The Mountains of Arizona •

Vineyard Mountain: The trail lower down

First view of the highpoint, with the redish rocks slightly visible

Look down at the Salt River

Summit hill up ahead

View of the Four Peaks from the top

The Salt River Canyon

Another look down into the canyon

Look back at Peak 3458 and Lake Roosevelt

Lake Roosevelt and Windy Hill

The suspension bridge and the dam

Now at the dam, looking up at Vineyard Mountain's mass (the highpoint is not visible from here)

The east tip of Windy Hill, where the highpoint is at

Typical terrain and flora down low

Typical terrain and flora a little higher

The top, with the scratched-up benchmark

View northwest at Vineyard Mountain and the Mazatzal backdrop

All images

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Roosevelt Lake

Vineyard Mountain • Windy Hill

I directed my sights today on Vineyard Mountain, which rises north of the Roosevelt Lake Bridge and forms the massive northern cliffs of the Salt River itself, where it continues westbound beyond the Roosevelt Lake Dam. As a chaser, I looked at Windy Hill, which lies "in" Lake Roosevelt, connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Temperatures are warming this time of year, but with an early start, I was confident I could visit both without being eaten by snakes.

Vineyard Mountain West Summit
• Tonto National Forest
• Three Bar State Wildlife Area
• Gila County

Date: May 11, 2019 • Elevation: 3,559 feet • Prominence: 459 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes • Gain: 1,750 feet • Conditions: Pleasant, sunny


Vineyard Mountain rises above where the Roosevelt Dam anchors into the Salt River Canyon, to the right if looking west downstream. The mountain rises about 1,400 feet above the river and offers astounding views into the canyon, as well as out beyond toward Lake Roosevelt. A good trail starts at the highway (AZ-188) and gains steeply, but the trail generally avoids the highest ridges where the best views would be. This trail (the Vineyard Trail) is now part of the Arizona Trail, which spans the state from north to south.

Technically, going by what the topographic map says, the actual Vineyard Mountain is the easternmost rise of the big broad mountain, marked with a spot elevation of 3,458 feet. However, the massif includes three other significant rises, of which the next one west, marked spot elevation 5,559 feet (an error, it should be 3,559 feet) is the highest point of the four. This was my destination for the day. I planned to tag both this point, and the 3,458-footer to the east.

I left home early, at 4:30 a.m., and drove into Globe, then north along AZ-188 about 30 miles to the Roosevelt Lake Bridge. Immediately north of where the bridge ends, there is a pull-out on the lake-side of the highway. I rolled in about 6:20, the first car here. I got properly attired, got my pack in order, locked up the vehicle and started hiking at 6:30.

The trail gains steeply for the first mile, gaining about 800 feet of which two segments are particularly steep. But it is a good trail with decent footing, and I made good time. I had not hiked in a month and could feel my legs wobble a bit. The day was sunny and cool, but not chilly. It was what we usually get in May: cool air temperature but a noticeable warmth from the sun itself. The day's high was supposed to be in the mid-80s. For now, it was in the 60s.

The trail swings north around Inspiration Point, then after one last steep haul, achieves the main "highlands" of the big Vineyard Mountain massif. Most of my uphill gain was now achieved. The grades from here on were very lenient, often flat.

Up ahead was the 3,458-foot peak, the "official" Vineyard Mountain. The trail angled to the right (north) of the peak, with grasses about 3 to 4 feet high everywhere. It was not inviting to walk through, so I kept to the trail, which was slightly overgrown here. The trail then drops about 180 feet to a lowpoint between the east and west summits.

Here, the trail does come right up to the rim, where views into the Salt River Canyon were possible. The south-facing slopes of Vineyard Mountain have an extremely-steep rake to them. While not cliffs in the truest sense, they gave that similar sense of air that cliffs would. I stopped to admire the views, plus to drink a little water.

Next on the agenda was the highpoint, the 3,559-foot peak. I kept to the trail. It too angled north of the peak, but I stayed on it, not wanting to venture into the thigh-high grass. Once due north of the presumptive highest point, I then started to look for a way to the top that was somewhat open.

As it was, I had to just pick a line and go with it. I zigged and zagged around prickly-pear cactus and thickets of brush. The grass was lower here, but still a foot high, obscuring views of the ground and the critters that lie therein. I moved slowly and kept an eye out for snakes and beehives. This segment took about 15 minutes and then I was on top. The one-way hike covered about three miles and took me two hours. I signed into the log book, then took a longer break to enjoy the views.

The best views, as mentioned already, are those into the Salt River Canyon. Equally impressive were the views of the Mazatzal Mountains and the distinctive Four Peaks. I could see roads and trails down below me to the west and north. Looking east was Lake Roosevelt and the rugged Sierra Ancha. The weather was still cool and pleasant, and I spent about 20 minutes up top.

For the descent, I stayed on the ridge and headed off the summit due east, theorizing the ridge itself may have less brush, and it did. But when I came to the unavoidable slopes back to the trail, I again had to go slowly through the grass, cactus and brush. I arrived back onto the trail where I stopped to take off my long pants and put back on my shorts for the hike out. At this time, another hiker and his dog walked by, the first person (and dog) I'd seen today.

I re-ascended the slope near the 3,458-foot peak, but decided not to chance another walk through the thick brush and grass. Instead, I stayed on the trail and walked at a good pace back to my vehicle. I met two other hikers on my egress. I was back to my car at 10 a.m., a descent of about 1 hour, 15 minutes. By now, the little lot had about 8 vehicles, but some people here obviously not intending to hike the trail.

I did not change. Instead, I drove back a brief ways and then drove up a little portion of the Apache Trail (AZ-88) to the small parking area and viewpoint near the bridge and dam. Down here, I could now look up at the 1,400 feet to the highest ridges where I had just been a couple hours ago.

It was still early and the temperatures still tolerable, so I motored south on AZ-188 a couple more miles, intending to hike an interesting little bump called Windy Hill.

I enjoyed the hike up the Vineyard Trail. The views were as advertized and I enjoyed the hearty hike along trails, a chance to get my legs back in shape in a hurry. One of the other hikers mentioned this trail segment is usually lightly-travelled and he usually sees no one when he hikes here. It is a good trail, but kind of remote --- from Phoenix, the drive would cover about 115 miles. Nevertheless, it has a lot going for it and does not disappoint.

Windy Hill
• Tonto National Forest
• Lake Roosevelt
• Gila County

Elevation: 2,460 feet • Prominence: 320 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 320 feet • Conditions: Warm and sunny, bugs


Windy Hill lies in the middle of Lake Roosevelt, connected to the shore by a low-lying extension of land. It is about as close to an actual island as there is in Arizona. It is part of the Windy Hill camping and boating recreational facility, run by the Tonto National Forest. The hill is a ranked summit, with just over 300 feet of prominence. I did not expect this hike to take very long.

I was done with my Vineyard Mountain hike at 10 a.m., so I drove south on AZ-188 a few miles to the Windy Hill area, but balked at paying $12 for a day pass. So I backtracked to a store a couple miles away and got some drinks, then got a pass for $8 at the forest ranger station nearby. I drove back and drove the main road into the Windy Hill area, passing all the campgrounds and parking in the first of two large lots near the boat launches. It was close to 11 after all my delays, and warming up quickly. I put back on my hiking pants, seeing as I would be hiking through brush most of the way.

Windy Hill is not a bad looking hill. I was expecting a generic hill with generic brush on it. Instead, it's a rocky hill, the rocks forming into tiers and allowing for mostly-open hiking to avoid the heavy brush and cactus. Down low, I walked into the brush, following old roads through the thick grass and scraggly trees, getting myself close to the base of the hill. I then aimed south and east, following whatever paths I could glean. I may as well use what others have bashed in over the years. Finally, I was at the end of all paths, real or imagined.

Next, I hiked uphill into the brush, but was able to follow rocks for almost all of the hike, leaving just a few places where I had to weave through grass and brush, always on the lookout for snakes. The insects were out in abundance, and the day was getting into the 80s, so things were a little uncomfortable, but not too bad.

The remainder of the hike was following a long, sloping ridge to the highpoint, which always seemed to be another hundred feet ahead. Above me were a bunch of red-tailed hawks, circling around and letting out their "reeee-ahh" screech, sounding like pteradactyls. Were they circling me, expecting me to drop at any moment? Did they know something I didn't? Every now and then, one would fly low enough (perhaps 15 feet) to cast a distinct shadow over me. It happened more than once so could not have been random. It was creepy, like the shadow of death.

But on the positive side, I was up top soon enough. I found the benchmark, but it was scratched, and not stamped with the hill's name (the map has it as "Windy Point"). I looked around for other possible markers, but did not see any. I took a few photos, but the views were limited by the growth surrounding me. I did not stop, and after circling the top once or twice, started back down.

I followed generally the same route back down, the whole time being shadowed, literally, by the big raptors. Once I was back to the lower flats, they stopped bothering with me. Yeah, they were probably just watching me to make sure I didn't mess with their nests, but I also like to think they were planning for my demise. It adds to the story. Not that I want to drop dead any time soon, but if I do, a sky burial sounds kind of cool.

I was back to my vehicle in an hour exactly, a bit hot and very thirsty. I changed out of my hiking clothes into looser driving clothes, then just drove the hundred miles back home, nothing exciting to mention.

Windy Hill is one of those bumps I would never bother with on its own, but as an add-on, it was easy to get and better than I was expecting. The geology of the hill would probably interest some people, and the views in spots are quite dramatic. I am happy I bothered to hike it, and to those hawks, maybe next time.

(c) 2019 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.