The Mountains of Arizona •
Uncle Sam Hill • Tombstone Hills
• Arizona State Trust Land
• Cochise County

Uncle Sam Hill is seen from near where I started hiking. It is dead center, with a slightly tilted summit

Hiking the road, The Dome is to the right

Looking up at The Dome and some random cows

Uncle Sam Hill

Nearing the top

Antenna thing

Antenna, cairn

Stick cross

Looking north, Mays Hill (Three Brothers) and The Dome

An old oven or kiln, that's my best guess

All images

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Date: March 27, 2024 • Elevation: 4,851 feet • Prominence: 338 feet • Distance: 6.4 miles • Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes • Gain: 1,230 feet (gross) • Conditions: Cold at first, slightly warmer later, clear skies

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Uncle Sam Hill lies about a mile southeast of The Dome, which I hiked a week ago. The hills are part of the Tombstone Hills, in a batch west of Tombstone, north of Charleston Road and south of highway AZ-82.

The hill is actually quite close to Charleston Road, less than a mile from it, and a road (Main Chance Road) leads in toward a couple of properties. But these looked private and unlikely to grant access. On last week's hike, I got a sense of the roads from the north and thought that a northern approach looked promising. It would be much longer, but mostly public.

Most of Uncle Sam Hill, including the summit, is on State Trust land. There is a tiny parcel of BLM land north of it, and then mostly contiguous State Trust land to the north and east. My planned route would follow a road along a boundary of State Trust and private land, but last week's visit suggested that it may be unfenced and unposted.

The previous three days were winter's last hurrah (even though it is now spring). We had a cold storm blow in, highs just in the 40s, lots of wind, and periods of rain, sleet, hail and graupel. But this all blew out overnight, and this morning was looking to be a clear, cool day. I left Bisbee a little after 7, temperatures in the high 30s. I stopped in Tombstone for drinks, then drove to the same gate where I parked for my hike of The Dome. After getting situated, I locked the car and started walking at 8:10 a.m.. It was chilly but not uncomfortable, temperatures about 45°.

I followed a track south, then east toward a tourist ranch, then south, aiming for Uncle Sam Hill off in the distance. It was visible but I was not certain which one was the hill at first. The road walk went fast. I covered just under two miles, cresting a rise east of The Dome, with Uncle Sam Hill now visible.

Then I came to a gate. It was locked and posted against trespassing. I was not expecting a gate here, so I sat down, got out my phone and looked up the land-ownership maps. I wasn't going to go past the gate, but the maps (and my hunch) suggested that the fencing may only go so far.

I walked west along the fence. The terrain was brushy with ocotillo and loose rocks, but open enough with cattle paths so that I could make good time. I could see the fence go west, then cut across a hillside going south. So I kept to the fence and followed it west and south until I was descending again. Uncle Sam Hill rose close by, less than a half-mile south.

I came to another fence, squeezing under it. I descended downhill, losing about 300 feet and crossing one more fence, coming to a lowpoint near some old mine digs, the San Pedro and the State of Maine, neither which have been active for decades. I dropped into a drainage then across one road. Now I was on the actual Uncle Sam Hill.

The slope was steep and grassy, with thornbrush, ocotillo, mesquite and plenty of rocks, but not difficult and almost always with an open lane to follow. I marched up the hill, crossed another road, then marched uphill some more to the top. The summit is a short ridge, where the highpoint is on its south tip.

I arrived onto the summit at 9:50 a.m., a 1-hour and 45-minute hike, covering about 3.25 miles. It was warming now, into the 50, and it was humid. The grass was wet and I was sweating, despite the "cool" weather. The top hosts an antenna structure about 6 feet tall and some electronics. Nearby is a cairn holding up a stick cross. I found the top rock and tagged it, then turned right around and started down.

Even though I knew I was on State Trust land and was legal where I was (with my permit), all the fence crossing down below had me concerned just what was private, state or BLM. There were no homes below, so I knew I wouldn't be bothering anyone. But I did not feel comfortable with this uncertainty. I preferred to get myself back on land where I knew I was legal, or close to it.

I had to re-ascend the hill to get back to the fence I had followed around earlier. I then stuck close to the fence and followed it, retracing my route from earlier. Instead of bee-lining back to track and gate, I angled northeast and followed cattle paths up and over a low saddle and down a long ridge. Some cattle watched me as I walked by. This worked well, as I followed cattle paths most of the way. This got me back to the road, and shaved off not a whole lot, maybe a quarter-mile.

Once on the road, I walked quickly back to my car, arriving at 11:30, a slightly faster time out than in. Using an on-line distance calculator, I figured I hiked 3.25 miles in, and 3.15 miles out. These estimates are conservative. The day was a lovely one, temperatures about 60° now. I had some meetings in a couple hours, but I still had time to do some driving and scouting.

I exited back into Tombstone, then south on Charleston Road, driving right by Uncle Sam Hill, just right there. If I could have come up from this side, the hike would take 45 minutes. I also checked a few other roads. The maps show a lot of roads, but I wanted to see if they actually exist, and if so, are gated or not. It's hard to tell just looking at maps.

I ended up driving about ten miles past the San Pedro River valley (the cottonwoods are getting green, I need to hike there soon), then onto Moson Road, which I followed south to highway AZ-90, which I took into Bisbee and on home.

I was pleased to be successful on this hike because it was the one peak in this batch where access was of concern. The hike itself was enjoyable and easy, but having to take detours like I did slowed me. Ultimately, the peak isn't worth this much effort. I would not recommend it unless you, like me, need to "hike them all".

Looking up information on the old mine digs on the Mindat site revealed the names of the two digs I came upon. Neither were moneymakers and all that remains are some holes, trenches, tailing piles and a couple rusted metal things, including one that looked like an oven or kiln. I took an image of it, but don't know enough to have a sense of what it was and its purpose. I just enjoy seeing these relics that date possibly back to the late 1800s.

(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.