The Mountains of Arizona

The entirety of the Agua Caliente Mountains as seen from Agua Caliente Road, north of Sentinel. Morris Benchmark is the big one, Peak 1025 is to the left slightly, Peak 1075 the long one to the right

Top ridge of Peak 1075

Summit, Peak 1075

Ridge of Peak 1075, then Peak 1025 and Morris Benchmark behind

Top ridge of Peak 1025

Western bump, Peak 1025

Summit bumps, Peak 1025, with Peak 1075 in back

Peak 1075 in morning sun

Morris Benchmark

The roads

This was actually a good section

Cool hill beside Hyder Road

Higher road

Top of Morris Benchmark

Look west, Baragan Mountains in back at right, Palomas Mountains to the left

Morris Benchmark, my car

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The Arizona
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Agua Caliente Mountains

Peak 1075 • Peak 1025 • Morris Benchmark

The Agua Caliente Mountains are a small range of black volcanic hills in eastern Yuma County, near the ghost town of Hyder. The whole range stretches just a couple miles in any direction. It has three ranked peaks, and a couple more lower bumps.

I was here a couple years ago when I hiked Baragan Mountain. At the time, I planned to hike the Agua Caliente range highpoint afterwards, but chose not to. That was the last time I was here. In fact, I have been here just three times total, counting today. This part of Arizona is way off any beaten paths.

I was heading to Wellton, to take care of some personal business. These peaks were on the way, so I built a half-day in to include them in my itinerary. I planned to hike all three ranked peaks. None of them looked too long, and I figured I could get them all in a few hours.

Peak 1075
• Agua Caliente Mountains
• Hyder Plain
• Maricopa County

Date: January 8, 2022 • Elevation: 1,075 feet • Prominence: 495 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes • Gain: 500 feet • Conditions: Cool, clouds to the east


I left the Phoenix area before 6 a.m., heading west to Gila Bend, then onto Interstate-8. First on my agenda was not the Agua Caliente Hills, but an isolated bump called Sentinel Peak, which rises north of Interstate-8 near the locale of Sentinel. I was in this general area about 7:15 a.m..

But there's nowhere to park, except alongside the interstate, which I don't feel comfortable doing. Last night, I studied the satellite images to see if there was anything I could do to stash my car. Maybe a gate or some side road. I saw nothing. So when I got here in person, I pulled to the side of the interstate and drove slowly on the shoulder, looking for anything. But I had no luck. So I had to give this one a miss. Bummer.

A couple miles later, I exited the interstate at Sentinel, then northbound on Agua Caliente Road. About a dozen miles later, I was at the base of the hills, driving through the village of Agua Caliente, the "suburb" of Hyder. Peak 1075, a long ridge peak, is closest. I drove the road (Avenue 76E) up to a pass between Peak 1075 and Peak 1025. I parked in an open area about fifty feet off the road.

I got myself situated, locked the car and started walking at 8 a.m. sharp. The day was cool for now, high 40s, with general high clouds all around, and a thicker band of clouds to the east, which was blocking the sun for the time being.

I hiked uphill over the black boulders. It gets steep fast, but not too steep and for not too long, just enough to get in a couple hundred feet of gain quickly, which was fine by me. One above this steep portion, I was now on the the long ridge, the top still about three-quarters of a mile away.

The ridge-walk went fine. There are a lot of little ups and downs along the way, and a lot of rocks. In about twenty minutes, I had reached the top, and it's large cairn, a pile of rocks about four feet high. I signed in, the first person here in a couple years. Just the usual names, and not too many of them either.

The views were nice, but the muted sun killed the good lighting for photos. I took what I could and hoped for the best. I stopped briefly to actually sit and relax, but not for long. I wanted to get back down and get moving on the second peak of the morning ...

Peak 1025
• Agua Caliente Mountains
• Hyder Plain
• Yuma County

Elevation: 1,025 feet • Prominence: 355 feet • Distance: 1 mile • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 460 feet • Conditions: Sunnier

I walked back to my car, and stopped briefly to put another water in my pack, but I was moving in less than a minute. I crossed the road, looking both ways as I was taught, then started uphill on Peak 1025. This would be a shorter hike, just a mile round trip, but about the same amount of gain.

I followed the main east ridge. Up high is a rock prow with cliffs about 15 feet high, so I angled left and did an ascending traverse to gain the top ridge. The rocks had been mostly solid for the climb up. Now on the top ridge, I did not have far to go or elevation to gain. I was at the summit momentarily.

The top features two clumps of rocks, the northern one being the presumptive highpoint (and where the register was found). The rock clumps are separated by about 50 feet, so I easily tagged both, and signed in to the register. Like on Peak 1075, it only held a few names, and the same ones. Evidently, they were doing the trifecta as well.

There is another rock hump about 300 feet west. I walked over to it to be sure, but once there, it was clear it was lower by a couple feet. I walked back to the first area and took a small break.

The downward hike went fast. I was only on this for less than an hour. Back at the car, I piled everything in and drove a couple miles through Hyder itself, to place myself at the base of the last peak for the day, the biggie...

Morris Benchmark
• Highpoint: Agua Caliente Mountains
• Hyder Plain
• Yuma County

Elevation: 1,240 feet • Prominence: 700 feet • Distance: 2.4 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 715 feet • Conditions: Blue skies, sunny


The highest of the three peaks is a big mound shaped like a trapezoid. Its top ridge is narrow, much more so than the other peaks. I parked in a clearing on the west base of the peak.

This peak hosted a mine for many years. Roads were blasted in so the big trucks could get up high. These roads go nearly to the top ridge, so I would hike these roads. The roads are an obnoxious scar on the mountain, but they would provide a reasonably safe, brainless and ugly way to the top.

I got busy walking. Once on the mine roads, it was evident no one or no thing had driven these roads in decades. Mature plants grew in the middle, large rocks having fallen lay in the tread, and the erosion was dramatic. For hiking, it was a chore because nothing was solid. I moved carefully. Whenever I came to a junction, I took the crappier-looking road.

Shortly, I was about 60% up the side, where the roads lead to a big "amphitheater", where the main mining took place. Today, of course, there is nothing up there, no rusting machines, not even bullet casings where the shooters like to shoot. Even they have some common sense when it comes to where to shoot.

I have no idea what they mined here. This being a big pile of volcanic rock, I assume it's homogenous volcanic rock all the way down. And if so, why dig out the rocks from up high? Other nearby volcanic mounds, like Antelope Peak by Tacna, tend to be scraped from the bottom up. And how would they have known that the good stuff was 500 feet up one of the sides? I'll never understand that. If they were mining rocks, say for gravel operations, why not just get the lower ones? Why remove so many rocks to get at the rocks? Again, I have no sense of this. But hey, it made the upward ascent a tad easier.

I picture an old grizzled miner discovering rocks here back in the early 1900s, jumping for joy at discovering so many rocks, yelling "I'm kind of rich, I think!"

(I have looked online to see what information there is on this mine. I've looked at the usual mine site like mindat and thediggings, but come up with nothing. If you know the history of this mine, please share it. I really am curious.)

Past this amphitheater, the road continues steeply uphill. I followed it up, then a left at a switchback, then a right, then another left. The road gained to an apex, then started down. This did not seem right to me. I was about 150 feet below the top and figured I could grunt my way up over the rocks directly.

Looking for a place to leave the road was difficult. I hiked back to the last switchback turn, and found a way up onto the rocks. This proved to be a massive mistake, and I almost got myself into huge trouble doing this.

The lower slope was loose scree, but I was able to slowly climb this crud, now on what looked to me like a natural clump of larger talus, suggesting it would be more solid. But it wasn't. It was soon clear to me that there was a road above me and that this slope I was on was the stuff that got tossed over the side when that road was dug out. It was all loose and treacherous.

I was up about 60 feet and had another twenty to go. Going down was not an option. So I very carefully moved upward, every damn rock moving. The last five feet --- the lip of the road --- was the worst. Not a single rock was solid. I don't know what I did, but I willed myself to be light as a feather and got up over this lip and onto the road. Obviously, I missed this road down below. I would find out what I did wrong on the descent.

I was now mere feet from the top ridge. I eased myself off the road and up about 20 feet and was on the highest ridge, the top up ahead about fifty feet. This ridge is way narrow, sloping steeply on both sides. It's not a knife-edge, but there's only about 5 feet of usable space before everything slopes downward. Without the road, climbing this peak would be a real challenge.

The top has a cairn, and a register. I signed in. This one had more names. The same ones as before, plus a few others, who were here for just the highest point. But not many names. Usually one or two per year. Ironically, someone was here three days before me. I shot some images and looked around, but wanted to get moving down sooner than later. I wanted to see what error I had made.

I tried to locate the benchmark "Morris", but could not. The datasheet's last confirmation of it was from 1981. The top had a few pits on it, like someone dynamited out some rocks (searching for more rocks, perhaps?). The benchmark may have been blasted away, or removed by "treasure hunters" as the USGS calls those who dig out the benchmarks. In any case, the mountain's quasi-official name is for a benchmark that is no longer there.

On that high road, I followed it down. There's a point where it's not so much a road as it is a big slope of loose scree, so looking from below, you wouldn't think it's a road up there. I got down that, then saw an uphill to my left. I think that was the apex I had hiked to earlier. sure enough, it was. If I had just continued downhill from that apex, I would have at least understood better my position and probably would have found that higher road anyway. Mystery solved.

The hike down went slow because I had to move carefully. All the rocks wanted to move and the erosion ditches were three feet deep in spots. The round trip took 90 minutes and once back at my car, I relaxed. The three peaks took me four hours total. I changed into my driving clothes.

On the way out, I chose to stop a few times and actually tour Hyder...

Hyder, Arizona

Hyder was never much of a town, but at one time it was a functioning town of perhaps a hundred people. It was a railway siding and support town back when the railroad ran through here. In the 1940s, it was one of the bases of operations used by General Patton for his Desert Warfare training program. Thousands of soldiers would have been here over those years training for the desert environment, which was critical during World War II, for the fighting in North Africa. Slightly south is the community of Agua Caliente, a former resort spa.

However, the combined effects of the spa closing down (probably 60 years ago minimum), the rail line here not being used, and that all desert training now takes place on the Yuma Proving Grounds or the Barry Goldwater Range, meant that Hyder shrank down to near nothing. These days, there is a solar energy facility, a few active farms, and a few scattered trailer homes. It is a ghost town other than a few people still living there, these being people who want to be far from society.

I stopped to snap a few photos and look around. It's stark out here, and dead silent. In summer, it is terribly hot, into the 120s. The only vehicles out here are a few work trucks, either for the farms or the solar plant. It is an interesting place to detour through. If passing along on Interstate-8, with time to burn, one can leave the interstate at either Dateland or Sentinel and do a 30 mile detour, which is interesting, once. I've been here three times. That makes me the world's leading authority of this area now.

Once done, I drove into Dateland and got myself a shake, then made hotel arrangements for the evening in Wellton.

Hyder, Arizona

General Store


Patton's hidey-ho?


Texas Hill Look-at

It was about 1 p.m. when I finished my hikes and explorations, so I returned to the interstate, got off again in Dateland to have a shake, then got back on and exited at the Mohawk Valley Exit. There is this isolated mount off by its lonesome, north of the interstate way off in the distance. It's called Texas Hill, and it sits alongside the Gila River. Back in the olden days when explorers and stages rode alongside the river (when it flowed), Texas Hill served as a natural landmark.

I had no real plan on this one. I'd hike it if it looked feasible. First, I had to get there. At the Mohawk Valley exit, I got onto northbound Avenue 52E (dirt), which connects to the paved road net out this way. It's all farms here. There were workers out and about doing their tasks. The days of a farmer standing in his overalls looking out over his fields are gone. It's all big business these days. These farms grow the fresh produce you get in the middle of winter when 90% of the country is under a deep freeze.

Anyway, using my Arizona atlas, I was able to keep to the better roads and get myself close to Texas Hill, which is a big pile of black volcanic boulders too. As I got closer, things suddenly looked less promising. The fields between me and the hill were fenced and there were "no trespassing" signs. I tried an end-run, driving more section line roads until I was northeast of the peak. By now, it was just open desert ... and farm workers in their trucks. Bah. I really did not want to get them mad at me, and I'd probably be trespassing if they found me, so I gave up this quest, and drove back to the interstate. No big deal. It wasn't on my agenda to begin with.

I drove into Wellton, about 20 miles west, but stayed on Old US-80 the whole way, which parallels the interstate. I could mosey along at 60 miles per hour, and it was just me. There were no other cars on this road. I got to Wellton about 3:30 and killed time, did a little grocery shopping, sent some texts, that kind of thing. My hotel wouldn't be ready until 4:30.

I stayed the night at the Desert Inn, on Old US-80 west of town. I stayed here three years ago and liked it. It's an old-style place with character. There's only one chain place in Wellton, a Microtel. I stayed there once in 2015, but won't ever again, for reasons I won't go into. However, I liked the Desert Inn and would recommend it. I like these locally-run places that date from the 1930s.

Texas Hill

From afar


From northeast

(c) 2022 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.