The Mountains of Arizona •
Peak 5724 • Mule Mountains/Tombstone Hills
• Arizona State Trust Land/BLM
• Cochise County

The summit itself is not visible until the very end, but this is Peak 5706, as seen from the lower road

The ridge I just ascended

I met the main range crest roughly at the highpoint seen at left, then descended all the way to here

Peak 5724 as seen from Peak 5706

Summit cairn

View north of the Dragoon Mountains

The Huachuca Mountains

Peak 5706, the benchmark on top of it, the peak as seen from the highway, and a solar-powered water catchment thing

All images

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Date: February 14, 2024 • Elevation: 5,724 feet • Prominence: 884 feet • Distance: 4.6 miles • Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes • Gain: 1,560 feet (gross) • Conditions: Cool, sunny, pleasant


Peak 5724 is a long ridge peak standing by itself, roughly halfway along AZ-80 between Bisbee and Tombstone. Even from a distance, it is clear the peak is a big uplift of limestone that form into cliffs on the south side, and steep slopes of rubble and tiers on the north side. This peak is obvious — it has nearly 900 feet of prominence and sits near the highway, the highway itself making a bend around the peak's western base. The peak is closer physically to the Mule Mountains, but its appearance is more like that of the Tombstone Hills. It does not really seem to belong to either range.

The land here is mostly private but with large subsections of State Trust land, and a few BLM sections. The south side of the peak is private and dotted with homesteads. The north side is State Trust and undeveloped except for the most basic needs of a cattle ranch. The high ridge and summit lie on BLM property. I had previously inspected the gate that spans the access road and confirmed it is publicly-accessible with a permit, which I have.

Despite being so close to the highway with relatively unfettered access, and being such a large singular peak, very few people have climbed it. According to Listsofjohn, just Bob Martin and Mark Nicholls in the early 1990s, then Bob Packard in 2011. Was there some other issue driving hikers away? I'd have to find that out on my own.

Three days ago, I drove here intending to hike it, this being one day after a big snowfall that covered everything down to about 4,000 feet. It wasn't massive amounts, but for the moment, it was enough to shroud everything, including the roads. I chose not to hike it, not wanting to deal with snow, fog and mud. I came back today. By now, most of the snow had melted and it has warmed nicely. Lows are still about 30°, but the high was expected to be in the low 60s. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the humidity levels were way low.

I've been binging a little on the peaks around Bisbee in the last couple weeks. These peaks are invariably covered in thick scrub and thornbush of various types (ocotillo, catclaw, acacia). In the dead of winter, it is tolerable, and the snakes are likely still in South America, not having flown back north yet to bite us. But by March, things will warm up, things will get greener and pointier, and the snakes will be out and in a bad mood. So now is the time, until at least next November.

In the 1920s, the "Jefferson Davis" Highway was to span the country, including Arizona. This was before highways adopted a uniform numbering system. About that time, the US-Route numbering system was adopted and this highway became US-80. It was informally named the Jefferson Davis Highway anyway and that name even appears on some maps including the "current" topographic maps which date from the 1980s.

In 1986, two USGS Benchmarks were monumented at the west base of the mountain, where the highway makes a bend around it. These were stamped "Jeff" and "Davis", presumably for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States. Naturally, this name begat controversy, for obvious reasons, even moreso considering the man had no dealings with Arizona. In 1989, the federal designation for the highway, US-80, was dropped, and the name reverted to AZ-80. In doing so, the "Jefferson Davis" Highway name went into history as well, since it was ostensibly attached to the US-80 name.

I think there is another, much more fascinating, angle involving this peak and the names "Jeff" and "Davis". There was a man named Jeff Milton, born Jefferson Davis Milton in 1861. He was a Texas Ranger in the 1880s then moved to Arizona where he became a lawman in various capacities, including as personal security for the railroad, as a deputy of the Cochise County Sheriff, and later (in 1924), as the first "official" member of what would become the Border Patrol. Milton was a classic Old West character, involved in many shootouts, who should be as well known as the Earp boys but for some reason is not. Milton retired to the Tombstone area. I do not know where exactly he retired to, but in my opinion, naming this peak after Jeff Milton would be a good idea; one, to gloss over any "confederate" links to the names Jeff and Davis, and two, to honor this should-be famous historical figure.

From my home, it's about 15 miles to the gate that leads onto the State Trust lands north of the peak. This gate is not obvious at all, but I had been here before and knew where to look. It is across the highwy from the Cox Ranch Road, which has a street sign. Naturally, some guy is three feet from my back bumper as I signal and slow to make the exit. Yeah, I probably slowed a little early and signalled a little later than normal. Just lifting the foot off the gas is sufficient. They don't know if you're trying to be annoying, or are just old and clueless.

I passed through the gate, and drove slowly in another mile on the narrow road, parking in a clearing just east of Hill 4632. The road's tread was tolerable, no big nasty rocks or terrible erosion. But the brush grew heavy on both sides as well as in the middle high center, so both sides of my car and the undercarriage were getting scratched up. I was doing this while looking directly into the sun, so I took it very slowly. I parked in the first clearing I found, having no idea if the road got worse farther in. I was close enough to start the hike anyway. I started walking at 8:55 a.m., temperature about 40° and calm.

I walked the road east another half mile or so, then went right at a Y-junction (remember this for later). My map and the satellite images showed this right branch ended in a canyon, at the base of what looked like a nice long subridge that should get me to the range crest. However, this side track was heavily overgrown in acacia, likely not have seen a vehicle in many years. It's not the kind of brush that can be easily pushed down by a vehicle. This went slowly and was not enjoyable, but I kept at it thinking it should get me to my slope where things should improve.

Unfortunately, it did neither. The road leads to an abandoned earthen tank. The slope I wanted was about a hundred feet away, but across a ravine that would have entailed about a twenty-foot drop into more of this thorny hell. So I simply started up the slopes in front of me, up a ridge that I had not intended to take. This ridge has a small hill, spot elevation 5048 on the maps. These slopes were very steep and rubbly. The limestone had formed tiers which helped, but the rubble in between was heavy and loose and in a couple spots, my runout would have been a hundred feet down, so I moved very carefully. The thorns abated just slightly. Finally, after much effort, I was on this subridge, in the saddle beyond Hill 5048. And to my relief, the terrain and brush was much friendlier.

I gained another 500 feet or so to top out on the crest, this segment being very easy as the slopes were gentle the entire way. Once on the crest, I could look over and see Peak 5706, which blocks the view of the summit, being Peak 5724. I had gained the ridge at about 5,550 feet elevation, then walking east toward the summit, had to drop about 150 feet to reach a saddle at 5,415 feet. This is the saddle I had intended to reach originally had I been able to get to the subridge below it. The hiking was not difficult. I was on the edge of the cliffs that face south, while to the north, the slopes would drop steeply. I had about ten to twenty feet of buffer, so I wasn't concerned about falling, but at times the rocks were loose and I had to be attentive.

I got to the saddle, then started up the steeper slopes to top out on Peak 5706, about a 300-foot gain. Only once atop Peak 5706 did I finally get a view of Peak 5724, about a quarter mile away. I saw a deep drop between me and the summit, plus some cliffs right in my preferred line of travel. I was a little concerned I may be stopped so close to the top! But having come this far, I figured I'd keep going until it was absolutely certain I could not proceed.

The drop off Peak 5706 was messy but easy, just loose in spots. It was only about 80 feet of loss. I walked across the saddle then up the slopes until I was at the base of the cliffs. But up close, suddenly a few ways looked very promising. I picked a chute that fed onto a little ledge, and within a few seconds had scampered up about twenty feet to get atop the cliff. Exposure was not a concern, and I wouldn't rate any move above Class 2. Finally, the summit was just a few yards away and I knew I would be successful after all.

The summit is broad, flat and indistinct. I walked around and looked for rocks that might be highest. I found a cairn tucked in some brush and agreed it was probably at the highest point. I pulled out the register and signed in. Bob Packard had placed the register here in 2011, and I was just the second person to sign in. I walked to the edge of the summit and snapped a few images. The snowy Huachucas stood out well against the blue backdrop. It was a beautiful day, and the temperature up here was mild, maybe 55°. I took my summit break at another rock outcrop that had better sitting rocks. I spent about ten minutes up here, answering a couple texts that had come in while hiking. I was surprised that it was just short of 10 a.m., meaning I had been hiking for two hours. It felt like four. This summit took a lot more effort than I had figured.

Going down, I followed my route down the cliff, then up and over Peak 5706, where I found, to my surprise, a benchmark. It listed an elevation of 5,700 feet but no name stamped onto it, just a "VA". This benchmark does not appear in the USGS database of benchmarks. It looks new, which means anything since 1970. I then hiked back to the saddle. From higher up, I had a good view of the slope below the saddle, and decided to follow it down, rather than repeat what I had done coming up.

I started down the easy slopes, angling a little left (west) to get onto the subridge's main slope. This descent worked very well. It was brushy and rocky but easy, no cliffs or scree slopes to deal with. This dropped me all the way down to the road a little southwest of Hill 4849. This was the road that I would have been on had I stayed left at that Y-junction mentioned earlier. I was a little over a mile from my car here.

The walk out went great, no thorny brush to snag me. I walked past a solar-powered well, then in about fifteen minutes, was back at my car, time 11:30 a.m., a 75-minute descent. In retrospect, I should have stayed left at that Y, walked past this well, then started up the slopes, which would have made the ascent a lot less of a hassle. The road to this well was about the same as what I had coming in. I could have driven to the well. But afterwards, a couple washouts make the road impassable except to perhaps a strong Jeep or similar.

I was very happy to be successful on this peak, and am surprised it hasn't seen many other visitors. If you avoid the pitfalls I experienced, this is not a difficult peak to climb.

(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.