Miller Peak 9,466’
Total Time: 7 hours
Round Trip Mileage: 12.2
Total Elevation Gain: 4050’
Trailhead and amenities: Miller Canyon- trash, no water or toilets.
For a relatively obscure peak, Miller Peak has a lot going for it. It is the highest peak in the Huachuca Mountains, one of the highest ranges in Southern AZ. The range spills into Mexico, offering a commanding view of the Sonoran desert and northern Mexico. Its biggest draw, and the reason I chose to climb it early during my time in AZ, is its inclusion on the list of Ultra-Prominence Peaks in the US, one of only 57 summits in the lower 48 states with over 5,000’ of prominence. Arizona is blessed with 5 total (Miller, Humphreys, Graham, Lemmon and Chiricahua), more then many other more “mountainous” states including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Oregon.
While there are several trails available leading to the summit of Miller Peak, I opted for Miller Canyon in hopes to tag Carr Peak as well. The dirt road to the trailhead gives warnings of the illegal immigration that is common in the mountains, but the trailhead itself had several cars with overweight bird watchers, so I wasn’t too concerned from the start.
After skirting around a few cabins, the trail is a wide, easy to follow fire road that has a relatively gentle grade. Dipping in and out of a few side canyons, I began to climb above the canyon bottom, with small pools of water beginning to form in the canyon bottom. Along the way, I passed several abandoned mines and a pretty elaborate mining camp, reclaimed by nature.
After about 2 miles, I hit a junction that seems to form a short loop hike in the canyon, and the remaining trail becoming significantly more overgrown. I was thankful for pants the rest of the way to the top. The trail begins to climb much more steeply out of the canyon, and the view started to open up to the summit and the canyon below.
The trail continued to climb out of the canyon until shortly before a saddle where you reach a junction with the Crest Trail, which runs along the spine of the mountains into Mexico. Here I found a small camp and the source of water for the entire canyon, a consistent spring that was diverted into an old bathtub.
I turned onto the crest trail south towards Miller and immediately noticed the difference in monsoon rains southern Arizona receives, with an impressive display of wildflowers.
I have learned early not to be surprised by anything I encounter hiking in Arizona, since it has everything from rugged desert to high alpine summits. However, I was still completely shocked to find….
Wild raspberries! They were completely overgrowing over the trail, with so many that I could pluck them off without breaking stride. This wound up being a double edge sword as the thorns found their way through my pants, but it would have been much worse had I gone with shorts. Once of the crest, the trail dips up and down mostly in forest before a final junction just below the summit. From there it was easy switchbacks to the exposed summit. The summit used to feature an old lookout tower, long burned down, which made a nice cement foundation to look out from. On the summit there was an unusual number of ladybugs covering every major feature.More comically, there were some colorful and very happy Desert Spiny Lizards with an endless supply of food as far as they could see.
I did not linger long as afternoon storms were already building and I hoped to still have time for Carr Peak. About halfway back on the crest trail, the skies opened up more or less directly over Carr and I was forced to call it an early day.
I half-jogged back to the trailhead to try and avoid a complete drenching and killed the rest of the day checking out Tombstone, AZ.