The Mountains of Arizona
Lookout Knoll • Canelo Hills
• Coronado National Forest
• Santa Cruz County

About a third of the way in, I think that's Lookout Knoll poking above the foreground hills

Hiking through a burn

Lookout Knoll first appears

A more open shot

Approaching the saddle below the peak

Suddenly, I'm on the top

Southeast, more Canelo Hills, and Miller Peak and the Huachucas in back

The antenna structure

The benchmark, the two witness markers, and a fire control marker

Northwest, Pass Benchmark Peak to the left, the hills I hiked through ahead of me

Hiking out, the burn area again

The lower trail

An homage to my father, 5/13/1942 - 4/10/2022

All images

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The Arizona
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Date: April 10, 2024 • Elevation: 6,171 feet • Prominence: 679 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes • Gain: 1,340 feet (gross) • Conditions: Sunny and clear

ArizonaMainPBLoJUSGS BM Datasheet

Lookout Knoll is a major summit in the Canelo Hills in southern Santa Cruz County. It rises southeast of Canelo Pass, which is flanked on its other side by Pass Benchmark. The peaks are part of a line of hills that hem in the San Rafael Valley to the south.

I was here in January to climb Pass Benchmark Peak and another nearby peak. I returned today specifically to hike to Lookout Knoll. It was a last-minute hike. I was up early, answered some emails, but knowing I had a day open and no big meetings, decided to bail and go hike a peak. The weather today was much warmer than in recent days, and bright blue, not a cloud from horizon to horizon.

I left Bisbee about 8 a.m., stopped in Sierra Vista for gas and snacks, then followed routes AZ-90 and AZ-82 to Elgin Road, then south toward the community of Canelo, abutting the Coronado National Forest. I knew where to go from my January visit, and found the parking lot for the trailhead. I had driven 68 miles. With my delays (including getting behind a guy pulling a cattle trailer), it was a little after 9:30 when I started hiking. There was one other vehicle parked in this lot, a let-in point for the Arizona Trail.

Lookout Knoll is not visible from the trailhead, being hidden by a set of foreground hills. It was "warm", about 65°, but a very bright and intense sun. This is the time of year when the heat is first noticeable. At first, the ambient temperatures may be pleasant, but you feel the intensive radiant heat of the sun and the reflected warmth from the ground. But it wasn't uncomfortable. Frankly, I was happy it was warmer than before.

I followed the trail where it crosses the forest road, then down slightly, losing about 50 feet. Then it starts to gain steadily, aiming for the aforementioned foreground hills. It is an excellent trail, well maintained and easy to walk. Just a few spots were covered in rubbly boulders. I made good time.

The trail gains moderately steeply up these hills, coming to a gate at a fence line. Then the trail swings right and parallels the fenceline for awhile, passing through a small burn. I had not seen any big wildlife so far, but the hawks and other big birds were out in abundance, riding the thermals and every now and then swooping by to see if I was worth scavenging. They never got too close but I could hear their whoosh. I knew they were aware of me.

The trail eventually tops out on the highest of these hills, elevation 5,980 feet (interpolated). I did not go off trail to tag any highpoints, but it was close enough. This hill has a prominence of about 250 feet. Afterwards, its slowly descends, at which time I had my first unobstructed views of Lookout Knoll, a big forest-covered hump of a peak. I passed another gate along the way.

The trail dropped to the saddle below Lookout Knoll. To here I had hiked a little over two miles. The trail then veers east and heads downhill some more. I left the trail and aimed for the fenceline, finding some decent paths in spots. The forest here is mostly smaller trees, 15 feet tall at most, various small pines and oaks. There were lanes to follow but often I was obliged to move laterally to find them. I came upon one old ragged sweatshirt on the ground, evidence of a past crosser, but other than that, saw no other trash or evidence of crossers.

The top was right above me, about a 450-foot gain. The fenceline seemed to go to the top and I could make out a rough clearing in the trees, so I followed the fence upward, verring from it when the brush became too thick or when I found a path to follow. These paths went all over the place, so I always made sure I could see the fence. This was steep and slow-going. The brush closed in some of the time, and the rocks could be loose, too. I just went slow and took some standing breaks.

I was on top the peak a little after 11 a.m., a one-hour and 45-minute one-way hike covering three miles. The top is open, with an antenna structure nearby. I found the summit cairn easily, and also the benchmark "Canelo", its two witness markers, and a Fire Control marker stamped "Lookout Knoll". Views were very good. I could see more of the Canelo Hills to the southeast, big Miller Peak with snow on its slopes farther away, and peaks into Mexico looking south. I stopped to sign in the register. There had been a group here about a month ago, and names went back 30+ years, so this peak sees some visitation. The Southern Arizona Hiking Club comes here regularly.

I spent about fifteen minutes up top, having a break and also wandering around and looking at the views. For the descent, I followed the same route down, getting back to the Arizona Trail, then just followed that out to my car. I made much better time on the egress, but still had to reclimb that 250 feet to top out on the first hill again. I was back to my car about 12:45 p.m., a little under 90 minutes for the hike out.

I had no plans for more hikes, as it was warmer now. I drove back the way I came, inspecting a couple roads and gates off the highway for future hikes and access, but never really stopped. I just passed on through Sierra Vista and back into Bisbee, arriving about an hour later.

This was a hearty hike, but easy due to the fine trail and easy navigation. Even the off-trail segment was mostly on faint paths or through open lanes. It would be natural to pair this with Pass Benchmark Peak if anyone is thinking about coming down here. The land here is very pretty.

(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.