Mount Peeley

Mount Peeley 7030′
Total Time: 2.5 hours
Round Trip Mileage: 5.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600′
Class I with cross country
Trailhead: Mount Peeley/ Cornucopia, no amenities
Companions: Holly

peeley topo


peeley earth


I wanted to give Holly a taste of Tonto National Forest before snow covered the high country, so we set out to climb Mount Peeley, a 7,000′ peak in the Mazatzal Mountains. The hike is featured in the popular “60 Hikes in 60 Miles: Phoenix” book, so I assumed that it wouldn’t entail anything overly strenuous. While the hike itself was relatively tame as I had guessed, the drive in was not. The trail starts at the Mount Peeley/ Cornucopia Trailhead fairly deep in the Mazatzal Mountains, eventually meeting up with the Arizona trail, stretching approximately 800 miles from Mexico to Utah through the state.
AZ Trail
AZ Trail

Getting to the trailhead involves an hours drive up Highway 87 to the Sycamore Canyon turnoff. While initially paved, our route quickly changed to almost 10 miles of high clearance dirt road, taking nearly 45 minutes, including having a stand off with another car with no room to pull over on the narrow, rough road. While I did see one Honda Fit, basically every car was an SUV, pickup or utility vehicle and I would not recommend a passenger car try and make the journey. When we finally made the trailhead, we weren’t in the best of moods, the drive having dampened our enthusiasm.

Facing the wrong way.
Facing the wrong way.

We set out from the recently updated trailhead and meandered around a few small hills before reaching a high saddle with Mount Peeley, with brushy slopes before us. Within a quarter mile, the trail meets the Arizona Trail, with a recently installed metal sign asking if you want to go to Mexico or Utah.

Tacos or Mormons?
Tacos or Mormons?

We choose Utah, and started up a series of rocky switchbacks. This area of the range was also effected by the Willow Fire of 2004, making for good views through the slowly recovering brush.

Scrub brush
Scrub brush

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At 1.25 miles, a small bench nicely positioned in the shade gave us a chance for a short break. We continued on, the switchbacks having ended after the bench as the trail swung around the north side of the peak, entering a dense pine forest that escaped the Willow Fire.

Entering forest
Entering forest

There were some impressive views to the North towards Mazatzal Peak, although the high point was still hidden from view. The beta I had said to be on the lookout for a burnt sign as the point to get off trail and head cross country towards the summit. What we found was a replaced Mazatzal Wilderness sign and a larger cairn about 60′ further on the trail.

New sign
New sign

From here was a decent use trail with numerous cairns that led although the way to the summit. The going slowed as the grade steepened considerably but eventually we topped out on the grassy summit.

Holly, not loving the steep cross country.
Holly, not loving the steep cross country.

While the summit itself was rather unimpressive, a broad, rounded hump with a few rock piles, the views were impressive, from the nearby Four Peaks to the Flatiron and smaller mountains in Phoenix.

Panorama
Panorama
BM
BM

We had a late lunch and some beer on the top before making our way down. I did a horrible job of keeping with the use trail and we had to hop over some blow down before hitting the trail again. On the way out Holly almost stepped on a small tarantula that looked anything but afraid of us.

Pissed.
Pissed.

The drive out was much less eventful with no showdowns with other cars, and we made it home shortly after sunset.

Looking up at the summit.
Looking up at the summit.

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