Heading north on 87, the turn-off on 143 comes up on you pretty quick. There's a sign on the left side of the road that says "Four Peaks" and an arrow pointing right. You'd better be in the right lane because it's RIGHT THERE! And, I wasn't expecting to turn off the highway directly onto a dirt road, so I almost missed it. There was hardly anybody on the road that early in the morning, so slamming on my brakes and making a hard right turn from the left hand lane went virtually unnoticed! (I only did that because I was the only one out there. I actually could have passed it, stopped, backed up and then turned and gotten away with it.) 143 seems to get a lot of bad press here as far as road quality goes. I didn't think it was much different than the dirt section of the Apache Trail, or any of the trailhead roads in the Supes. There are some rough sections, but much of it isn't bad at all. (In fact, I think the road to the First Water trailhead is worse... but then, it isn't 19 miles long!) But, the view along 143 makes it worth the effort. As it snakes through nothing but wilderness as far as you can see, the gradual ascent to the trailhead takes you from dusty cactus desert to cool, green pine forest. I enjoyed this as much as the hike, but then I was in my Jeep, which is wide open for maximum outdoor experience.
There were lots of flowers in bloom. Up on Four Peaks, it is now like April was in the valley. There were more insects than I have ever seen and they seemed to be in attack mode... every kind of bee, wasp and hornet, and so many of them it was unnerving. If you go up there this time of year, don't forget the bug spray. You will need a LOT of it!
Most of the hike to the saddle is through the pines and in the shade, which is a real treat. It isn't your ordinary pine forest either. There are some very interesting rock formations scattered around here and there between the trees. Some are quite bizarre and seem very out of place in this woods. Once you reach the saddle, you have a view of the entire valley. Unfortunately, it's under a brown haze of dirt in the air which obscures everything.
I didn't try to go up the chute to the peak. I was alone and I hadn't seen any other signs of life all day, so it didn't seem like the best idea. About halfway back down to the trailhead, I ran into 2 other hikers but that was it. On the drive out, there wasn't anybody coming in, either.
On a final note regarding driving recommendations: If you live in the valley, taking El Oso Road will cost you a fortune in time, distance and gas. I hadn't planned to go out that way but I made a wrong turn and by the time I realized it, I thought it wouldn't be worth it to turn around rather than just keep going. WRONG! Yes, it's much kinder to your vehicle than 143, but it dumps you off in BFE, Arizona almost 90 miles in any direction just to the east side of Apache Junction! My drive out was 48 miles... my drive back was 110 miles. Ouch.
||Wildflowers Observation Moderate