The Mountains of Arizona •

Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
The Arizona All-Stars (from left): Richard Joseph, Doug Kasian, John Klein, Andy Martin, Rick Hartman, Andy Bates, Mark Nicholls, Scott Peavy, Rob Moore, Nick Scouras
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
Morgan Butte as seen from the south
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
Walking on the trail
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
Like a conga-line
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
The last saddle below the summit, which is just ahead
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
Looking back, a few of our team slowly descending to the saddle
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
The last climb just before the top
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
John getting a back-slap for competing the Arizona range list
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
View north at Morgan Butte. It looks lower to me
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
The gang at the top of the Wickenburg Mountains HP
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
The cars shoehorned at the saddle west of Morgan Butte
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
Andy walking toward Morgan Butte
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
Looking over at the Wickenburg Mountains' "official" highpoint that we just climbed
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
The road up Morgan Butte. My truck is down there, see?
Wickenburg Mountains, Arizona
Ambling back to the cars from Morgan Butte

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Wickenburg Mountains

Wickenburg Mountain • Morgan Butte

Today's agenda would be to climb both candidates for the highest point of the Wickenburg Mountains. Doug Kasian had put together the original list years ago, and had identified Morgan Butte as the range highpoint. But apparently, the "official" boundary of the Wickenburg Mountains excludes Morgan Butte, which seems silly because visually, it is clear Morgan Butte is connected to the range. We guessed that whoever decides on such boundaries put the boundary along Buckhorn Creek Road, one of the roads we drove in. In any case, both hikes are non-technical and we would visit both to cover ourselves.

Today would be a special day: John Klein, a climber from Tucson, was to finish his last remaining Arizona range highpoint, here in the Wickenburg Mountains. To celebrate, he invited a whole bunch of Arizona peakbaggers to join him. The group numbered 11, including a couple guys I had never met but had seen their names in the registers for years. Everyone else I knew, but in a couple of those cases, I had not seen these guys for 9 years in one case, 14 in another. It was like a little reunion.

The group consisted of John Klein, Andy Martin, Mark Nicholls, Nick Scouras, Rick Hartman, Andy Bates, Richard Joseph, Rob Moore, Doug Kasian, Scott Peavy, and me. I had not seen Nick since 2005 on Mazatzal Peak, and Andy Bates since 2000 when we hiked Black Mesa. This was the first time I had met Richard Joseph and Rob Moore.

Wickenburg Mountain
• Highpoint: Wickenburg Mountains
• Yavapai County

Date: April 12, 2014 • Elevation: 4,500 feet • Prominence: 360 feet • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 3 hours • Gain: 1,643 feet • Conditions: Breezy and warm • Teammates: John Klein, Scott Peavy, Andy Martin, Doug Kasian, Richard Joseph, Rick Hartman, Andy Bates, Mark Nicholls, Nick Scouras & Rob Moore


Scott Peavy rode with me and I got us safely into Wickenburg at 6:45 a.m., where we met everyone. We stood around and talked a little while, then started rolling toward the day's objectives. The Wickenburg Mountains run generally northeast of the city of Wickenburg, with two contending highpoints: Morgan Butte at 4,611 feet, and an unnamed hilltop about 5 miles south-southeast, which is just short of 4,500 feet.

From Wickenburg, we followed Constellation Road about 7 miles northeast, a good, wide hard-pack dirt road most of the way, to where it connects with Buckhorn Creek Road. We went east on Buckhorn Creek Road about another 6 miles. This road was also very good, but narrower, windier and steeper. We stopped at a last turnoff, a "Jeep" road trending southwest up a secondary drainage. Here, we stashed a couple vehicles and rode in, and parked near a corral. We stood around for photographs, such as the first one you see on the left sidebar. We started hiking about 8 a.m., the weather clear, dry, and cool for now. Our first objective was the unnamed 4,500-foot summit.

John led the way, and we followed a rocky creekbed, then barged up some steep, loose slopes to gain the ridges. The brush was moderate, but soon, we had gained about a hundred feet to place ourselves on higher, more solid ridges. The brush lessened as we went higher, and we found some footpaths and old miner's trails in a few cases. We kept a good pace, stopping often to allow everyone to catch up and rest. There was no hurry.

Our hiking route went southwest at first until we gained some higher ridges and fencelines. We could see evidence of old roads put in by the miners. Our route then veered more south. Soon, we were traversing past a slightly-lower subsummit to the north of the 4,500-foot summit. We dropped about 150 feet to a saddle, then up a couple hundred feet to the top. We waited for everyone to convene. Then, the big moment: John's celebratory stepping on the top rock. With that, he had climbed all 204 range highpoints, which is no small feat considering how remote many are, such as those in the Goldwater Range, some on Indian Reservations or land-grant properties, those within the Grand Canyon, and some extending into Mexico.

John was the sixth person ever to complete this list. Doug Kasian and Andy Bates are two of the others. The rest of us "are getting there". We spent about 30 minutes relaxing at the top, looking at the surrounding ranges, taking photos, having lunch. The one-way hike had taken us just under two hours and covered two miles. With all the ups and downs, we put in over 1,600 vertical feet.

The hike out went well with no difficulties. We stopped near an old copper mine prospect, picking up some green-blue colored rocks laying about. I took a couple for my rock-loving wife. We were back to the vehicles in under two hours. At the cars, Doug had prepared a speech and a certificate for John.

We then drove back a couple miles to the spur road leading up toward Morgan Butte, which we would tag to be double-sure we all got this range's highest point.

Morgan Butte
• Highpoint (?): Wickenburg Mountains
• Yavapai County

Elevation: 4,611 feet • Prominence: 971 feet • Distance: 0.4 mile • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 200 feet


Morgan Butte is ostensibly the highest peak in the Wickenburg Mountains, but newer "definitions" by the Forest Service as to how the ranges out this way are defined throws some confusion into the matter. Morgan Butte is either the highest point (if using one's own eyes and common sense to judge) of the range, or it is not (if following some perplexing decisions by the Forest Service where the range begins and ends).

A big group of us had congregated to celebrate John Klein's completion of the Arizona range highpoints list, saving this one for last so we could all join in the fun. To be sure, we hiked both contenders for the highest point of the Wickenburg Mountains, starting with Wickenburg Mountain ealier this morning. It was not a far drive to get to the base of Morgan Butte.

I parked low and Scott opted to stay behind to rest an injured toe. I rode with Rick and we all parked at a saddle just west of Morgan Butte. The hike was just 0.2 mile one way, a couple hundred feet of gain, and within minutes were atop this peak. Looking south toward our earlier peak, it seemed to me that we were lower here. Was Morgan Butte really over 100 feet higher than the southern peak? I certainly was not convinced.

We stood around for a few minutes on top of Morgan Butte. The views were nice, including one of some current mine located just east of the peak. We were back to the cars, this journey lasting about 30 minutes. Rick dropped me off at my truck, and then Scott and I got moving. We had said our goodbyes earlier, so we did not reconvene in Wickenburg. Instead, everyone went their own ways.

The day was still young, perhaps 2 p.m., so I asked Scott if it was cool if we visited the Wickenburg City Highpoint, a peak called Peak 2624, or unofficially Turtleback Ridge. It's a nice-shaped peak, more prominent than I had figured. Scott was interested, so we visited this little peak, as well as a couple of easier city highpoints on the drive back home. The story continues...

Turtleback Ridge
• Highpoint: City of Wickenburg

Elevation: 2,624 feet • Prominence: 324 feet • Distance: 0.4 mile • Time: 20 minutes • Gain: 200 feet

PBCity HPs of Maricopa County

Scott and I drove into the heart of Wickenburg and after getting some cold drinks, we followed Kellis Road south toward an obvious hilltop not too far away, locally known as Turtleback Ridge. This is the highpoint of the city of Wickenburg.

I followed Kellis Road to where it bent left, now called Via Tortuga. I followed that to southbound Camino Cobre, then west along Pueblo Vista, then finally up a steep spur called Turtleback Ridge Road. I parked at the base of a driveway on a lesser bladed dirt road, which is posted "For Sale". The area here features some high-end homes and open properties.

We walked this dirt road to a cleared area, then directly uphill to the top. The top is long and narrow, covered in blackened volcanic rocks and cactus. The views are very nice. We were surprised to find a register placed here by Lilley & MacLeod. This hilltop presumably does not get a lot of visitors and the register has survived up there for years now.

We walked back the way we came, and started the drive back to Phoenix via US-60. Along the way, I wanted to visit a couple more city highpoints. Scott was still game.

The top

View of Vulture Peak

View from Kellis Road

Dysart & Greenway
• Highpoint: City of El Mirage

Elevation: 1,168 feet • Distance: none • Time: 2 minutes • Gain: none

Driving southeast along US-60, I turned south onto Dysart Road and in a mile, came to its intersection with Greenway Road. The northwest corner of the city of El Mirage is at this intersection, and is the presumed highest point, the land sloping to the south and east. I pulled into the Walgreens at this corner and we got out to look around. We took advantage of the stop to throw away some trash we had accrued during the day. We spent just a few moments here, continuing southbound on Dysart Road.

La Loma Homestead
• Highpoint: City of Litchfield Park

Elevation: 1,125 feet • Distance: 0.2 mile • Time: 20 minutes • Gain: 25 feet

We cut one mile west, now on southbound Litchfield Road, driving through the Luke Air Force Base and emerging into a mix of houses and farmlands. The highpoint of the city of Litchfield Park is a small hill called La Loma Ranch on the map. It rises about 25 feet above the surrounding floodplain on the west side of Litchfield Road and north of Camelback Road. It was the former homestead of the Litchfield family, for whom the city is named.

From Litchfield Road, access to this hill is closed. So we drove to Camelback Road, then entered onto the La Paloma Medical "Campus", which appears to include apartments, too. We drove around the back, so to speak, and parked in some random visitor's parking area. The hill was nearby, unfenced, no prohibitive signs.

From the truck, we walked some paths with benches and then up the grassy and sandy hillsides, topping out in moments. We spent a few moments inspecting the area. One flattened filltop was clearly higher than the rest, and we never ventured toward the old homestead buildings. We were back to the truck in about 15 minutes total.

The homestead is in fallow shape. It's not trashed, but it's not being kept up, either. The city website mentions it being gifted to the city by the family, for eventual community development. It has tremendous potential and could be a very attractive place once it's cleaned up and developed a little bit.

The highpoint

View west

From Litchfield Park, I got us onto the Loop-101 Freeway, then Interstate-10 for the drive home. Including all hikes, we had gained nearly 2,000 vertical feet for the day, and I was bushed once home. I had a great time meeting all the Arizona peakbagging "All Stars".

(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.