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Elephant Head, AZPrint Full | Basic
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Description 24 Triplogs 0 Topics
RatedFavorite   Wish List Region
 
Mine
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Friends
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 Tucson - South
Warning! Technical climbing skills required. Risks include serious injury to death.  Risks are not eliminated by skill.
Climb Consensus (18) → View
Difficulty 3rd
Climb I G Boulder
Rock Unknown Unknown
Length
Statistics
Difficulty 4    Route Finding
Distance Round Trip 6.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,588 feet
Elevation Gain 1,053 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,343 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.92
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Peak
fricknaley
Descriptions 93
Routes 132
Photos 2,521
Trips 1,359 map ( 9,159 miles )
Age 38
Location Tucson, AZ
Photos
Rated Viewed All Mine Friends
31  2014-03-09
 Elephant Head North Face
 bknorby
24  2014-03-09
 Elephant Head North Face
 MrBadBern
71  2014-03-03 andrewbares
9  2013-03-24
 Elephant Head with Little
 JuanJaimeiii
4  2013-03-01 dwightnancy
14  2013-01-05 bknorby
11  2012-02-07
 Little Elephant Head
 sirena
38  2012-02-03 rwstorm
17  2012-02-03 cindyl
41  2012-01-31 sirena
29  2012-01-31 writelots
15  2010-02-01 sirena
Page 1,  2
Large Profile
Trailhead Forecast
Historical Weather
Radar
Forest Coronado
Wilderness Mount Wrightson
Backpack - Possible - Not Popular
Seasons - Late Autumn
Dogs not allowed
Official Route
 
Alternative Routes
 
Water
Nearby Hikes Area Water Sources
direct air miles away to trailhead
0.0  Quantrell Mine Trail
0.6  Agua Caliente Trail #140
2.7  Elephant Head / North Face
2.7  Elephant Head / West Side
3.4  Bearpaw Rock & Pete Mountain Loop
3.4  McCleary Peak Loop
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Space

An Elephant (and your knees) never forgets
by fricknaley

Mobile Version
Overview: There are some famous peaks in the Santa Ritas, south of Tucson...Wrightson, Hopkins. None have the mystique of Elephant Head. The almost impossibly steep monolith crashing out of the western Santa Ritas into the desert seems to defy logic. Was this a place of sacrifice or violent deaths? Nobody knows for sure. But with old names including Picacho del Diablo and Cerro de los Muertos, one must wonder.

It turns out there is a way to the top requiring some trail hiking and class 3 scrambling with a very short class 4 move right before the summit. The exposure (mostly) feels worse than it is. The views from the top are worth every drop of blood and sweat.

Hike: The first part of this trail utilizes the Elephant Head Bike trail and the Quantrell Mine trail, described here on HAZ by Jeff MacE. Check that out to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land and trails you will use. The hike begins on the Elephant Head Bike trail which takes off just across the street from the pullout where you can park for this hike. The trail is a narrow single track cutting through the desert and initially heading northwest, then north up to a little saddle at the south end of the ridgeline leading out to the impressive Peak 5139. From this saddle (about 0.6 miles in) the trail drops down into Chino Basin with great views. At about 0.9 miles you come to the signed intersection with the Quantrell Mine to your right and Elephant Head continuation to your left. Take a right onto the Quantrell Mine Trail and circle the eastern and northern end of the beautiful Chino Canyon as you head up to the first of the mines. The trail resumes a gradual climb the rest of the way to your takeoff for the scramble to Elephant Head.

All the while Elephant is coming more and more into your view. You reach the takeoff point for your scramble at about 1.9 miles from the car. A steep drainage into Chino Canyon falls off to your left and a distinct (and likely cairned) route will break off and down to your left and head straight down into it. This is not a formal trail, but hikers with experience will have no trouble following the route down. It is steep and the footing is pretty bad. You will drop about 500 feet in less than a quarter mile to the canyon bottom, which offers a nice riparian surprise. During the right time there will be water and possibly small falls in here. Pick up the route leading up the north wall of the side canyon and continue your quad burning ascent up to the ridgeline running west to Elephant Head. Again the route is faint, but you should have no real issues following it up. The footing is worse on this end...like a zillion little marbles. Once you hit the ridgeline, take a breather and catch your jaw as it tries to fall off as you take in the majestic views east of the Santa Rita highcountry.

The route to Elephant head now heads west along the ridgeline, skirting over and often north(right) of the smaller peaks and high points until the base of Elephant Head is achieved. From here on out it is basically a class 3 scramble to the top. The route is generally worn enough and/or cairned to make your way. There is no formal correct way, but often enough a several hundred foot vertical drop will keep you heading in the correct direction. For the most part, the correct route hugs the northern edge of the formation and when it doesn't you are often in cracks and crevices of the ridge heading up. There IS exposure, but often not as bad as it seems. If you feel like you are tightrope walking and playing with death, you are likely off route. Near the base of the final short section to the summit is a short maybe 10 foot class 4 wall you must scramble up. If there's an easier way, I could not find it. This is the only real tricky part, but there's a little tree at the base of it willing to catch you should you fall, and hopefully keep you from a several hundred foot plunge. Once up here, it's maybe a hundred feet or so up a shallow crack in the middle of the steep ridgeline to the summit. On top the most incredible views of Hopkins, Pete Mountain, Wrightson and the Crest await you to the east. Little Elephant Head and Peak 5139 to the south. North all the way to the Catalinas. People have left all kinds of little elephant decorations and toys at the top over the years.

Please be as careful, if not more so, on your way down. Though the exposure is often not as bad as it feels, there are definitely sections on this climb where a fall could lead to serious injury or death. This is not a hike to be taken lightly but it is an enchanting experience.

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    Directions Preferred Months Nov Dec Jan Feb
    Water / Source:None
    Preferred Start8 AM Cell Phone SignalYes Sunrise5:46am Sunset6:58pm
    Road / VehicleFR / Jeep Road -Car possible when dry
    Fees / Permit
    None

    Directions
    Print Version
    To hike & climb trip
    From anywhere in Tucson, head south to I-19. Take I-19 south to exit 56 (Canoa). Take the east Frontage road south for three miles to Elephant Head road. Follow Elephant Head for about one and a half miles and turn right onto Mount Hopkins road. Take Mt. Hopkins road for 5.5 miles and turn north onto FSR 183, which is marked by the standard vertical FS road marker. Follow FSR for about two and a half miles until it approaches the basin of Agua Caliente stream. A large sign to the right of the road states "Dead End 2 Miles." Park here under the plentiful trees. Walk back down FSR 183 in the direction you just came for about 100 meters until you encounter the junction with FSR 930 - The Elephant Head trail.

    2014-03-03 andrewbares writes: Another rougher 4x4 entrance exists, on FR 4073. Same as above, exit 56 from I-19 and turn left on Elephant Head Rd. However, continue on Elephant Head Road and simply keep straight (turns into Hawk Way). Eventually it'll turn into a dirt road that heads southeast. Continue on that dirt road. You'll reach a gate on your left, but continue straight (goes directly south now). Finally, you'll reach another gate at the end of a big open parking area, and you'll go left through that gate. Very soon after, you'll come to a 4-way intersection... turn right onto FR 4073, which has a marker a little ways down the turnoff. This is where the road starts getting rougher. You'll cross through the wash and continue heading south for the rest of the drive. Stock 3rd generation 4Runners (1996-2002) will be perfectly fine. No rear lockers needed. I recommend 9.5" of ground clearance. Low gears aren't even needed. It's just a rocky trail. At the very end, it will get quite narrow (and eventually turns into an ATV trail) so park where you feel comfortable.
    Login for Mapped Driving Directions
    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.
    Page created by fricknaley on Nov 07 2009 8:49 pm

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