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Red Picacho and White Picacho Loop, AZ

no permit
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Guide 7 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NW
4 of 5 by 1
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Loop 4.49 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,283 feet
Elevation Gain 1,000 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,249 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.74
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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15  2014-01-19
Red and White Picacho Loop
15  2014-01-19 chumley
17  2014-01-19
Red and White Picacho Loop
4  2013-01-12
Red and White Picacho's - Hieroglyphic
1  2013-01-12
Red and White Picacho's - Hieroglyphic
15  2013-01-01 chumley
Author Barrett
author avatar Guides 14
Routes 9
Photos 1,311
Trips 283 map ( 1,483 miles )
Age 55 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Nov, Oct → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn
Sun  6:18am - 6:27pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Pink Picacho
by Barrett

Red Picacho's distinctive summit can be seen from almost any high point in a thirty mile radius, luring peak baggers who fall within her spell. Along with White Picacho, both are dramatic landmarks listed as part of the Hieroglyphic Mountains, though they seem more topographically linked to the Buckhorn mountains which lie just northeast.

Geologically, they are comprised of igneous volcanic (dacite) and extrusive volcanic (rhyodacite) flows. The geologic survey of the area makes no distinction between the two, so until someone provides further explanation, I'm going with red/brown rock and grey/white rock.

The flora that is found along the route is typical Upper Sonoran Desert. Saguaro, Barrel, Cholla, and Buckhorn cacti, along with Agave, Ocotillo, Catclaw, and Sage dominate the slopes. The washes harbor Palo Verde, Mesquite, and Ironwood.
Fauna is also typical of the area, with Wild Burros often seen (or heard), along with free-range cattle and their patties. The strong smell of what was most likely Mountain Lion urine greeted me at the base of White Picacho on one of my trips as well.
The trailhead is located at the end of North Castle Hot Springs Road, where the remains of a mining operation, including several shafts, are all that is left. The Golden Slipper lode gold mine can be seen just south east of the turnoff, and the area is known for an abundance of surface gold, so keep your eyes peeled.

After parking, you'll head straight for Red, finding a steep wash with some cool rock formations to get you started. There is a dirt-bike trail that appears to head in the right direction, but will veer off to the east. This is the return of your loop if you choose to do Red first and then White.

Continue off trail, staying to the right of the main drainage from Red's saddle, and head right up. The path is moderate, with a few scrambles. Catclaw and other hazards bloodied the shins of the HAZ members who chose to wear shorts on our trip.
When you reach the saddle, you have several options.

  1. The first is directly in front of you that requires about 15 feet of near vertical rock to reach a left-leaning ledge chocked with brush up to the summit. See BobP for details.

  2. The second is about 10 yards to your right and obscured from view, scramble down and into a steep notch that becomes a 3 foot wide slot with about 20 feet of near vertical rock. See Juan jameiii for details.

  3. The third option is about 10 more yards to your right (north), and consists of a 8 foot wall leading to a ledge that puts you at the bottom of a 15 foot crack. This is the easiest route, but still requires an awkward move near the bottom of the crack before it eases up and leads to the summit ridge. The rock is solid, with a difficulty in the range of 5.4. Exposure on all three routes is significant however, and a fall would cause serious injury or possibly death.

Once you reach the summit you will be rewarded with outstanding views in every direction. The summit register includes a surprising range of climbers from age 12 to 72, with a few witty remarks thrown in.

After proceeding down, you have the option of returning the way you came or adding White Picacho to your day. Being only a short distance away and much easier than Red, most will want to make a loop of this and simply proceed north on the left slope of several small peaks on the way to White. A game trail (uncairned) leads most of the way, and a times you can make pretty good time to the base of White.

Look for a break roughly in the center of the step/cliffs, as you approach it should be pretty apparent which way to go. A scramble will get you to a flat area below the summit where you will turn left up a notch and then right up the solid rock to the top. The summit has similar great views of the area, with a little nicer seating and picturesque white stone. Another summit register can be found as well.

When you're ready to head back, drop down the way you came to the soft saddle, where you should head due east down the drainage to the dirt-bike trail at 33.96707 N -112.50171 W. Take this south (right) along rolling hills back to the trailhead. There are a few spurs on your left, but if you stay right and on the more traveled path, you should be fine.

As with all hikes in remote areas, particularly off trail routes that involve some climbing, make sure you have the necessary experience, hike with competent partners (or make sure someone knows your plans and expected return time), and above all, use your head.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2014-01-27 Barrett
    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 Triplog Reviews
    Red Picacho and White Picacho Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Bob and Patrick and I had some unfinished business on Red, but unfortunately Patrick wasn't able to make it. I decided to make it social and invited a few others who had previously expressed interest in bagging these peaks. After a quick cuddle with one of the lame SSOs this morning, we piled into my truck and headed north.

    In celebration of an anniversary just a few days away, we decided to bring a bunch of beer. AZWilderness style. :DANCE:

    Ken let us figure out the way up, without guidance. Bob led the way on the one overhung climb and managed it ok, but didn't want to go down. JJ went up the crazy way, and also didn't want to go down. I explored two other routes, before settling on the one that Scott led and made it seem ok. The rest of the group followed, and we all descended the same route. After us, the previous catclaw obstacle has been obliterated. :)

    We took a long break on the peak, enjoyed some Big Gye Rye and some Signal Mtn Stout because the symbolic red was no longer on tap when I filled the growlers. I left a complaint with the owner. :(

    We traversed across to White, had another break there, and headed down to the dirtbike track that makes for an easy ride back to the mine, where of course, we took another break and listened to a little football on the radio thing.

    Good to meet Ken and see the rest again. A great day out in the Hieroglyphics.

    Short video here. BobP and JJ on the violins.
    Red Picacho and White Picacho Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After meeting up with the New Year's HAZ group at Vulture Peak, a couple of us decided to work off the Cags and wieners by bagging a couple of nearby peaks. Bob had an eye on Red and White Picacho and I had a map, so we headed that way. Patrick left the child seats in the minivan and hitched a ride for the last stretch while Preston took care not to hurt his truck on the way to the mine.

    It was fairly late in the day, but it's a short hike and we headed out, initially following some faint use trails before making our way more or less straight up. Bob opted for a route to the left of the drainage, almost immediately below the peak, while the three of us stayed right of the gulley before cutting back toward the peak on the ridge. I beat Bob up, so I'm guessing that the right side access is easier. :D

    Bob and I checked out two possible ascents, both with great holds but too much distance and exposure for our comfort on this day, while Patrick explored the route at the saddle. That route is by far the shortest climb, but has the least in the way of holds. I still think that it might be the best place to ascend. I think I'll try it next time, now that I know what I'm facing.

    After settling with not bagging Red Picacho, Bob and I decided to head toward White, while the Yeti and the minivan mom headed back down because there was only an hour of daylight left (or something like that).

    Getting across to White was pretty easy, and there was a good route up White with just a little bit of light scrambling. I went to the saddle and through a little notch to the north side where I realized there was no peak access, so I backtracked to the south side to scramble up an easy chute to the peak. The west peak is by far the highest of the two, though it doesn't always look like that when approaching from Red.

    Up top Bob and I enjoyed a celebratory beverage and signed the rarely seen peak register which was buried deep in a pile of rocks. The sun neared the horizon and cast some nice light across the surrounding mountains.

    On the way down, we headed into the gulley toward the east from the first saddle below White, and then began to swing around back toward the south. It got dark and more adventurous, but eventually we found a couple of single-track dirtbike paths which made the going a whole lot faster. Check out our GPS tracks on the satellite view and you can see the tracks. They are definitely the way to go if you are heading to or from White Picacho.

    A great follow-up adventure on a pretty good start to 2013!

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Leaving metro Phoenix on I-17 north, turn onto the Carefree Highway and head west for 29.4 miles to Castle Hot Springs Road. Turn Right and head north for 9.4 miles on the maintained but often very washboardy dirt road until you reach a triangular intersection at 33.93687 W -112.50500 N. This is Castle Hot Springs north, a rougher 1.3 miles that will require high clearance, and possibly 4WD to get you to the mine remains/trailhead parking.
    page created by Barrett on Jan 27 2014 4:46 pm
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