Mule Mountain, AZ

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no permit
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,238 feet
Elevation Gain 814 feet
Accumulated Gain 850 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7.25
Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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14  2009-01-11 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 169
Routes 148
Photos 5,659
Trips 1,751 map ( 9,078 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred Oct, Apr, May, Sep
Seasons   Early Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  5:27am - 7:19pm
Official Route
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Nearby Area Water
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you can't lose in the Big Lues
by PrestonSands

This off-trail hike follows a ridge to the top of a nameless mountain, which forms the western edge of the Big Lue Mountains, near the Arizona-New Mexico border. Although nameless, I refer to it as Mule Mountain due to the word "Mule" stamped into the summit's bronze survey marker. The attractions of this hike are the unequaled views of eastern Arizona and the massive Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico's Gila Wilderness.

Route finding ability and a topographical map are recommended for this hike. The hike described here begins along Highway 78 at the Blackjack Campground, which serves as a convenient parking area, and is mile 0.0 for this description.

From the Blackjack Campground entrance, walk south on the highway (back towards Safford) for about 0.2 miles to a 30 mph sign on your right. Just past the sign, a dirt side road drops off the highway to your right, next to a large dirt pile (shown as a gravel pit on the Big Lue Mountains topographical map). Follow this side road for about 200 feet, and a second dirt road will appear on the right (33.05564 N, 109.08193 W), heading uphill. Follow this second road (a former highway alignment that parallels the current highway) for a quarter of a mile or so to its end at a rocky area overlooking highway 78. There is a cairn here (33.05375 N, 109.08525 W), marking the beginning of the ridge route. Begin bushwhacking up the crest of the broad ridge from the cairn.

A couple of hundred feet up, the dense vegetation gives way to killer views of ultra-rugged Black Jack Canyon below, as the ridge narrows and turns to exposed bedrock. To the south, a complex series of evergreen ridges surround flat-topped Maverick Hill, which forms the highpoint of the area. The return route on this stretch offers a continuous view of the majestic Mogollon Mountains to the east.

At around 1.2 miles, the ridge ends at a small rounded hill (33.05249 N, 109.09328 W) which forms the southernmost edge of Mule Mountain. The route turns northwest at this point to climb along the mountain's edge. Tall grasses hide a sea of ankle-twisting basalt rocks as the route climbs into juniper woodland.

After 1.5 miles, the hike reaches the 7047-foot summit (33.05528 N, 109.09611) of Mule Mountain, where several circular bronze survey markers grace the bedrock at the edge of the precipice. There are views in all directions here, the most commanding of which is to the west, where highway 78 forms an absurd series of loops, some 1500 feet below. Be sure to sign the register.

One can return via the same route (which is the easiest and most scenic), or bushwhack almost anywhere off the eastern side of Mule Mountain to reach highway 78.

Check out the Official Route and Triplog.

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2009-01-19 PrestonSands
    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
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Blackjack CG Trailhead
    From Safford, head east on Highway 70/191. 10 miles from Safford, the highway splits, turn left onto Highway 191 and follow it for another 23.75 miles to a (4-way) highway junction known as "3-Way" (old drive-in movie theater and store). Go straight at the intersection. You are now on Arizona highway 78. Follow highway 78 for approximately 14.4 miles, to Blackjack Campground, at milepost 168.9. Turn right and park at Blackjack Campground.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 212 mi - about 4 hours 4 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 177 mi - about 3 hours 6 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 299 mi - about 5 hours 23 mins
    page created by PrestonSands on Jan 18 2009 1:23 pm
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills

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