The Mountains of Arizona •
White Benchmark & Beacon • Skyline Regional Park
• White Tank Mountains
• City of Buckeye, Maricopa County

White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
The far ridge, with White BM the left bump, and the Beacon the right bump
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
Now a little closer in
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
View up the canyon to the saddle below White BM
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
At the saddle. White BM is directly above, the beacon to the right
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
View down from where I came
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
Hiking up to White BM
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
In this image, the Beacon summit is clearly higher than Pyrite Summit, which is seen to the Beacon's right. I am about at head level with the White BM summit
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
View of the beacon from White BM's summit
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
Closing in on the beacon
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
The beacon
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
Look back at White BM's summit from the beacon
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
View east, with the parking lot that gray patch in the distance
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
View of the Sierra Estrella as I hike out. Note the dust clouds
White Benchmark Skyline, Arizona
The two witness markers. I could not find the actual benchmark

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Date: October 25, 2019 • Elevation: 2,288 feet (White BM), 2,300+ feet (Beacon) • Prominence: About 500 feet • Distance: 5.5 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 1,130 feet • Conditions: Blue skies, clear and extremely windy


I returned to the Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye, at the south end of the White Tank Mountains. The weather was cooling down enough so that I did not need to be hiking at 0-dark-30 to beat the heat, and I wanted a good hike along trails in what is, to me, a very pretty area to hike. Also, there was some unfinished business: back in April, I hiked Pyrite Summit, on the west edge of the park. It is ostensibly the highest point of the ridge that contains it. While there, I looked south at two bumps, one called White Benchmark and the other just "Beacon". Beacon appeared higher to me at the time, and I wanted to return to further investigate this.

I got an early start, leaving home at 6 a.m., dawn still about a half-hour away. I left early because it was a Friday and I wanted to beat the traffic through downtown Phoenix. I was able to get through the center of town and out on the west fringes of the suburbs, arriving to the Skyline Park a little before 7 a.m.. To my surprise, every single space in the parking lot was taken --- about 50 such spaces. I had to park in the overflow horse-trailer lot. Even that one was almost completely filled.

I started hiking at 7:15 a.m., the day sunny and cloudless, and a little breezy. I followed the Turnbuckle, Granite Falls and Pyrite Trails, covering 1.4 miles to the Pyrite junction, and approximately another 0.2 mile to where an old ATV track veers south toward White Benchmark and "Beacon". This last junction lies in the bottom of a wash. Although not an official trail, it is wide and easy to follow, albeit very rocky.

I hiked south up this old road, aiming for a saddle up ahead that comes directly off the White Benchmark summit. The hiking was easy but steep, and I slid once, almost doing the splits. The rocks were loose and I had to step deliberately. I was on that high saddle fairly quickly.

White Benchmark's summit was above me, about 200 feet higher up a steep slope. The lower half seemed to be an old bulldozer track. It petered out about half way up. The rest of the hike was through a patch of cholla cactus. As I neared the top, I deliberately stopped to where my head was about level with the top rocks of the peak. I looked north at the Beacon summit and Pyrite Summit behind it. It was definitive: Beacon summit is higher than Pyrite, and of my position, by about 15 feet. It appeared that Pyrite Summit and White Benchmark summit were about the same height.

I intended to hike north across the rocky ridge to the Beacon. But now, I had an extra challenge. Being on the ridge crest itself, the winds were funnelling up the slopes and gusting at about 40 miles per hour, strong enough to be very distracting and sometimes throw me off balance.

Nevertheless, I poked my way down off of White Benchmark summit, then through or around three or four rock outcrops until I was below the rock nubbin that holds the beacon. Here, I had to do the barest of scrambling, walking a narrow but convenient ledge at one point, and ironically, trying to avoid a massive spider web along the way. I was on top of the Beacon summit, where I sat near the wooden structure.

This beacon is similar to the one on to of Cat Hill. It is about eight feet tall and shaped like a small oil derrick, and had remnant metalworks to where the old light would have been housed. It swayed in the stiff winds, and I did my best to mitigate the winds, but there was no place to take shelter. I looked over at both the Pyrite and White Benchmark summits, affirming I was higher than both.

I hiked back the way I came, and once back to the White benchmark summit, took some time to locate the benchmark. I found two witness markers but not the actual benchmark. The wind was driving me nuts. Once I dropped downslope about 40 feet, the wind's effects died down to a merely stiff breeze, but one I could generally ignore.

When I returned to the parking lot, it was now nearly empty, perhaps just five cars. Where did everyone go? I never saw anyone else on my hike but I was also farthest from the lot. It may have been some weekday hiking group. My car was just one of two in the massive horse-trailer lot. I changed out of my hiking clothes and drove back to Phoenix and my day job at ASU. The winds were crazy, and there were dust clouds everywhere.

I am still perplexed by the "what is higher" conundrum of the White, Beacon and Pyrite summits. Clearly, Beacon is highest, but the maps are inaccurate. I contacted a Buckeye city engineer for his insights and he did not have newer mapping data for me, but agreed that it is an error and might even look into it on some future expedition. White and Beacon both lie outside the Skyline Park boundaries (and those of Buckeye, for that matter), but if it were ever to be absorbed, they'd probably need to map it accurately.

(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.