was fine with me. I went at a pace that worked for me. My left knee was feeling a little weak so I moved slowly at times, but at other times, especially on segments of trail with a good tread and slope, I made excellent time.

This was just a long downhill slog, so I didn't think of much except for the ground in front of me. I just hiked and hiked, slowly descending, finally back to the Rock Candy Mine site. Then from there, it was the multiple creek crossings, then to that odd gate, and finally, back to the trailhead, where Matthias was waiting. He'd beaten me out by five minutes. It was 3:50 p.m., nearly 8 hours after we had started earlier today.

I was bushed, but feeling pretty good too. As soon as I sat down, I could feel my calves turn into jelly. Matthias took a few minutes to sort his things out, then we got rolling.

Some women had set up a camp here, one driving a Subaru, and another driving a very small sedan with small wheels. We were both impressed that the smaller vehicle had made it in. I had mentioned earlier that it would have been marginal in a Subaru, but I could have done it. But that smaller vehicle, we both agreed it was not smart to do that. Getting back up that steep creek crossing could be a real problem ... but not our problem. In a few minutes, he dropped me back off at my car.

I got myself changed, then we shook hands for a fun day on the peaks. I left first and a mile or so later, see a round rock in the road with stubby feet — a tortoise! I stopped to get his photo. My concern was that someone would hit him, but I had to hope that other drivers would be careful too. A guy driving up behind me also stopped. I think everyone likes to see a tortoise in the wild.

Once back on pavement I stopped in Sonoita for drinks, then in Sierra Vista for Thai take-out and some Aleve, then on home for a shower, a good meal, and some sleep.

I was very pleased with today's hike. These are three worthy peaks. Mount Ian is of interest because it's a 9,000-footer, and the other two because they fall into the top-200 by elevation. I had not hiked this far and with this much elevation gain in a while. I actually felt great. I moved well, and other than just the usual post-hike fatigue and soreness, felt fine a couple hours later. Thanks to Matthias for proposing these peaks.

I used the 1-meter Lidar dataset "USGS one meter x51y351 AZ BrawleyRillito FEMA 2018" to determine the elevations and prominences of the latter two peaks. For 88-Mac, I wanted to resolve its prominence status, which going by the map, gave a figure range of 293-333 feet, which means it's soft-ranked, but probably ranked. The Lidar figures show that the peak has an elevation of 8,850 feet and a prominence of 314 feet.

For Florida Peak, there is a spot elevation on its lower northern summit, but no spot elevation for its main summit, so I wanted to look that up too. I also found its saddle elevation, showing that the peak has a summit of 8,186 feet, and a saddle of 7,821 feet, for a prominence figure of 365 feet. Matthias mentioned that this was important as he maintains the Top-200 Arizona peaks by elevation. Now that 88-Mac is officially a ranked peak, it gets on the list, and also, that the lowest cutoff elevation is roughly about Florida Peak's elevation. Matthias tells me it barely squeaks onto the list.

As usual, those with the inclination can check my work at the 3DEP website. I feel my figures are accurate to +/- 1 foot.

(c) 2024 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.