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Big Horn Peak, AZ

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281 32 1
Guide 32 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Southwest > Buckeye NW
4.3 of 5 by 15
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.16 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,399 feet
Elevation Gain 2,083 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,083 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.58
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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6  2018-12-29 TeamBillyGoat
15  2017-11-22 Jim_H
9  2016-12-29 Barrett
5  2016-12-15 JuanJaimeiii
4  2016-12-15 joebartels
15  2016-10-22 Jim_H
9  2016-10-22 gummo
29  2016-01-12 Jim_H
Page 1,  2,  3
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 75
Routes 667
Photos 13,172
Trips 1,417 map ( 10,542 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Phoenix - Hassayampa BLM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:21am - 6:28pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Hooked on the wilderness
by chumley

Big Horn Peak is the namesake peak in the Big Horn Mountains Wilderness 65 miles west of Phoenix. Gaining the summit requires a couple of hours of steep, off-trail climbing across dry, rocky, desert terrain.

This is an off-trail hike and should only be attempted by those comfortable with climbing desert peaks. This mountain range is very hot in summer and should only be attempted during cooler seasons. Typical desert obstacles exist ... thick cholla, loose scree, snakes, and some exposure. There is no shade and no water available anywhere on this route.

This route begins at the pedestrian-accessible bridge crossing the CAP canal (Granite Reef Aqueduct). Cross the bridge and follow the road to the right and then down off the raised canal bank. Proceed north along a fence line about 0.4 miles to the end of the fence. Turn east toward the mountain and loosely follow the fence line across the desert. Set your sights on the chimney at an old mining site and aim for it. This will be a landmark on your return as well. The chimney and mine site are at about 1 mile from the pedestrian bridge crossing of the CAP canal.

From the old mine site, proceed across the desert toward the southern ridge that climbs the peak. You want to stay to the right of the main drainage descending off the mountain. You will cross two large washes that drain the mountain before beginning the ascent (about 2.5 miles from the TH). Skip the smallest south peak and head up wherever you find the best route. There are some thick sections of brush, some steep sections to scramble, and some loose sections of footing. None of it is terribly difficult for a hiker accustomed to desert terrain.

Once at the top of the first climb, the route follows the ridge and there are occasional cairns marking the way. As you move north toward the peak, you will have to begin a more serious ascent. Staying too far right will leave you at the base of a cliff that you don't want to climb. Traversing too far left will put you in one of two drainages that are more difficult to negotiate. The best route is just to the left of the cliff band, but right of the main drainage the cliff ends at. There is a nice saguaro at the "corner" that is good to aim for.

Once at the "corner" marked by the saguaro, the best route turns sharply to the right and climbs up and puts you on top of the cliff after a steep, loose scramble. From here, the route turns back to the left and climbs straight up the fall line to a ridge on the right side below the peak.

From here, traverse on the ridge line over to the peak and make the final climb to the summit. The top is a class-3 scramble, but has minimal exposure due to the ridge/saddle that you come up from.

The top of Big Horn Peak provides 360-degree views over this remote area west of Phoenix.

Return by the same route back to your vehicle.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2014-08-04 chumley
    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.

    Most recent of 17 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Big Horn Peak
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Gorgeous day to get out of town and hike this. Noticeably easier on that south face when not 90 to 100, and it seemed easier going up than I remember. Birds are about the only wildlife I ever see or hear, here. This is no Saddle Mountain. Found the old summit container, don't know how I missed it last time. Either way, this is not a summit that attracts people.
    Big Horn Peak
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    With the clear skies I was not about to just hike in the preserves in town today, and with limited time this was a great choice. The air around the valley is noticeably brown and filthy, but getting out past Tonopah it is much cleaner. On the summit looking east, some ranges like the Estrellas appeared to be poking up above the pollution.

    Another nice hike on Big Horn. The old log is gone, replaced by one that has no older registers than Joe and John. I'm not sure why more people don't do this one, as access is pretty easy and it is a great desert summit. Stick to the Superstitions if you must, the desert is emptier for me!

    I expected a breeze, I found it calm on the summit with only a light breeze on the slope. It was warm, but not hot. However, pushing 90 at this time of year is getting there. All in all, a fantastic hike and scramble for late November.
    Big Horn Peak
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    What we have here is a winner. Just don't bring neophytes out here thinking this is typical off trail. Vegetation is sparse on the flat approach.

    Heading up it gets your attention. We were a little off the posted Official Route. Then purposely tackled a fun looking 40 foot wall above a slanting tumble of several more hundred feet. It had a little more bite than anticipated. Climbing up over the edge I mentioned to jj we'd just climbed up the edge of the earth. It was borderline thin scree to the edge. Just a few feet away on top it was tough to figure where we came up.

    Enjoyed the rest of the hike up. The views are impressive and far reaching. Lots of cholla. It said hello. Then it screamed. I finally got the respect memo.

    I was excited about how this hike turned out until... until Saddle Mountain put the needle on the record and played anything you can do I can do better.
    Big Horn Peak
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Probably just as well that a KOFA trip got postponed, as it was pretty hot out here, and the air wasn't as clean as I hoped it would be. That south slope is rather warm, requiring at least 4 liters for our slow pace. I was reminded of how tough this is, Scott felt he would never do it again, we had some encounters with Cholla, and then we got back right after sunset. Good times.
    Big Horn Peak
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This ended up being a very enjoyable challenge after nearly 2 weeks without any hiking. It was more fun and difficult than Castle Dome, and the scenery is great. Very good views, with snow covered ranges and maybe the Mogollon Rim visible. I liked the summit a lot, as it felt like a true peak.

    Going up was a little harder than expected, with route finding at times being an issue. Cairns helped. Down was much easier, as is expected. The final part to the summit felt like real climbing, almost. I found the entire thing fun. One I would be interested in repeating later this spring.

    Going down I looked up for the airplane I heard screeching overhead, and gave up after a few seconds when I saw only blue sky. As my eyes came down to the horizon a fighter jet caught my eye. It was flying well below my level over Big Horn's south ridge. It turned a little as it passed, so I could see the top of it. My camera was away, so oh well.
    Big Horn Peak
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Cool hike. Nice to be able to read through other HAZers adventures first. Made the hike a little easier I'm sure. The hike is as steep as advertised. Saw some very fresh sheep droppings.

    Great views from the summit. Temps were mild until the last couple miles. Much more to explore in the area.

    Great to hike with Kelly and Denny again. Thanks for driving Turtle! :)
    Big Horn Peak
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    big horn is another west side peak that's been on our radar
    set out early this morning while still cool
    flat warm up and some interesting stuff in the desert on the way to the base of the peak
    a rock wall, an old mine house, a couple of what looked like cement spring boxes and a mine, all enclosed by fencing
    some random metal junk, too
    followed 9l's route, which is excellent
    we definitely benefited from the route finding work others have done on this approach
    chumley's description and photoset were helpful, too, especially this picture: [ photo ]
    a moderate initial ascent, then easier terrain to the steepest part
    i went further past the saguaro than denny and john, then thought i could cut up to them
    faced a pretty good wall of loose rock to climb, so i had to backtrack, costing us several minutes
    aside from that, didn't find anything too sketchy and had fun on the final scramble to the peak
    spent quite a while up there looking at the great views, trying to identity other mountains, signing the summit register and taking photos
    one cholla ball stuck to the back of my leg - glad i had long pants, but doable in shorts
    brought one hiking pole which i found unnecessary on the way up, but useful coming down
    i'm always slow on this type of descent
    cactus to avoid and some scree, but enough good rock mixed in
    finally down to the desert floor and back to the bridge over the canal
    loved the peak and would do it again
    glad we could find a date for all three of us to do it
    thanks, guys - good times! :)
    Big Horn Peak
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Thanks to SpiderLegs for posting this event, and for him and those others who posted descriptions of previous trips before us. It made it relatively easy to bag.

    Took us exactly 2 hours to get up, taking the south ridgeline, and staying out of the drainages. Once up on the plateau, I crossed the first of the two main drainages coming off the peak, and ascended farther west. It was perfectly doable, but the proper route is to ascend just to the right of the first drainage, as soon as the cliff band ends. There's a saguaro at the "corner" to aim for. You have to go about 100 feet up from the corner before cutting back to the east and climbing onto the ridge above the cliffs. From there it's a relatively straightforward climb up the ridge toward the white rocks in the gully above. There are cairns along the way as this is quite apparently the best route. See 9L's official GPS track.

    The final climb to the peak requires a little climbing, but there's a nicely protected slot so the exposure is minimal, and I found it to be easier than I was expecting. The reports of class 4 seem a little high to me, but definitely aggressive class 3.

    We took our time getting down, as there's a lot of loose rock and unstable footing, but returned on generally the same route, possibly improving it slightly.

    Great day!

    Note: Didn't dig around too much, but no obvious sign of the benchmark that the topo map shows to be up there.

    A few poppies just starting to pop on the flatlands.
    Big Horn Peak
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Well last year's worst hike turned into this year's best hike so far. Absolutely perfect weather and conditions for some desert peak bagging. Parked the car next to the CAP canal and set out across the flat plain to the base of the climb. Made good time and were at the base in a little over 35 minutes. Made a group decision to hit the peak via the southern ridge and bypass shooting up the large drainage like I did last year. By doing this it saved a lot of energy and bypassed the super thick forest of teddy bear cholla.

    Once up on the southern ridge, it was fairly straight forward to the beginning of the second half of the climb. Just kept going up and were reassured by discovering cairns as we did. Lots of class 3 scrambling and cactus avoidance with loose crappy rock thrown in for good measure. Only had one encounter with a cholla when I stuck my hand in a crack while climbing and pulled out a handful of cholla.

    Made it to the top in a little over two hours and found the peak registry. Bob Martin's name is still up there. Very cool to see some Arizona peak bagging history on the peak. Took a quick break to down a beer and then headed back down the same way we came up.

    Overall a classic hike to a seldom visited peak.
    Big Horn Peak
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Fun hike out on the west side. This is a hardy ascent with lots of loose and brittle rock. For the most part we followed Hansen's GPS route and didn't have any issues. The views from the summit were fantastic! I kept thinking the descent was going to be difficult but again we had no issues. Awesome peak!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix, travel west on I-10 to Exit 81/Salome Road (62 miles from the I-17/I-10 "stack" interchange). Turn right onto Salome Road. After 0.5 miles, turn right onto the dirt road that parallels the irrigation canal on the east side. Follow this graded dirt road for about 3.5 miles until it reaches the CAP canal. Park next to the pedestrian bridge and begin your hike there.
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