fun little peak
Brief History: The peak is named in honor of the 158th Infantry Regiment (“Bushmasters”). At the trailhead, there is a plaque, “Dedicated Sept. 1989 to all who served as Bushmasters,” that faces the peak. It opens with the following - “No greater fighting combat team has ever deployed for battle”... Gen. Douglas MacArthur in recognition of all Bushmasters and all units attached to the 158th Infantry - followed by a brief overview of the regimen’s origins and service. For clubs or groups that like to tie events to special dates and are considering a trip to this peak, December 3rd, [which was designated “Bushmaster Day” in Arizona in 1967 by Governor Jack Williams], would be most fitting.
Hike: While the Tucson Mountains don’t boast the tallest or most remote summits in the area, they are still very beautiful and offer some fun little peaks. Bushmaster is one of those peaks; and the loop I ended up taking in the process of bagging this summit was tons of fun with awesome desert scenery throughout.
There are likely many options for bagging Bushmaster. The loop route I took kicks off from the first parking area described in the directions section. It’s the parking area with a one-way exit / entrance, on the right side of West Gates Pass road [if coming from Tucson], located just before the road takes a sharp left.
The trickiest part in terms of route finding may prove to be at the very beginning. With all of the people that like to pull up and then go scampering a short distance up the small rock formations in the area, the myriad of routes taking off from the parking area could be a bit confusing. On top of that, [if doing the loop in a clockwise fashion as I had], it wasn’t entirely clearly in the beginning which rock outcroppings / small formations I would be skirting vs going over. Needless to say, I was extremely thankful to have had a GPS track for the beginning part of the loop; to say it was useful and prevented me from going off course would be an understatement. If you’re not familiar with the area or not going with someone who has been to this peak before, then I would highly recommend using a GPS track.
I enjoyed how the terrain really kept me guessing as to exactly how and when I would eventually end up on the ridgeline. After about the first mile, the correct route becomes much more obvious, and there were only a handful of other times that I needed to look at my GPS to determine which general direction to head. The views really open up at this point as well. The combination of neat, smaller rock formations and the unique shape of many peaks in the area really make for some pretty and interesting views.
Shortly after the route passes the turnoff for Tower Peak, the ridgeline section begins, and the way to go becomes obvious. The route is also much more defined along the ridgeline, and there are several well-placed cairns. For the most part, the ridgeline section is tons of fun, with many solid boulders and even a few sections that require some scrambling up gullies and a chute like rock, but nothing very difficult. The most challenging part for me was a short, steep segment with some very loose footing. While negotiating loose footing is not my forte, it’s still not very often that I have to watch it on the uphill; but for this one short section, I needed to do just that!
There are some good false summit fake-outs on this ridgeline… but they are enjoyable. In other words, [aside from the section with very loose footing], this is one fun ridgeline to traverse and false summits meant there was more fun to be had! Eventually you’ll come to the highpoint. There are a couple of extra cairns at the highpoint but I couldn’t find a register.
After the highpoint, the ridgeline continues; and so does the defined route. The footing from the highpoint to the other end of the ridgeline was excellent, with many solid large boulders. Instead of cliffing out as it may appear from a distance, the other end of the ridgeline drops off with solid boulders that are spaced just the right distance apart to make the descent doable. There was some loose footing to contend with in a few places, but nothing terrible; for the most part, it was rock-hopping fun!
Once off the steep section, [which was quite short from this end], a very generous drainage will lead you the rest of the way down to base of the mountain. In addition to almost no brush and tons of solid, good-gripping boulders, there were also some routes with a few cairns here and there that wove in and out of the drainage. At this point, the terrain is very forgiving and the going is quite fast for being off-trail. For most of the way down, I ignored the routes and stayed in the drainage for some added fun.
The final section of the loop simply involves breaking out of the drainage to the right and heading across an extremely easy section of terrain toward the parking area. Since the direction is obvious and the terrain very forgiving, there isn’t really a critical point at which to break from the drainage. I stayed in the drainage until it really started to level out, [at which point it gets a bit brushy], and then headed to the right toward the parking area. The closer you get to the parking area, the more and more routes you’ll start to notice from the many people that have pulled up and decided to take a short scamper in the mountains. However, unlike in the beginning where the way to go was not entirely clear, the direction back to the parking area is very obvious. The route I opted for took me over some of the smaller rock formations for some extra fun and more views.
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.