The Mountains of Arizona

Flat Top Benchmark

Flat Top Benchmark Peak and its lower north neighbor, Peak 4947, from the corral where we started and ended

Now looking north at Peak 4849

Summit of Flat Top, with one of its reference marks

View of the Swisshelm Mountains

Descending to the saddle north of Flat Top, a look at Peak 4947, "Flat Top North"

Look back at the main peak

Peak 4849

Descending Peak 4947, a view of Peak 4849 (the right bump is highest)

Peak 4849, from the desert flats

And as we enter into a drainage

Top of Peak 4849, looking northwest

Flat Top Benchmark Peak as seen from Peak 4849

Peak 4849 from its high saddle to the south

All images

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The Squaretop Hills

Flat Top Benchmark • Flat Top North Peak • Peak 4849

The Squaretop Hills are a clump of about a half-dozen peaks rising above the flat desert plain about 25 miles north of Douglas. The highest peak is known as Flat Top Benchmark Peak, and is easily seen east of highway US-191, with its sloping flat summit ridge. Surrounding it are a bunch of other hills, about evenly mixed on State Trust and private lands.

I met up with a fellow peakbagger, Amy Pleckaitis. She and I had traded some ideas via email and landed on these peaks as something we could do. I was restricted and needed to be done by noon. We agreed to meet at a car pullout along Rucker Canyon Road at 6:30 a.m., so that we could maximize our time on the hike.

Today started sunny, clear and calm. I left home a little before 6 a.m. and drove the 40 miles through Double Adobe and Elfrida to the Rucker Canyon Road turn-off, then east and northeast on that road a little under 5 miles to our agreed-upon meeting place. I rolled in and there she was. We greeted one another then got moving. I drove us north another three-quarters of a mile on a decent track with water and mudpits that were easily bypassed, and parked in a clearing just west of a corral. Our first peak, the hill-range highpoint, rose about a mile to the east, rising about 1,100 feet above the flat plain.

Flat Top Benchmark
• Highpoint: Squaretop Hills
• Cochise County

Date: April 5, 2024 • Elevation: 5,500 feet • Prominence: 820 feet • Distance: 5.4 miles (whole hike) • Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes (whole hike) • Gain: 1,104 feet ascent, 745 feet descent • Conditions: Sunny, high clouds, mild temperatures, extremely windy • Partner: Amy Pleckaitis

ArizonaMainPBLoJUSGS BM Datasheet

We passed through the corral and onto the open plain, this being State Trust land for now. The ground was flat and sandy, but easy to walk. There were sections of grass, mesquite brush and prickly-pear cactus forcing us to zig and zag through it, but the hiking was easy and we made good time.

The climb begins where the land starts to slope up to meet the mountain mass. It's a steep grind no matter what direction we took. A southern ridge looked promising, but as we climbed, we just stayed on the line we had chosen, and climbed directly up the slope. As long as it behaved and wasn't loose or treacherous, there was no reason to leave it.

The slope steepened to about a 35 degree gradient, maybe steeper, but it was almost always open and not choked with brush. The rocks were mostly set in place, although a few times one would suddenly move out from underneath. We just kept at this, going slowly but steadily, and in about an hour had gained a little over a thousand feet to surmount a weak band of rocks forming the lip of the summit plateau. The rocks were more abundant for the last hundred feet, requiring hands a few times for balance and hoisting, but any actual scrambling was minimal, Class-2-minus at most.

The last fifty feet or so was almost level, the slightest of uphill gradient, to get to the highest point, on the summit ridge's southern edge. Up higher now, we were being hit hard by the wind, which had started when we were about halfway up the slope. This was a strong wind, about 25 miles per hour, gusts about 40. The air temperature was mild, about 60°, and there was a thin layer of clouds to mute the sun. Conditions were pleasant, except the wind could be very bothersome at times.

We walked to the summit rocks and found a scattered pile of rocks (a cairn?) at the apparent highest point, but a few nearby rocks could also be as high or higher, so we tagged them. I located witness marker "Flat Top" a little offset from the highest point, but had no luck finding the actual benchmark. It is possible it was under the loose pile of rocks but we did not want to move all those rocks to try to find it. There was some wiring from when the surveyors were up here, probably before I was born.

A strong box was tucked into the brush nearby the summit rocks. I opened it and discovered it's a geocache, with a couple of log books and various random items. The previous signature was from 2021, but names went back 30 years. We mulled around the top for about five minutes but never took a proper break. It was windy and more comfortable to keep moving.

Rather than descend the way we came, we went northwest, intending to drop down a less-steep ridge to a saddle, then a short climb to tag an unranked peaklet, Peak 4947, or "Flat Top North".

Flat Top North Peak • Peak 4947

Elevation: 4,947 feet • Prominence: 192 feet • Gain: 192 feet (ascent), 477 feet (descent) • Conditions: Windier

The climb up this peaklet went fast, just a few minutes to its open summit. It offered good views looking back at the main Flat Top Peak, from where we had just come. Climbing it also made sense because we needed to drop of its west slope back to the desert flats below. Back at the saddle, a ridge would have forced us too far to the southwest.

We dropped off the steep west-facing slope, losing about 450 feet. The slope was brushy and rocky, but mostly solid. It took us about fifteen minutes to make the descent. Next up, Peak 4849, about a mile to the west across the valley floor.

Peak 4849

Elevation: 4,849 feet • Prominence: 349 feet • Gain: 379 feet (ascent), 453 feet (descent) • Conditions: Sunnier, big wind


We approached Peak 4849 by ascending a gentle drainage then up its slopes to a ridge emanating east off the peak. Other than some thick mesquite down on the desert flats, the brush was light and unobtrusive. The gradients were also gentle and the rocks stayed in place.

This put us directly below the summit. The final climb was steeper and slightly rockier, but still quite tame. There was no challenge to this peak at all, and it was an enjoyable trudge.

The top is open, kind of flat, rocky and brushy, with good views. Any one of about ten rock piles or boulders could be the highpoint. We found the register and signed in. Mark Nicholls had placed the register here on August 15, 1992. And his was the only signature until we signed in. According to List of John, there had been one other ascent of this peak (in 2014). I am sure the occasional local has wandered up here. But it is safe to say this peak doesn't see much action and probably never will.

We spent a few minutes up top. The wind was becoming stronger and more bothersome, although it had the effect of blowing out the high clouds and providing more sun for better photos. We descended south off the peak, aiming for a saddle between this peak and Peak 4821 to the south. As we got close to the saddle, Amy wanted to climb that peak while I was content to stay low. She went up to the top, and I angled downward into a brushy drainage.

I had to cross a fence, and battle some brush, but once back in the open and off the hills, I made good time, walking about a mile back to my car, arriving at 11:45 a.m.. Amy wasn't far behind, just five minutes or so, so I waited and gave her a lift back to her car.

According to her gps app, we covered about 5.4 miles in a big loop. I was very pleased with today's harvest and thoroughly enjoyed these hills and the area. I was also happy I was done before noon as this would give me time to get back to Bisbee, clean up, and be ready for some later-afternoon zooms I had to sit in on.

Back at Amy's car, she got her stuff together and we talked briefly. She was planning more peaks in the area, while I had to get moving. We shook hands and bid farewell. I enjoyed my hikes with Amy and wished her success on what she had next on her docket.

The wind was really getting bad now. It was blowing from the south and kicking up dust clouds. Once back on US-191, I had to head south, directly into the wind. I stopped for snacks in Elfrida. The wind jostled the car and more than once I had to fight the steering wheel. Big dust clouds were kicking up along Double Adobe Road. I was back to my home a little before 1 p.m..

That evening and throughout the night, the wind blew non-stop and very strongly. It felt like 40 m.p.h sustained with gusts in the 50 and 60 mile-per-hour range. I'd go outside every now and then to be sure nothing has blown over or off. For me, all it did was move some patio furniture around and some lighter items in the yard. I figured I'd deal with it the next day.

The winds were the edge of a front that didn't really do much in or around Bisbee, but did drop snow on the higher peaks such as the Chiricahuas and into New Mexico. The weather sites said the wind was supposed to cease by dawn the next morning.

So the next morning, I awoke early and yes, the wind had stopped. It was clear outside and very cold, in the 30s. I had eyeballed some peaks from today's hike and decided why not, I may as well go back today and hike to them. I got on the road and came back, even parking at the same corral. The story continues here.

(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.