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Red Picacho and White Picacho Loop, AZ

Guide 7 Triplogs  0 Topics
  4 of 5 
no permit
30 7 0
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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 1,346
Trips 284 map ( 1,514 miles )
Age 57 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Nov, Oct → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn
Sun  5:19am - 7:43pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

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 a further explanation, I'm going with red/brown rock and grey/white rock.

The flora that is found along the route is typical of the Upper Sonoran Desert. Saguaro, Barrel Cactus, Buckhorn Cholla, Agave, Ocotillo, Catclaw Acacia, and Sage, dominate the slopes. The washes harbor Paloverde, 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. You can see the Golden Slipper lode gold mine just southeast 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, requiring 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 Juanjameiii for details.

  3. The third option is about 10 more yards to your right (north) and consists of an 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 difficulty in the range of 5.4. Exposure on all three routes is significant; 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 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 at 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 you should be fine if you stay right and on the more traveled path.

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.

    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
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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