This is an exciting little off-trail peak to bag when you don't have a lot of time. Picture Rocks is the distictive peak guarding the eastern border of the north Tucson Mountain foothills. It is also the prominent peak just south of Contzen Pass.
Take off from the ubiquitous Ringtail trailhead as I described previously in my Cactus Canyon write-up. Follow this pleasant trail (as always) to it's terminus at the Picture Rocks Wash. At the wash turn left. All along the way you are scurting around the base of Picture Rocks. It's western face is very steep, and while you could eassily scramble over to it's base from anywhere along this trail, it would be too steep to climb. The purpose of going all the way to the wash is to go around to the southern margin, which is still very steep, but from here you can plot your route up. There is a small broad saddle along the southeastern face that serves as a break in the buttress that runs along the southern flank. This is where I recommend you aim.
I took the wash for just a short distance to plot my route. You can break out of the wash anywhere you please and just start scrambling to the base. There is a small patch of prominent grey gravel about half way up the southeast face. I aimed for this. The climb is VERY steep. Any steeper and you would not be able to stand. So be prepared to fall and skid and all that. From the grey gravel patch look up and to your left. There is really only one way you can get up. There is a narrow chute to climb and then you are pretty much there. There is a large chokestone in this chute. Please be wise and climb around (NOT ON) the stone to avoid any potential chance of dislodgement. This is the trickiest part of the climb. It is very exposed and requires a bit of tricky maneuvering. Once beyond this chute (with the palo verde tree stabbing you in the face as you pull yourself up) you are home free.
From the saddle head left and up. There is a false summit. Beyond is the bi-domed summit of Picture Rocks with beautiful views out over the Tucson Mountains and Contzen Pass below. Head down the way you came. Be careful at the chute, and again please don't climb down with your weight on that chokestone. Cross country scramble back to the wash once you have descended the peak.
National Park $10.00 for any privately owned vehicle or motorcycle, $5.00 for any individual on foot or bicycle - the receipt is valid for 7 days Fees
To hike From Tucson take exit 246 off I-10 and go west on Cortaro until it ends at a T. Turn right here onto Ina for a short distance, then Left onto Wade. Wade quickly becomes Picture Rocks Road and crosses through the Tucson Mountains. You'll see a couple of signs announcing Saguaro National Park. As you come down the west side of the mountains the road swings hard to the right and there is a paved pull out area to the right. Park here. The trails take off just across the street.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.