Scenic little hike on the border
Atascosa Peak trail is a fun and interesting trail and definitely worth doing if you happen to be in the border area near Nogales or Rio Rico. With all the weirdness going on around the border region Atascosa Peak's added attraction is that it is a safe place to hike in the area as the trail is well-traveled by tourists and locals alike, especially on weekends.
The trail begins in high desert transition zone (mostly agaves), climbs steeply at first, levels off, and eventually winds up through some fairly rugged terrain to the fire lookout post where there are some stunted trees such as juniper and pinon. The view is really pretty good, and on a clear day you can see Sycamore Canyon and far away into Mexico. The fire lookout makes a comfortable place to sit, relax, and enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains and canyons. The fire lookout itself is also interesting because it was apparently staffed for decades by "The Lone Dane," a Danish immigrant who was the forlorn lookout on Atascosa Peak. The day we hiked the peak the Lone Dane's daughter happened to be there paying homage to her father. She gave us the whole long story of The Lone Dane's move later in life from green Denmark to desert Arizona, his marriage to a young woman from Central Mexico, and his lonely years staffing the lookout. It's a nice place with a good view, definitely charming enough for an afternoon, but I really can't imagine spending decades up there. Anyway, we did the hike in mid-March and it was a little too warm, although that may have just been unlucky.
Coronado FS Reports This trail's appearance on most maps as an insignificant, isolated squiggle leading to an abandoned lookout is truly deceptive. As far as trails are concerned, it may be one of the best kept secrets in southeastern Arizona. Some who have come here describe the views from this soaring desert butte as enchanting. Others have said that Atascosa Peak rises high enough above the surrounding landscape to provide a panorama, but not so high that the landmarks making up that view fade into insignificance. That may be the secret of this spectacular little stroll into the sky above the buttes, bluffs and canyons that lie just north of Arizona's border with Mexico.
The trail itself climbs steadily, even steeply in places, but neither so long nor so relentlessly that it is exhausting. The view expands steadily as the trail switchbacks higher, first parading past nearby buttes and cliffs that thrust above grassy foothills, then providing magnificent panoramas that stretch to distant horizons. Trailside vegetation is stunted by the desert conditions and puts little between you and the sublime views. Castle Rock, Montana Peak, the spires and cliffs of Sycamore Canyon, the corduroy cai? 1/2 oncitos around Nogales catch your eye to the south. To the west, there is Baboquivari Peak, sacred to the Tohono O'Odham, and the white buildings of famous Kitt Peak Observatory. The Santa Ritas and Huachucas are just a few of the landmarks visible to the east. On a clear day, you can see the Pii? 1/2 acates of Mexico and, some say, even the glint of the Sea of Cortez. A final flurry of switchbacks takes you to the peak's summit. Take lunch and stay awhile.
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.