The Mountains of Arizona

Peak 2318 at dawn

Peak 2318 summit, looking at Cholla Mountain

Now at Peak 2334

And now at Yavapai Point

Peak 2334 summit

Looking at Yavapai Point

Looking back at Peak 2318 and Cholla Mountain

Lake Pleasant

Approaching Yavapai Point summit, with benchmark inset

Look at Peak 2334

Cholla Mountain's west slopes

Summit of Cholla Mountain

Look over at Peak 2334, Yavapai Point and Peak 2318

Hiking back down to the shiny thing below

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Pipeline Trail - Lake Pleasant

Peak 2318 • Peak 2334
Yavapai Point • Cholla Mountain

These four peaks (hills, really) lie in a clump on the east shores of Lake Pleasant. I was last here two years ago, hiking Baldy Mountain, a.k.a. Francis Rogers Mountain. Only one hill interested me initially, that being Cholla Mountain, and even then, not so much that I wanted to drive 50 miles to hike it. However, a fine trail called the Pipeline Trail runs below three of these hills, thus making access much easier, plus a chance to hike a trail in an area I rarely visit.

I usually don't look at Lake Pleasant as a hiking destination. Being a lake, it's full of boaters and other watercraft users, usually making a lot of noise and hauling trailers to slow things down. But there are trails that run along the shores and up into the surrounding hills. I'd be well apart from the boating crowd.

I was on the road about 5:30 a.m., and an hour later, at Lake Pleasant. This early, there was no traffic. I got onto Castle Hot Springs Road and went north a couple miles to the park's main east-side entrance, paid the $7 day fee, then drove another mile or so to the Pipeline Trailhead. I was the first to arrive in the small parking lot, which holds about a dozen vehicles. I was already dressed and ready to go. The sun was still below the horizon, but the sky was already lighting up. I started my first hike at 6:45 a.m., temperature about 60°, no clouds and no breeze.

Peak 2318
• Hieroglyphic Mountains
• Lake Pleasant Regional Park
• Maricopa County

Date: October 30, 2021 • Elevation: 2,318 feet • Prominence: 318 feet • Distance: 1.5 miles • Time: 45 minutes • Gain: 460 feet • Conditions: Cool at dawn


Instead of one all-encompassing hike, I would essentially do three hikes, due to the way the trail is laid out and the relative locations of the peaks. My first peak was Peak 2318, which rises immediately to the west of the parking lot. The hills here are long and broad ridge-like mounds with easy gradients, no cliffs, abundant grass and brush, and covered over in volcanic rocks of varying size and looseness.

I walked back on the road a short ways to a road cut, then up onto the slope. Immediately, I was on loose boulders about the size of a softball. It was cool for now but would be a warm day and even at this early hour, I kept an eye open for snakes. The lower scrub was mainly grass and bursage, scattered cholla and a lot of pencil cholla. I could usually keep to open lanes of rock but occasionally had to work through a few yards of grass and light brush, although none of it ever rose to the level of actual bushwhacking.

I aimed uphill westbound, and soon came to a flattish ridge about halfway up. The route the follows the ridge, bending north then west again, and was soon on top. This was a short hike, about three-quarters of a mile one way, taking about 25 minutes. The sun was up by now, very low in the east, the hills glowing a faint red-orange for a few minutes. I snapped images of the surrounding hills and signed into the register. I think I was the third person to sign in. I spent just a few minutes up here.

Going down, I kept to the same route, and was soon down back to the road and back to my car, a 45-minute round trip. The first peak was in the books and that felt good. I stopped back at my car (now there were three cars parked here) and grabbed a couple more water bottles for the second hike, the "biggie" for the day.

Peak 2334
• Hieroglyphic Mountains
• Maricopa County

Elevation: 2,334 feet • Prominence: 414 feet • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 470 feet net, 950 feet gross • Conditions: Warming


I would access the next two peaks by following the Pipeline Trail about a mile north to a saddle, with Peak 2334 to the west and Yavapai Point to the east. I started on the Pipeline Trail, passing a guy taking photos, following the trail which dropped steadily -- 240 feet -- for about a half-mile toward Pipeline Canyon, which drains into Lake Pleasant. The trail is in good shape and I made good time.

In Pipeline Canyon were the remnants of an old bridge that spanned the canyon, even still marked as such on the current-day online maps. This assumes the canyon being backed up with water from the lake, but the lake's level is much lower and likely hasn't filled this canyon in a long time. The bridge and its concrete foundations lie scattered around, clearly not going to be used again and not going to be removed either. These days, you just walk onto the sand, then up the other side.

I continued on the trail, aiming for the saddle a half-mile up ahead. The hike went fast, and I came to a sign where a spur for the Yavapai Point Trail branches off the Pipeline Trail. I'd save Yavapai Point for second.

The slopes for Peak 2334 were steeper and brushier, but with the same flora and rubbly, rolly rocks. I again tried to keep to rocky lanes instead of the brush. I happened upon a weak trail, but the more I followed it, the more it was an obvious old and unmaintained trail, not just some animal path or trick of the eye. This trail helped me, as I could scoot up a few dozen feet quickly before losing it again. I was able to keep to this meager trail for roughly half the ascent. When I was "off trail", it was the usual rocks and brush, with more palo verde, and too many pencil chollas. I walked into more than one and had to pull out their spines.

The hike was short and I was on top, which was a little more open with larger rocks. I stopped for a break, signed into the register (not many names in it here, either), and snapped more photos. Like Peak 2318, I did not stay up long at all, just long enough to drink some water.

Going down, I tried to follow the trail, but mostly I followed open lanes whenever I found them. I got myself into a little pickle when I descended into a minor drainage, the sides sloping a little too steeply and the rocks a little too loose. I used the five-points-of-contact technique, but ended up sliding down about ten feet on the scree. Otherwise, I remained upright and was soon off the hill, back to the trail junction.

Yavapai Point
• Hieroglyphic Mountains
• Yavapai County

Elevation: 2,178 feet • Prominence: 288 feet • Distance: 1.8 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 288 feet • Conditions: Warmer

Back at this junction, I followed the connector to the actual Yavapai Point Trail. This would be the only peak today climbed via a trail, a nice respite after two brushy and rocky ascents. The trail makes a long sweep with very lenient grades to the southeast, then switchbacks three times, feeding one onto the summit ridge on the ridge's southeast tip.

I hiked up to the top, seeing a bench and that same guy I'd seen earlier taking photos. I walked up, snapped an image of the benchmark and a few of the surrounding countryside, then sat with this person. Its not often a nice bench is at the top of a peak. It was nice to sit on it, rather than an awkward rock.

We had a really pleasant chat, his hobby being photography, which he shares on Instagram with his friends up in Canada, who, he says, are often impressed that Arizona actually has mountains and green plants. It's been my experience that people unfamiliar with Arizona think it's one vast flat sandy plain with an occasional cow skull, saguaro and distant odd-shaped cliff like from the Roadrunner cartoons. He says he's heard the same thing. I spent nearly twenty minutes taking a very relaxing break, and thank this man for his company.

The hike out followed the trails the entire way to the trailhead. The statistics for this hike are reckoned from the trail junction at the saddle below only. The actual hike out covered nearly 2 miles. It was a little before 10 a.m. and warming, into the low 80s. I had one more peak on the agenda: Cholla Mountain. However, it made more sense to exit the park and approach this peak from Castle Hot Springs Road.

As I drove out, a car was parked on the side and a burro had walked up to the open driver's side door and made friends with the driver. I suppose the burros here do that.

Cholla Mountain
• Hieroglyphic Mountains
• Maricopa County

Elevation: 2,396 feet • Prominence: 396 feet • Distance: 0.7 mile • Time: 45 minutes • Gain: 515 feet • Conditions: Very warm


I only drove a few hundred feet on Castle Hot Springs Road, parking in a pullout that descends slightly below the road so my car was hidden. Cholla Mountain's west slopes begin immediately across the highway. If you've been enjoying these scintillating stories of me trudging uphill through rocks and light brush with occasional cactus, then you're in luck because this is another such tale.

By now, it was late morning, and quite warm. My car's temperature gauge said it was 85° outside. It was a sunny, cloudless day, so the thermal effects of the direct sun added to the ambient warmth. I did not have far to hike, so I planned to take this as slow as possible.

I crossed the highway and started upslope, then crossed a fence and continued upslope. Down low, the terrain was mostly open, covered in countless round rocks of various size, all ready to roll at the slightest touch. I weaved through the rocks, patches of grass, cactus low to the ground, and the giant saguaro. With the warmth, I was especially attentive to snakes and tried to keep to routes where I could see my feet when I stepped. This mean a lot of zigging and zagging. I haven't seen a snake in a while and was convinced I'd see one today. I'm due, I think.

The hike was straightforward. It got slightly steep midway up, then moderated and soon, I was on top. The summit is a long ridge, the highpoint not being super-obvious. However, a batch of rocks toward the northwest end seemed to be the highest, so I tagged all contenders, then signed into the register, the first for 2021. It wasn't an exciting summit, but it would be the highest point for me today. I spent a minute or so up top, then started right back down.

The downhill hike went well. I rolled a few rocks that I didn't plan to, but had no other issues, and I never saw or scared up any snakes. The round trip hike covered just 0.7 mile and took 45 minutes because I was trying to go slow. Back at the car, I changed out of my grubby hiking clothes and into my driving clothes, then headed out.

This morning's hikes went well and I was able to tag four more peaks, plus explore a trail in a park I have never formally visited until today. I always assumed Lake Pleasant had been sacrificed to the boating and watercraft crowd, which is why I usually stayed away, but these trails were a delight and the boaters well apart from the hikers. I recommend the Pipeline Trail and definitely the Yavapai Point hike since it has a trail and great views from its top. The other three peaks I climbed today were interesting in a general sense but can be skipped if you're not interested in boring hills with no trails.

(c) 2021 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.