Overview: The hike takes you up to the predominate peak to the North West of the Walking Jim Trail. This hike is an extension of the Walking Jim Trail. Eventually the trail gives way to some strategically placed cairns leading up to the peak. The summit offers spectacular views of Lake Pleasant, the Hieroglyphic Mountains, Hells Canyon and the Bradshaw Mountains to the north. Don't be surprised to see wild burros, descendants of animals used by local miners and ranchers, along the trail or to hear the echoes of their braying bouncing through the canyons below you.
Warning: The upper reaches of this hike involve loose rocks, some exposure, and a bit of rock scrambling. Route finding can be challenging as you near the upper portions of the hike. As always, be aware of the poking, stinging and biting flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.
Hike: The trailhead on the western side of Castle Hot Springs Road has ample parking. It is used as a jumping off point for ATV riders, so expect to see some trucks and trailers in the parking lot. Your hike begins at a cut in the fence on the northwest corner of the parking lot.
The first portion of the hike follows the northern side of the Walking Jim Trail. You will drop down into a shady portion of Cottonwood Creek. This part of the creek often has small pools of water. The trail continues across and out of the creek bed. Looking west you can't help but admire the imposing profile of 3465. Continue to follow the well worn Walking Jim Trail for approximately 3.9 miles to the well signed intersection of the Big Jim Trail.
The Big Jim is fairly easy to follow. A few well placed cairns will generally keep you in track, but beware of well worn burro trails that wind haphazardly through this entire area. The trail crosses a few minor drainages before working its way p a fairly large wash. You will be tempted to think that the route continues up this drainage. It doesn't. As you get higher up you will understand why. The trail abruptly crosses the wash and turns south east, almost directly away from your objective. The trail crosses a small ridge and again turns north paralleling another drainage. The trail here is rocky and loose, probably the most demanding section of the entire hike. To your right is a steep drop into the wash with a lichen covered rock wall on the other side. Luckily this rough section is short lived and you will soon top out on a small and scenic saddle a great place for a short break before the final push to the summit.
Beyond the saddle the trail fades considerably. Initially you will climb WSW. Keep your eye peeled for small cairns. The route takes you around the north side of the large rock outcropping straight ahead. No rock climbing required. Stay parallel to the northern side of the outcropping and you emerge at another small saddle. Cross this and ascend the small slope straight ahead.
Soon you will see an area of terraces sloping upward to the south. My path took me to the northern end of the highest terrace and then south along the terrace to a very obvious notch in the cap rock. Climbing up the notch to the summit plateau is accomplished easily enough. Remember where you topped out for the return trip.
The summit views are fantastic. With good visibility, much of central Arizona is at your feet. The view of Lake Pleasant is obviously superb. Directly below you to the northwest are Burro Flats and Burro Spring. The rugged Hieroglyphics span your western view while the Bradshaws tower to the north. On a clear day you can spend an hour checking off landmarks.
When it's time to leave, retrace your steps back to the intersection of the Big Jim and Walking Jim. To add a bit of variety and miles, complete the Walking Jim Loop. Or if you are in a hurry, just stick with the way you came in.
Hopefully you will see some burros. Fox, deer and coyotes are abundant in this area also. Enjoy.
To hike From Phoenix, take I-17 north to the Carefree Highway (SR 74). Turn left on Carefree highway and drive west to Castle Hot Springs Rd (Lake Pleasant exit). Turn north and drive for approximately 5.1 miles to a large pull off on the left side of the road. Careful of deep sand in the parking area. The hike begins at the northwest corner of the parking lot on the other side of a fallen barbed-wire fence.
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.