The Mountains of Arizona

Indian Hill as seen through the trees

Now closer

View of Juniper Ridge from summit of Indian Hill

West: Pinetop Mountain is the flattish peak centered in the distance

Peak 5571 as seen from Indian Hill

Peak 5571 up ahead

Summit rocks, Peak 5571

Indian Hill as seen from Peak 5571

View to the north, Peak 5700 is near

Pinetop Mountain's flat massif

View north into the Apache Creek Wilderness

The most tricked-out trick tank in the west

The "top" of Pinetop

The summit juniper

Apache Creek Wilderness Peak

View of Mount Hope and Mohon Mountain in the distance

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Santa Maria Mountains - Williamson Valley

Indian Hill • Peak 5571 • Pinetop Mountain

Matthias and I teamed up to climb three forested hilltops in the Santa Maria Mountains north of Prescott. We were here six weeks ago when we climbed Stinson & Camp Wood Mountains. At that time, we had Pinetop Mountain on the agenda, as it lies one mile north of Camp Wood Mountain. However, we decided against climbing Pinetop that day as we were pretty beat after hiking Camp Wood Mountain. Thus, it became the primary focus for today's adventure.

The other two peaks we chose lie nearby one another, where Williamson Valley Road (Yavapai County Road 5) meets Walnut Creek Road (CR-125) near the K4 Ranch that abuts Walnut Creek. Both were convenient to the main road nd figured to go quickly.

We met at the Denny's at the Carefree Highway and Interstate-17. It was 94 degrees when I left Tempe at 4:45 a.m.. We met at 5:30, and then got moving toward Prescott, Matthias driving. His beefy 4-Runner would be critical for some of the tracks we'd be driving.

Indian Hill
• Santa Maria Mountains
• Prescott National Forest
• Yavapai County

Date: August 26, 2023 • Elevation: 5,811 feet • Prominence: 391 feet • Distance: 2.2 miles • Time: 75 minutes • Gain: 548 feet • Conditions: Sunny, clear and warm • Teammate: Matthias Stender • Prog-bands played: Soft Machine, Deus ex Machina, The Physics House Band, Louiz Banks, Agusa, Ghost Rhythms, Whitesnake

ArizonaMainLoJUSGS BM Datasheet

We bypassed Prescott and caught Williamson Valley Road north of town, heading north. About 25 miles later, we were in the forested foothills of the Santa Maria Mountains, where Indian Hill and its neighbors are situated. Indian Hill was first on the agenda.

We parked in a clearing off a tiny spur track off the main road, roughly at the sharp bend in the road where the road goes from southwest to due north, this point being roughly closest to the peak, which rises about a mile southwest of this turn.

It was about 7:30 a.m. and warm, in the 70s. But it felt lovely, certainly better than 113 degrees, which is what was forecasted for Phoenix today. The high in Prescott was supposed to be about 90-92 degrees. Another truck was parked here at the end of this tiny track about 50 feet farther in.

We started walking, following lanes through the woody scrub down into a creek drainage and up the other side. The land here was forested in juniper and scrub oak, but no big ponderosa. The undergrowth was thick, yet almost always with lanes to follow, and at times, non-existent so that we could move freely as we hiked up the slopes. The ground was moist, likely from rains the previous night.

We hiked up a long gentle ridge, and in a couple spots the knobby summit was visible not too far away. The ridge we were on connects to a higher ridge. We angled right and then trudged up the steeper slopes to gain the summit, about 40 minutes after starting. We had not encountered any barriers, no cliffs or anything like that. Other than heavy forest, navigation was straightforward.

The top is a narrow hump of rock, brush and small trees. When we emerged onto the highest point, a fellow alerted us of his presence, catching us by surprise. He was sitting about ten feet downslope facing west, opposite where we had come up. He was hunting, his archery kit beside him, glassing the countryside for deer. He was totally cool and not annoyed that us two loudmouths had probably scared off his game. At least he didn't say he was annoyed. We chatted with him a little bit. He seemed like a good guy. He confirmed that was his vehicle we saw parked down below.

Matthias and I looked for a register and the alleged "Woodland Peak" benchmark but could not find any such thing. Later, I looked up the benchmark's datasheet. It says the benchmark was monumented here in 1935 and mentions a large cairn. I found a circular hole in a rock that looked too clean to be natural. This may have been where the benchmark was affixed, someone having removed it thereafter. We found no large cairn either. Curiously, the datasheet mentions no subsequent benchmark "recoveries", where later visitors verify the existence of the benchmark and any new information about its status. There have been no recoveries mentioned since 1935.

We spent about ten minutes up top, talking with the guy, snapping images, looking for the benchmark and checking out the surrounding peaks. We could see our next bump, Peak 5571, down below to the northeast, and our later objective, Pinetop Peak, about ten miles to the west.

We hiked down the same route, for the most part, following lanes and sometimes getting caught up in thicker brush. We were pack to Matthias' vehicle a little before 9 a.m., happy to be successful on this peak. I had not hiked at all since August 1 and I could feel it a little. This peak covered a little over 2 miles with about 550 feet of gain.

Peak 5571

Elevation: 5,571 feet (5,558 feet per Lidar) • Prominence: 311 feet (315 feet per Lidar) • Distance: 0.6 mile • Time: 20 minutes • Gain: 190 feet • Conditions: Some clouds


Next up was this humble mound of forest, Peak 5571, which lies north and across the main road from Indian Hill. We drove briefly north to a scanter track that runs up the west slope of the hill, possibly to the summit. Even if we walked the track from the main road, we weren't looking at a long hike — less than a mile one way, with about 350 feet of gain, almost all on the track.

Matthias was able to get his 4-Runner about halfway up the track, parking in a small clearing along the only level part of the track. The track itself is rocky but not steep. However, it requires strong 4-wheel drive. His 4-Runner handled it well but needed 4-Low to get up one choppy segment. My Subaru Forester would not have made it.

This peak was purely one of opportunism: it was close to the main road, had a track, and looked easy and fast. Thus, we were pleased to get up halfway and thereby cut off the extra walking in this heat (mid 80s by now). Our climb was merely an easy walk up the remaining road to the top, about a third of a mile and 190 feet of elevation change. We were there in 10 minutes.

The top is open, with a clearing where the road ends. The summit rocks lie to the side, an outcrop about 6 feet tall and apparently natural, not being piled up when they dozed in the road here ages ago. We tagged the top rocks and sat briefly for a rest. Views were good, there being no trees to block us. I snapped a few images, including one of Indian Hill, which we had just climbed.

We were back to Matthias' vehicle in no time, the round trip taking about 20 minutes. We piled in and slowly drove down the track, back to the main road, now aiming west for Pinetop Mountain.

The peak has no name and goes by its printed map elevation, 5571 feet. But this is an estimate; it reads 5571T, where the T stands for telemetry, meaning it was estimated indirectly from a distance. These "T" readings are notoriously suspect. The newer 1-meter Lidar dataset (USGS one meter x33y387 AZ VerdeKaibab B2 2018) gives the peak's elevation of 5,558 feet, and its saddle elevation of 5,243 feet, for a prominence of 315 feet.

Pinetop Mountain

Elevation: 7,078 feet • Prominence: 498 feet • Distance: 6.6 miles • Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes • Gain: 812 feet • Conditions: Cloudy but very humid, then sunny later


We followed Walnut Creek Road west about 6 or 7 miles to Prescott Forest Road 9. This road was decent at first, but degenrated as it started to gain elevation about three miles in. This is where Matthias' 4-Runner would be so critical. I would not have felt comfortable taking a Subaru up this road after a certain point.

We followed FR-9 until it met with FR-19 near Carter Tank, northwest of Pinetop Mountain. FR-19 branches southeast and goes all the way to the top, so we would be hiking the entirety of the road. It was about 11 a.m. when we started. The day was warming into the high 80s, but a big cloud had parked itself directly above our peak, blocking the sun. It did not look organized enough to be a proper storm cloud.

We started walking FR-19, which gains gently for about a mile, passing a gate along the way. It achieves a saddle south of Peak 6973, then bends due south, drops slightly, then starts another gentle gain of about a mile before dropping about 50 feet to a saddle, now below Pinetop Mountain.

The road was full of rocks, mostly smaller rubbly rocks that were loose and moved with the slightest pressure. I rolled my left ankle about a half dozen times, always catching myself before I stumbled. I was fatigued a little, plus out of shape not having done any hiking in almost a month. It was along this southerly segment we heard an engine, then two guys appears in a quad. They had been up on top Pinetop Mountain and were heading down. We were surprised to see them and I think they were surprised to see us. It looked like a father & son pair.

We chatted for a few minutes. They mentioned being rained on heavily while up on the mountaintop. Other than a few drops, we had no rain fall on us. However, the cloud blocked the sun and dropped the temperature a couple degrees. But it was very still and very humid. They got moving and so did we.

We stayed on the road as it bent east and gained steadily up Pinetop Mountain, gaining about 700 feet in a mile. The road then achieves the top ridge near the Pinetop Trick Tank mentioned on the map.

A trick tank collects water usualy through precipitation and funnels it to a storage tank for the benefit of the animals. Most trick tanks are boring little things, but this had to be the most elaborate trick tank ever. The tank was about 6 feet high and fifteen feet in diameter, covered by a roof structure measuring about 60 feet by 60 feet, a veritable mansion.

Past the tank, we followed the track generally west and southwest, the top somewhere to our left. We had to scoot under a fence here. Finding *the* highpoint was impossible. It is too flat to distinguish one point above all others. We were at the spot elevation shown on the map, but to be sure, we walked the top until we felt sure we had covered sufficient ground. At best, we could narrow it to a hundred-by-hundred foot square of land.

We took a break, sitting on a log under a big gambel oak. A gnarled-looking juniper nearby served as my "summit" shot. The whole area was green with the trees spread out, and very pretty. We spent about ten minutes here. Matthias said we walked 3.3 miles and gained a little over 800 feet. I didn't time it exactly, but it had taken us about an hour and fifteen minutes. The big cloud moved aside and allowed for better lighting for photos. It did warm up, but we would be walking downhill from here on out

For the hike down, we followed the same route naturally. It was warm now, pushing 90 degrees, and by now, I was lagging. My ankle insisted on rolling and I had to consciously be aware of it. I would walk alongside the road in the forest whenever possible, where the footing was less rocky and more secure. We were back to Matthias' vehicle about 2 p.m.. This had been our big hike of the day, 6.6 miles in about two hours and 30 minutes. It felt good to be done with this one. It had been a good hike and a prettier-than-expected mountain. I felt satisfied with the day's haul.

We got changed and started the drive out. We continued southbound on FR-9 for a few more miles until it connected to the Camp Wood Road, where we were six weeks ago. Matthias had been on FR-9 in the previous year and mentioned it had become more eroded than he remembered it. I think I could have got the Subaru up to where we parked from the south, but it would have been slow. The problem wasn't any one bad section of big rocks or erosion channels. It was just a long, bumpy, uneven tread with some water damage in spots. High clearance is a minimum requirement.

We had a fourth peak on the list but it wasn't that important to us, so we elected to skip it and just get moving back to Prescott and then to Phoenix. We stopped for drinks and snacks at a Chevron nearer to Prescott, then got in with the throng to Interstate-17 and to the Carefree Highway, arriving there about 5:30 p.m., temperature 109 degrees.

I got my stuff into my car, and parted ways. Thanks as always to Matthias for driving. The music was the usual blend of jazzy-proggy music, including a group from India. He also put on the original Whitesnake album in honor of Bernie Marsden, founding guitarist of the band who died the previous week. I felt tired and dehydrated, but good. I got myself my usual 4-taco combo plate from El Jefe's in Tempe.

(c) 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.