Mount Ballard, at 7370 feet, is the highpoint of southern Arizona's Mule Mountains. A fairly simple ridge line hike, the route described here runs southwest from Mule Pass near Bisbee, to Mount Ballard's summit, following a use trail and a barbed wire fence.
Beginning at the parking area at Mule Pass (directly above the highway tunnel), near a white obelisk historical marker, one immediately encounters a fence with a private property sign, blocking the obvious use trail that heads uphill into the forest. This is the trail you will want to follow. (See map)
You can either get the property owner's permission (who may live at the house across the street) to hike the short stretch of trail that crosses their land, or bypass the short private property section by bushwhacking a little bit to the west. Either way, the objective is to get on the top of the ridge that runs southwest from Mule Pass.
A tenth of a mile in from Mule Pass, the use trail arrives on top of the ridge, and crosses through a barbed wire fence (6200 feet, 31.45747 N, 109.94388 W). The use trail continues southwest up to Mount Ballard, now paralleling the barbed wire fence, and always staying at or near the crest of the ridge. Open spots among the oaks, junipers, and yuccas allow for some nice views of Bisbee to the east, and of the surrounding area. Along the ridge, a small burn area interrupts the otherwise dense, woody vegetation.
Nearing 7000 feet, the ridge turns steep, and the footing becomes challenging on loose, decayed rock. Small cairns begin to mark the route as it crests the ridge's sandstone cap and levels out. The use trail and fence line continue across the rocky northeastern arm of Mount Ballard, among tall cane cholla and junipers. Take note of your surroundings for the return hike, as the trail gets a bit vague in spots.
The final 200 feet of Mount Ballard now lie in front of you. The trail heads for the top, squeezing through dense thickets of cane cholla and brush. Close to the summit, there is a nice view to the south down Abrigo Canyon of the Naco area and Mexico, only seven miles distant.
At the wooded summit of Mount Ballard, a register is stashed in the bushes. From the top, one can enjoy a view to the east of Sierra Vista and the Huachuca Mountains. To the northwest along Escabrosa Ridge is the nearby, sharp summit of Fissure Peak, itself almost as high as Ballard.
Return the way you came. - Nov 15 2009 Preston the yeti