The Middle Of Nowhere
Willow Mountain is a remote destination located deep within the San Carlos Indian Reservation. The summit has an elevation of 7,817 making it the highest legally accessible mountain located within the reservation.
*The highest mountain located within the San Carlos Reservation is Mount Turnbull with a summit elevation of 8,282. Mount Turnbull is located in an area referred to as Unit D. Unit D is closed to non-members. Hunting is allowed in Unit D with an Indian guild.
The former Willow Mountain Fire Lookout was originally constructed in 1930 by the San Carlos Indian Reservation. The tower is a 20 foot two-story building of wood construction and is currently in extremely deteriorated condition. The tower is dangerous and unstable (Climb/explore at own risk). The Willow Mountain Fire Lookout was replaced in 1984 by the current Dry Lake Fire Lookout, located 15.5 miles to the southwest. The summit of Willow Mountain has areas of ponderosa pine, however is mainly made up of gamble oak and various low brush.
The summit of Willow Mountain is mostly a walk-about destination, however a short off-trail hike to the northern edge of the mountain is available. It's easy and your already there... You may as well experience everything the mountain has to offer.
Overnight car camping is permitted on Willow Mountain, however only two mediocre sites exist (lower saddle switchback and summit). A good car camping option located within the vicinity of Willow Mountain is an area southeast of Big Prairie near Pine Flat Tank off SC-1800. There's a nice large pocket of ponderosa pine out there and the area sees very limited road traffic.
Willow Mountain is a great weekend adventure. If you've never experienced the San Carlos Indian Reservation, this destination may be a good place to start. The res seems like a different time and place. The central San Carlos Indian Reservation is the last frontier in Arizona. The feeling of remote isolation is unavoidable. You really need to experience it in person to truly understand. Enjoy!
!!Warning!! This is an extremely isolated and exposed destination that see very few visitors. The nearest cell phone signal is about 50 miles away. No services exist in Point of Pines. Use caution and discretion during ALL activities. You're on your own.
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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.
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