The Mountains of Arizona •
Tanque Aloma Benchmark • Highpoint: Mud Tanks Mesa
• Coconino National Forest
• Yavapai County

The highpoint hill from the west

Now closer, from the south

View north at the distant hills up by Flagstaff

The top

Hiking down, lovely juniper-pinon country

Two views of the trail markers for the General Crook Trail, the benchmark, and the lovely scenery back at camp

All images

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The Arizona
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Date: October 18, 2020 • Elevation: 6,285 feet • Prominence: 325 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 490 feet • Conditions: Warm but wonderful

ArizonaMainPBLoJUSGS BM Datasheet

The Mud Tanks are a batch of gentle hills covered in pinon and juniper, found along highway AZ-260 about 20 miles east of Camp Verde. The highest hill is cited as Tanque Aloma Benchmark on the map. The hills lie between 5,800 and 6,300 feet elevation, low enough to be below the heavy forests higher to the east, and above the high desert valleys down by Camp Verde. They also seem to be far enough from most people's radar so that they're not overrun with campers pulling 35-foot RVs.

We came up here somewhat on a whim, with not much advance planning. I have driven by the area a few times and liked the scenery. The weather now is lovely, with clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s during the day. Our plan was to spend a few hours relaxing in the area, with our camp chairs, shade tent and snacks.

We left Payson around 10 a.m., got supplies along the way (Starbucks, cokes, healthy things like that), and drove to the Mud Tanks area, a 40-mile drive. We arrived a little after 11 a.m.. We came up AZ-87 onto the plateau, then took the westbound AZ-260 downhill about 12 miles until we were in the general area. I wanted Coconino Forest Road FR-9243N, which leaves the highway just before the highway starts the long steep downhill toward Camp Verde. We eased onto the road, which was rocky and a little choppy, but going slowly, I was able to ease our Subaru Forester in about a half-mile, parking in a pull-out with a fire ring.

I got situated and started hiking at 11:30, the temperature about 75 degrees, with a bright sun and a steady slight breeze. I walked up FR-9243N (or down technically, losing about 10 feet) about a hundred feet to where it intersects the General Crook National Recreation Trail (Trail 130). This trail is presumably a route followed by General George Crook during his days in the Arizona Territory. He and his men would have been in this area in the early-mid 1870s fighting Indians.

These days, this fancy-named trail is just a meager 4wd-track. There are gabion-style cairns every few hundred feet with a metal placard telling the occasional traveller the name of this trail. Most of these were faded and in disrepair, a couple lying on their side. The track seems not to see much traffic and is very rocky. I briefly stood on an elevated ridge and got a good view of the hilltop a mile to the east. I also crossed a gate at one point, which was unexpected. The track goes east about a mile and a quarter, intersecting a slightly-more substantial road, marked FR-9248A on the topographical map but nowhere marked in the field, at least not where I stood.

I followed FR-9248A northeast a half mile, gaining about a hundred feet on very gentle slopes. The land here was more of the same lovely grassy slopes dotted with pinon and juniper, and the occasional tree. At the saddle (elevation 6,150 feet), there were great views to the northeast, overlooking forested plateau, canyons and cliffs, and distant hills and mountains up by Flagstaff.

Next, I started up slope to the top. The grass was low and I kept an eye open for snakes. I gained about 140 feet, just following the slopes upwards. The slopes are gentle and sometimes imperceptible and more than once I thought I was at the top, only to see higher land a little ahead. But soon, I was on the actual top, which was open and surrounded by pinon and juniper trees. There were no good views from up here.

I spent a few minutes looking for the benchmark. I found the witness marker first, then the benchmark, stamped "VA". I saw no evidence of previous hikers, no cairns or registers or things like that. I don't think too many people come up here. I sat for a little while to rest and have a drink. The top has a few low rock outcrops and I tagged any that could contend for highest honors.

I headed down following the same general tack, getting back onto the roads and back to the car, finding βð napping within the shade tent. It was 1:30, and I had been gone two hours, covering 4 miles. The day was so nice, and the area so pleasant, we stayed for another couple hours and just sat in the chairs, relaxing, doing nothing, enjoying the calm and quiet and being out of the house together for a few hours. We finally got things packed up about 3:30 and headed home, arriving about an hour later.

The hike had gone well, and I enjoyed the area and scenery. It's not a challenging peak and I don't sense many people come to this part of the state very much, so we did not feel crowded at all. It was a perfect place to spend a few hours together and commune.

The name of this hill needs some splaining. The map has "Tanque Aloma" near the benchmark symbol, so its "Map Name" is Tanque Aloma Benchmark, the name I use here. The benchmark itself is not stamped with any name, just a "VA", and a year (Y1930). The datasheet (link above) says the benchmark is called "Tank Aloma". There are two earthen tanks to the northeast, one called Loma Tank, one called Tanque Aloma Tank. The word "Tanque" is clearly Spanish for "Tank". The word "Aloma" is a non-word; however, the word "Loma" is Spanish for "Knoll", which makes sense. I'm postulating that when sounded out, "Tanque Loma" comes out "Tank-a-loma", a mondegreen that then gets spelled "Tank Aloma" or "Tanque Aloma", which would sound the same either way. The map says the elevation is 6,285 feet, but the benchmark says 6,276 feet.

(c) 2020 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.