The Mountains of Arizona •
Mount Triplet • San Carlos River Valley
• San Carlos Indian Reservation
• Graham County

Mount Triplet and its sub-peaks seen from the south on the Point of Pines Highway

Now seen from where I parked. I had to descend to near the tank shown at left before starting the ascent

The north ridge

Closer view of the north ridge and the rocky upper portion

Getting onto the north ridge

Aiming for the knob up high

Past the knob is a rock outcrop, then the summit behind

The summit rocks!

View south, Mount Turnbull in the distance

West, with "West Triplet" and Pinal Peak in back

North, I think that's the Ancha Peaks in back. A little of the San Carlos River can be seen

East, the ridge I followed up. I am parked near the bend in the road near the circular tank

Summit rocks, lucky horseshoe, a reference marker with the name stamped on it, the main benchmark painted silver but no name stamped on it

Hiking down the ridge almost back to my car

All images

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Date: March 1, 2024 • Elevation: 5,299 feet • Prominence: 1,349 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 3 hours, 40 minutes • Gain: 1,750 (gross) • Conditions: Cool, sunny, very nice

ArizonaMainAZ P1KPBLoJUSGS BM Datasheet

Mount Triplet rises steeply above the plateaus and canyonlands east of Peridot, on the San Carlos Indian Reservation. The peak is about five miles north of highway US-70, with the Point of Pines highway (Indian Route 8) bypassing it close to its east base and offering easy access to the peak.

Almost a year ago, I climbed Ash Benchmark Peak with Matthias Stender, Scott Peavy and Adam Walker. They had climbed Mount Triplet that morning while I met them at noon after they were done. I don't remember why I did not go on the hike with them then. They all mentioned what a fine hike and climb Mount Triplet turned out to be. I resolved to climb it myself soon.

This was April of last year, and unfortunately, things warm up fast in these parts, and "soon" would end up meaning to wait until things cooled again in Fall. Then I moved out of the Phoenix area entirely, down to Bisbee, adding considerable distance to get to this area. What had been a hundred-mile drive was now over 200 miles.

I had an appointment in Phoenix on February 29th, and rather than drive all the way back to Bisbee the same day, and not having too many obligations the next day, I decided now would be a good chance to attempt Mount Triplet. I got a hotel in Globe for that night, and watched "The Sting" on Netflix. This was the 1973 Academy Awards winner for Best Picture, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, yet I had never seen it until now.

Looking online before I left Bisbee yesterday, I saw that the San Carlos Recreation Office, where they issue permits, did not open until 8 a.m.. I was bummed because I wanted to be hiking by then. I waited anyway, then drove in to Peridot, pulling into the lot about 7:30. A sign on the door mentioned a website where permits can be bought, so I did that. It took just a few minutes and I had my permit! I wish I had known that last night.

From the parking lot, I got back on US-70 for a few miles eastbound, then going north on Point of Pines Highway. Mount Triplet is the obvious big peak in the near distance, as it stands out among the lower hills, being the tallest peak for miles around. From Peridot and points west, it appears as one three-pronged summit, hence the name. But from the south, it is apparent there is just one main peak, a secondary peak to the west, and lower subpeaks nearby, but the "triplet" effect is no longer visible.

From the south, it is also a tough-looking peak, with tall cliffs and rocky ridges that make an ascent from this direction impossible (or foolish). But the fellas had come in from the north last year and said it was just a steep walk-up with almost no scrambling. The few triplogs online all show the same route: from the road, catching a northeast ridge up and down a hill, then onto the peak's north ridge and up to the top. That would be the way I would go, too.

I passed a San Carlos Ranger in his truck as I drove north, and a little past milepost 5, I pulled into a pullout near Hackberry Tank No. 1, a stock pond. This is where the road emerges from a canyon and onto the Antelope Flats. I was getting everything ready when I heard a truck engine, then saw the same guy I had passed coming up. Sure enough, he rolled into the lot to see what I was doing.

I was kind of expecting this. I immediately brought up my permit on my phone. He did not know they could be bought online, so I guess it's a new policy. He then asked what I was planning to do, so I told him I was going to hike up Mount Triplet. He seemed impressed and asked if it was possible to go to the top. I said it should be. He was very cool, a younger guy. The most important thing is, he never told me I couldn't. He then got moving, and I was glad I had the official okay to go about my business.

I started walking at 8 a.m. sharp. The first challenge comes immediately: to descend about 50 feet down a rocky embankment above the stock pond. These rocks were piled up when the highway was built, so they were steep and some moved. I had to try a few things but soon was down off these rocks, then crossing the small basin near the pond, then starting up the slopes for real.

I just picked a line and started walking up, making adjustments as I went along. The land is open but grassy, everything green and moist after recent rains. There was some scattered piñon, and thick patches of prickly-pear cactus and agave. These grow so thick together that it literally stopped me at times, no way to push through or squeeze through an opening.

This got me onto a ridge that led to another ridge, now trending northwest then west, aiming for a hill with an approximate elevation of 4,660 feet. The gradient this whole way was very gentle. I just had to watch for rolling rocks and getting stabbed or pricked by the plants. I had good views of the peak, and once I reached Hill 4660, had a full view of what awaited me. It did not look bad at all and I was eager to get onto it.

From the hill, I dropped about 130 feet to a lowpoint, then started up the north slopes of Mount Triplet. Studying it from Hill 4660, I knew to angle left of some lower rock outcrops, then catch the ridge and aim for a rocky nubbin higher up. The summit ridge, as seen from below, isn't very big: a rocky nubbin, then a larger rock outcrop, then ths summit itself.

The slopes looked steep from below but laid back well, and the brush stayed moderate. Just a couple times was I obliged to power through some plants and branches. I even came upon a game path that went almost straight up. I suspect that this may have been put in by the two-legged game. This path ran a couple hundred feet and made this segment go by quick.

I was now on the lower rocky margins of the upper ridge. This forced me to zig and zag, and to high-step or use my hands to help hoist up a boulder or two. Everything was solid, my only complaint being that the brush often grew thickest where I wanted to place my hand or boot. Shortly, I was at the nubbin, now with a good view of the home stretch.

Next up was the big rock outcrop below the summit. It was a heap of boulders but looked climbable if necessary. The guys had said it was possible to go right and bypass it, so I kind of did that, but I stayed higher and eventually just scrambled up a pile of rocks to get me on top of and past this obstacle. The scrambling was easy, just Class 2.

The summit was just yards away. I angled a little left and found an open ramp that fed me right onto the top. I was quite happy to be here and to be successful, and the summit area was quite pretty. It has a flat grassy area ringed by rocks, the highest being the highpoint. I walked to the top rocks, tagged the highest one and looked for a register (no luck). I found the benchmark. It was painted silver but not stamped. A nearby witness marker had the name stamped onto it. It was 10:02 a.m., a two-hour ascent.

The views were fantastic. It was cool and pleasant with almost no breeze. The sky was cloudless but the air was slightly moist, probably a carry-over from a storm that blew through here a couple days ago. I took a number of photos, picking out Mount Turnbull, Pinal Peak, Aztec Peak and the Pinaleños. I got a great view of the plateau country that lies east of here, abutting the Nantac Rim. This is about as outback Arizona as there is. No one comes here, and other than the road and a few ranches, it looks like it did probably in 1824. And probably 1824 B.C. for that matter.

I took a break slightly offset from the very top, on a good sitting rock with good views looking east. I spent nearly ten minutes up top enjoying the quiet and the rest, not feeling any urgency to keep moving. But soon I did, knowing I still had to get down all of this. I could see my car near the stock tank way down there and wished for a zipline that would take me directly to it.

The downhill hike went great. The grade was steep but not so much where every rock wanted to roll. I moved without a break, reascended most of Hill 4660, then down the northeast ridges back to my car. It went fast, only needing to slow when I would find myself surrounded by cactus or agave. I was able to reascend that sloppy pile of rocks near my car, and suddenly, I was out. It was 11:40 a.m., meaning a 90-minute descent. I felt really good.

I took time to change and debate what I wanted to do next. I did not have any second peaks on the agenda. I was going to return to Bisbee via Safford and Willcox, and do some scouting and exploring.

The drive to Safford took about an hour and went well. I then got onto US-191 southbound. I timed it so I was here as a school bus was dropping kids off every mile. He'd stop in the road and put on the red flashers, so we'd all stop of course. This took time. I was about the tenth car in line. I stopped for a snack and drink on the south end of town.

I got to Willcox, then onto AZ-186 which heads to the Chiricahuas. But I intended to follow Kansas Settlement Road, which heads due south and catches up with US-191 again about twenty miles later. This road goes through the Willcox Playa, and through a farming area with Kansas Settlement being the only town out here (it's not really much of a town, just a couple buildings and scattered homesteads). There are a couple peaks that looked interesting, so I wanted to see them up close. These lie on private lands, but I was curious "how private". Some of the land out here looks like open undeveloped desert.

I also followed the Courtland Road south through Pearce, then the ruins of Courtland and Gleeson, atching Gleeson Road into Elfrida, then secondary connectors south and west through Double Adobe back to Bisbee, arriving about 3 p.m..

The route up Mount Triplet was about as uncomplicated as it could be. There was no place where it felt ugly or treacherous. I never felt anxious or concerned. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the experience a lot. This is only my third time on the Point of Pines Highway and have loved it every time. I enjoy this part of Arizona tremendously. I am also pleased to know that permits for the San Carlos can be bought online, which makes getting them much less of a hassle. I appreciate that the San Carlos Nation allow recreation on its lands. This was also a fine way to make the trip into Phoenix a more pleasant experience. It was my first time back since moving away. I don't like it much any more, but I have to go back now and then and I may as well make the best of it.

(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.