The Mountains of Arizona •
Maricopa Mountain • Highpoint: Maricopa Mountains
• Sonoran Desert National Monument
• Highpoint: South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness
• Maricopa County

Maricopa Mountain as seen from far away, near highway 238

A mile or so closer, still far away

Now closer in, to the peak's northeast

Now starting up the lower ridge

The summit ridge and the rocky pinnacle

Now on the main east ridge, looking up at the top

Closing in on the top

Almost there

South view, the Javelina Mountains and Maricopa Peak, plus Big Horn Benchmark toward the near right

Southeast view, Table Top (with snow) in the distance

Other summit bump to the north

View of the probable true summit, as seen from the north bump

That rock pinnacle

Me, the pinnacle, and zooms of Maricopa Peak and Table Top with rare snow on top

Hiking out through big saguaro and poppies

All images

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The Arizona
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Date: February 24, 2019 • Elevation: 3,272 feet • Prominence: 1,442 feet • Distance: 11.4 miles • Time: 6 hours, 40 minutes • Gain: 1,750 feet • Conditions: Cool with blue skies and some high clouds • Teammates: Matthias Stender & Scott Peavy

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Ambiguity Alert: there are three mountains named Maricopa all relatively close by one another:

Maricopa Peak in the South Mountains in Phoenix. I distinguish this particular peak by naming it Ma Ha Tauk Ridge Highpoint, partly because that name sounds cool and also because I've never heard that peak called "Maricopa" in my years here;

Maricopa Peak in the Javelina Mountains about 10 miles south of Interstate-8 east of Gila Bend. I have not climbed this one yet so the link goes nowhere.

This particular Maricopa is found in the Sonoran Desert National Monument about halfway between Gila Bend and the city of Maricopa south of State Route 238. This peak is the highest point of the Maricopa Mountains but has no name other than Maricopa Mountains Highpoint, or Maricopa Mountain as a means to distinguish it from the other Maricopas.

Three of us teamed to hike this peak: Matthias and Scott, plus me. We'd been talking about this peak for a couple years but kept putting it off. Finally, we decided to go hike it, since it's so close to home and easy to get to. We met early at Matthias' place, and he drove us to a open dirt area north of the peak, south of the highway AZ-238 at the "Estrella" railroad siding. The Southern Pacific has a line that parallels AZ-238 the whole way between Maricopa and Gila Bend. It would pose a barrier as there is no easy way to cross the tracks and access the dirt roads on the other side.

We rolled in about 7:30, the sun still low, and very chilly with temperatures in the 30s. However, the sky was clear except for some high clouds. We had a big rain and snow event just two days earlier, and we were still feeling the cold air that came with the storm. We were forced to park just yards from the highway, but partially hidden in some brush. Lots of crud and junk was strewn about. We wondered if there were hobos nearby.

The crux of the whole hike may have been the railroad tracks and the trains that rumble by regularly. We could hear rumbles from a distance, so I went to the tracks and sure enough, a train was coming our way, but still far away, maybe a half-mile. We crossed the tracks quickly. Otherwise, we might be waiting twenty minutes for these long, slow-moving trains to pass.

On the other side, we came to a fence line and an opening, now on the Monument land. Two BLM tracks are found here, both shown on the topographic map. One goes due south, the other goes east and then south, eventually ending near an old mine about six miles away, near the base of Maricopa Mountain. We walked this second road, which was in pretty good shape. In about 90 minutes, we'd walked 4.5 miles to a bend in the road, northeast of the mountain.

We had a good view of the mountain: a flattish summit ridge and to its right (north), a rocky pinnacle. Below the summit ridge on the left was a long east-trending ridge we wanted to take going up. We left the road, aiming for some lower subridges. We crossed a few arroyos and slowly gained elevation, leading us to the toe of one of the subridges, where we stopped for a break. The day was warming slightly but was still cool. The ground was still damp, and rocks would sometimes come loose more easily in the damp soil.

We then started up the subridge. The going was easy and sometimes steep. We generally stayed on the spine and came to about a half-dozen rock outcrops, all of which were easily crossed or bypassed. The slopes formed into little ledges with vegetation holding it together. The brush was never thick.

In time, the subridge met the main east ridge, and we simply continued upward, outcrop to outcrop, never once needing to scramble. Toward the top, things steepen, but it was still easy. The last hundred feet was a little loose, with gravelly slopes and some loose rock. But we made it up with no problems. Now on the summit ridge, the apparent highest point was the middle bump of the ridge. We arrived here about 11:15, a climb of almost four hours. Matthias and Scott both mentioned the one-way hiking distance at 6.3 miles (give or take a tenth of a mile), with about 1,750 feet of gain.

We spent some time at the top, struggling to open the register. We were the first to sign in about three years, with names going back twenty years or more, mostly people we know. There was a breeze and it was chilly, but the skies were mostly clear. The views around us were remarkable: surrounding desert peaks such as Table Top and Maricopa Peak were covered in snow. Looking east and north, the Mazatzals and Superstitions were all white, down to about the 2,500-foot level. I have never seen that much snow on our surrounding peaks. It was a beautiful sight.

Looking north, there is another bump on the ridge that looks nearly as high, so we went over to it. It was easy to get to and in moments we were there. Looking back, the middle bump appears a tad higher but not by much. The treat here was a close-up view of that rock pinnacle. We snapped photos, then started back down the way we came up.

The hike down went quickly and was as easy as we found it going up. We were soon onto the sloping flats below the mountain. We decided to hike on a bearing-by-sight toward some low foothills near where we parked. We would eventually meet the road, so there was no chance of getting lost. This trek back was very scenic and enjoyable, a long walk in the desert and all its lovely green plants. After the recent storms, the desert here was green everywhere. The flowers were blooming in full force.

After a few miles, we came to the road, which we followed back to Matthias' car. We arrived back at 2:15 p.m.. According to their GPS, we'd hiked about 5.1 miles, so all we did was trim off a little over a mile going cross-country. But it was a fun trek through the lush desert greenery.

This was an enjoyable hike. The road walk was long and tedious, but the day was cool and so the walking went by fast. There were no unnecessary challenges and overall, it was a rewarding peak to claim.

(c) 2019 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.