The Mountains of Arizona

Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
Merrit Benchmark Hill
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
Merrit Benchmark Hill, as seen from where I parked. This is not the highpoint yet. It is hidden from this vantage
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
Just starting the steep stuff
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
About halfway up
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
Top is up there in back
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
Almost there
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
The top
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
West: Harcuvar Mountains, possibly the Buckskins way in the back
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
North: Date Creek, Weaver and other ranges
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
East: more hills in this here small range
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
South: Harquahalas in the distance, Highway AZ-71 to the left, unnamed peaks closer in
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona
Hiking down, maybe you can see my car by the road
Merrit Benchmark, Arizona

Peak 3265, across the street from Merrit Benchmark Hill

The peak up ahead

Summit cairn

Another summit cairn

View west, Merrit Benchmark Hill at left, then way in back is Tres Alamos, which I hiked the same day as Peak 3265

View of the peak from a fence

That funky old gas station...

All images

• • •

The Arizona
Mountains Gazetteer

Click to find out more!

The Merritt Hills

Merrit Benchmark Hill • Peak 3265

The Merritt Hills straddle highway AZ-71, where it connects US-93 to US-60 near the town of Aguila. The hills lies about 4 miles southwest of where AZ-71 crosses under US-93. This is a good batch of hills with about 6 or 7 ranked summits, but because they are so remote from everywhere, they hide in plain sight.

The maps do not identify the hills by name, but "Merritt Pass" (with two t's) is identified, so the natural assumption is that these hills are the Merritt Hills (the benchmark stamped with just one t). The only source I could find that mentions these hills as the Merritt Hills was a 1985 geological study of the hills. You can see it here.

Merrit Benchmark Hill
• Merritt Hills
• Arizona State Trust Lands
• Yavapai County

Date: December 16, 2021 • Elevation: 3,442 feet • Prominence: 671 feet • Distance: 1.2 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 740 feet • Conditions: Cool, sunny

ArizonaMainPBLoJUSGS BM Datasheet

I was returning to the Phoenix area after a week with my father in Nevada. I left very early, planning to hike Table Mountain Plateau north of Dolan Springs. However, I bailed on that hike almost immediately. A big storm had moved through the region two days ago, and in Dolan Springs, the snow line was down to the town itself. It wasn't heavy snow, an inch or two, but it made the roads muddy. I drove in about three miles and did not like the feel of the roads. So, I backed off. I can always come back when it's dry.

I got back onto US-93, drove into Kingman and onto Interstate-40, then onto US-93 again through Wikieup. I was making great time, which is not what I wanted to do. I'd be home before noon at my pace, and there wasn't anything pressing to do at home. The day was cool, sunny and clear. I'm already in the region, so I looked for another peak to hike. I had no maps so I'd be going by memory. I chose Merrit Benchmark Hill.

These hills lie south of the junction of US-93 and AZ-71, which is the connector between US-60 at Aguila, to US-89 at Congress. I chose it because it was alongside the highway, and it looked straightforward. I would not need a map.

In 1991, I was a driver with Ryder Truck (technically, with a contractor). We'd go to places and drive the trucks back to Southern California. I was only on the job for two weeks. I hated it. One of the runs was to Prescott, so we followed Interstate-10 to US-60 to AZ-71 to US-89 into Prescott. We stopped at a big gas station/cafe complex at the junction of US-93 and AZ-71. I recall it was named "Scott", which is a totally cool name. Then, over the years, it shut down, things got carted off, and slowly it disappeared, piece by piece. Today, the lot is surrounded by cyclone fencing, and only a couple brick structures remain. You'd never know what was here back in the day. I remember we just milled around to stretch our legs, and I had absolutely no idea where we were.

I drove about three miles to situate myself alongside the hill, which lies northwest of the highway. I found a nifty track that went in about fifty feet, then curled behind a palo verde, shielding me from drivers on the highway. My car was well hidden, which gave me peace of mind. It was roughly noon, sunny and dry, temperature about 60°. I got dressed into my thrashed Wrangler jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, my poles and a simple pack.

I scooted beneath a fence, then started hiking a beeline to the base of the hill, gaining elevation almost immediately. I angled left slightly to catch a soft ridge, then stayed on it as it angled right, now on a steeper ridge with rocks up ahead. The brush was spread out, consisting of the usual, such as palo verde, barrel cactus, grass, and a few saguaro. As the slope steepend, it became more rocky. They heaped at times into small "cliffs", but these were easily climbed, like stairsteps.

There was no mystery to the route. I climbed up to whatever was above me, then looked to see what was next, went to that point, and kept doing that. One slope was a tad steep and loose, and on the highest ridge, the rocks were abundant to where I had to weave through them or sometimes straight up them. Soon I was on top, the one-way hike taking about 40 minutes, covering about 0.6 mile. It wasn't far at all.

The top was a modest bump, but open with great views in all directions. The Harquahalas dominated the view to the south, the southern Bradshaws to the north, and peaks in every direction. I snapped an image of the benchmark, and relaxed for a few minutes and had a snack.

I followed the same route going down, a little more efficient because I could see things better from a higher viewpoint. The rocks were solid, most of the time, so I used them often to stabilize myself and hoist down the two- and three-foot steps that appeared often. I was back to my car in about a half hour, the whole journey taking close to 90 minutes. The climb had gone well, it was short, I got a decent peak done, and I wasted time. Everything worked out. None of the rocks were particularly challenging. It was solid Class-2 all the way up and down, maybe a move here and there a Class-2+.

Still with time to kill, I drove into Aguila, then down Eagle Eye Road to Salome Highway, and that to Interstate-10 and into Phoenix. I hit traffic about at the 10 & 17 interchange, and it was heavy going through the Hance tunnel. I try to be patient but this was testing me. We'd just sit there minutes at a time. This was killing time too, but not the way I prefer. Well, I finally got through it all and home about 4 p.m.. I'd had a great time with my father, and did not want to return to my "home" here at all. It's not home, just a place to sleep and store my clothes.

Peak 3265

Date: February 11, 2023 • Elevation: 3,265 feet • Prominence: 445 feet • Distance: 1.6 miles • Time: 80 minutes • Gain: 515 feet • Conditions: Sunny, breezy


This peak lies across the highway, east of Merrit Benchmark Hill. I had already hiked a big peak this morning, Tres Alamos about fifteen miles northwest of here. I finished that hike about 1 p.m. and surprisingly for an old man, felt pretty good. I wasn't completely thrashed. My legs still had energy.

As is my custom, once I hike a worthy peak, I then start looking around for any nearby peak to tag, opportunism at its best. This peak was on my radar, as was one up by Congress. But since this one was closer, I chose to take a look at it first.

From Tres Alamos, I followed US-93 southeast-bound, then exited onto highway AZ-71. I parked in the clearing where that old gas station I mentioned is located. I needed to catch up on a couple texts and also to relax for a few minutes, so I got out and walked up to the fence surrounding that gas station. There's a structure about the size of a garage, and another one that looks like a backyard shed. A single sign on a tall pole says "GAS". In the old days, that's how they got your attention. Restaurants would have a big sign that said "EAT". I miss those times. I didn't venture past the fencing, but I shot an image anyway. In my opinion, this location would be a good spot for a gas "plaza". There's nothing nearby for 20 miles. Maybe resurrect the "Scott" name.

My peak of interest, Peak 3265, was easily visible. It had a nice loaf shape to it, gentle slopes and ridges, its highpoint on the east end of the hill. I drove to "Merritt Pass" as identified on the map, and parked in a small turn-around about fifty feet off the highway opposite the peak. I was already dressed, so I locked up the car and started walking.

The crux of the hike was to safely cross the highway. It's just two lanes. I looked left, then right, then left again. All was clear. And wouldn't you know it, as I was almost across, some car comes whizzing up at 80 miles an hour. It wasn't close, but close enough. It was like one of those old Tex Avery cartoons.

I came to a fence and had to shimmy underneath it. It was a solid barb-wire fence, looking new, with no saggy spots or broken strands, so finding a spot to get under it wasn't easy. I then just walked toward the peak, slowly gaining elevation. It got slightly steep but was not difficult at all. I was soon on top of a ridge, where I could see the highpoint again to the east.

From here, I walked uphill to the first hill, then down and up and down and up and down two more bumps, all easy hiking. It was slightly brushy (palo verde, creosote, general cactus) and sometimes rocky, but nothing to slow me. The final slope to the top had a rock heap in the way, so I had to go around it and slightly through the mess to get to the top, and there I was, about 40 minutes after starting.

The summit features a cairn about three feet tall with a register tucked into a void. Views up here were very good, the day breezy and the morning clouds having been blown into New Mexico. I could see Tres Alamos in the distance, plus Harquahala, the Harcuvars, the Date Creeks and the peaks by Yarnell and Wickenburg.

The summit also features the narrowest, tallest cairn I've ever seen, about 6 feet high and maybe a foot wide. This took some effort and skill to build and I was impressed. I am sure the story behind it will forever be lost to history. I went back to the first cairn, found a lovely sitting rock and planned to have a longer-than-normal break to relax, eat something, and look around. Then a bee started buzzing me. I knew not to swipe at it, it just makes them more aggressive. Then a second bee shows up. Both were buzzing me closely and bopping into me. I figured there may be a hive nearby, so I got a clue and started down.

Instead of retracing my ascent route, I followed a long unbroken slope that came off the peak more to the southwest. One of the bees kept with me for about a hundred yards. My hiking shirt has a hoodie, so I pulled it over my head and cinched it tight, trying to reduce all exposed skin as much as possible. I kept walking until the bee gave up.

The hike down went well and this slope worked nicely. Halfway down I had to cross under another fence. Once on the flats, I aimed for my car and had to recross that fence again, then recross that first fence by the highway. That's four fence crossings, for those of you scoring at home, or even if you're all alone (old Olbermann quote). The round trip hike took 80 minutes. I was beat by now and moving slow. I enjoyed this little bump and am glad I hiked it. As a bonus peak, it worked well. I might even suggest it as a pair if you're looking at hiking Merrit Benchmark Hill.

It was close to 3 p.m. now. I figured I better get moving back to town. Like the last time I was up here, I followed AZ-71 into Aguila, Eagle Eye Road to Salome Highway, then Interstate-10 into crazy town. Today was the saturday before the Super Bowl, being held in Glendale. Traffic had been heavy for a few days, lots of people wearing green or red colors. Plus, it was the big golf tournament in Scottsdale. I knew to avoid those parts of town. I was able to get "home" safely, a chicken shawarma plate with dolmas and baclava as my reward.

(c) 2021-2023 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. .