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Big Horn Mtns Ridgeline, AZ

no permit
53 4 0
Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Southwest > Buckeye NW
5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 10 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,603 feet
Elevation Gain 1,265 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,085 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.43
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
1  2013-12-21 ssk44
28  2012-12-16 desert_boonie
24  2009-02-18 ssk44
Author ssk44
author avatar Guides 19
Routes 12
Photos 2,250
Trips 274 map ( 830 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Feb, Mar, Jan → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:20am - 6:31pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Shock & Awe
by ssk44

!!WARNING!! This is a demanding cross-country route. No trail exist. Extreme caution must be taken during this hike. It should only be attempted by experienced backcountry hikers. Hazards along this route include jagged volcanic spine ridges, very loose rubble rock, narrow shelf bypasses and tall sheer cliffs.

This ridgeline hike is located within the Big Horn Mountains Wilderness and is managed by the BLM (Phoenix Field Office). The wilderness was established in 1990 and encompasses 21,000 acres. This unique wilderness is rarely visited, offering excellent solitude. The entire hike stays within the wilderness. Vegetation consists of saguaro cactus, cholla, apache hedgehog cactus, ocotillo, mesquite, ironwood, paloverde, and creosote. Fauna in the area consists of bighorn sheep, golden eagles, kit foxes, desert tortoises, Gila monsters, wild burros, and mule deer. The Big Horn Mountains were formed as the result of a volcanic upheaval during the early Tertiary Period as well as many other prominent mountain ranges in the area. Within the Big Horn Mountains is Big Horn Peak, which is the central volcanic neck or plug for the west central portion of Arizona. The aggressive upheaval of this volcanic mountain range contributes to the rugged nature of this hike.

This cross-country hike is a lasso loop and starts out across a gentle open desert with numerous arroyos before actually ascending the first segment of the ridgeline ("Mark 007", Lat. 33 Degrees/35'/29.50"/N & Long. 113 degrees/5'/42.00"/W). The ridgeline becomes very prominent and easy to follow from here. Along the ridgeline you will encounter more obstacles and problem areas than I could ever begin to describe but your efforts will be rewarded. The amazing views, intricate rock formations, and cave like outcroppings along the way will help you forget the pain. Loose rubble rock is everywhere and the solid sections are jagged and sharp. It's imperative that you take your time and pick your lines carefully. This is not a hike that you want to be in a hurry to complete. The route you choose will really depend on skill level and climbing ability. At about 3/4 mile along the ridge you will encounter a rugged solid rock technical climbing segment. The bypass for this segment is a loose rocky side hill that demands respect, however is manageable ("Mark 019 Bypass", Lat. 33 degrees/35'/57.45"/N & Long. 113 degrees/6'/44.56"/W). Shortly after this bypass, along the crest of the ridgeline, you will encounter an amazing 335' solid rock tower. The bypass for this segment is refreshingly easy when compared to the last one ("Mark 022 Bypass", Lat. 33 degrees/36'/03.87"/N & Long. 113 degrees/6'/59.56"/W). At about 1/4 mile from the tower you will encounter another rugged solid rock technical climbing segment. The bypass for this segment starts out with a loose rubble climb towards a small notch saddle. Climbing up to the notch will reward you with a rather shocking view down the other side. Just below the notch you will be walking along a rugged game trail that follows the base of a cliff ("Mark 026 Bypass" Lat. 33 degrees/36'/19.24"/N & Long. 113 degrees/7'/12.02"/W). Follow this narrow path around the base of the cliff, and then back up to a saddle on the ridge. The remaining 1/4 mile segment is pretty much stress free, however don't get too relaxed because the cliffs along the west side of the ridge just below you are death drops. The end of the hike will be very obvious because you will come out onto a point with steep cliffs on both sides and a short cliff just below a jagged rock spine on the ridge itself ("Mark 032" Lat. 33 degrees/36'/33.36"/N & Long. 113 degrees/7'/21.96"/W). Along the final 1/4 mile segment you will be rewarded with great views of the very prominent "Big Horn Peak" to the northwest.

Return Route
For the return route you will need to backtrack to the last bypass and follow a small yet manageable ridgeline down off of the mountain ("Mark 033 Return Route" Lat. 33 degrees/36'/20.56"/N & Long. 113 degrees/7'/11.39"/W). Just down from the top you will come out onto a flat point with a short cliff on all sides. From this location you will need to head south, down a steep and loose drainage ("Mark 038" Lat. 33 degrees/36'/21.54"/N & Long. 113 degrees/7'/03.53"/W) that intersects a larger drainage heading down to a "game water" structure that was built by the Arizona Game & Fish Department to support wildlife in the area. After reaching the "game water", the remaining segments of the hike are easy and pleasant. From the "game water" you will follow a closed jeep route heading primarily east to a large sand wash ("Mark 048" Lat. 33 degrees/36'/24.25"/N & Long. 113 degrees/5'/29.15"/W). You will now follow this sand wash down to where it intersects the route that you used at the beginning of the hike to reach the ridgeline (Approximately Lat. 33 degrees/35'/30.14"/N & Long. 113 degrees/5'/05.23"/W). The sand wash you will be following is refreshing and lush with some interesting sections. From the intersect point, head directly east back to the trailhead. See maps for locations of GPS waypoints described in the text.

Hiking the Big Horn Mtns Ridgeline can only be described as epic. This is a wicked ridgeline hike with amazing views and vistas along the route. If you're looking for something different with challenging terrain, this hike will not disappoint. With an early start, you will have the sun at your back along the entire ridgeline offering great photography. This hiking route is less than five miles from the I10 freeway, yet it may as well be in the middle of nowhere. The freeway is not even visible until about half way along the ridge due to being obstructed by a taller secondary mountain just southwest of the hike. The rarely visited Big Horn Mountains Wilderness seems like the land that time forgot. It's deathly quiet and the only evidence of human contact being the road that accesses the wilderness. This is a unique and special area. Count on having it all to yourself if you go.

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This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

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2009-02-18 ssk44
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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
Big Horn Mtns Ridgeline
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A slight variation from the description listed by ssk44, but a fun and spicy day for sure. Having done Big Horn Peak and more recently Burnt Mountain, I've seen the middle ridgeline before and knew one day I would venture out there. Well when I was on Burnt I couldn't stop looking over at the ridge and the smaller rugged looking peaks and knew it was time to get out there. Getting home and looking over the topo I set a goal of 3 peaks but knew it would more than likely be 2 wanting to be on the southern portion of the ridge. I threw the idea out to my buddy Rob(which was I want to try and do a few rugged, isolated peaks that look pretty spicy and cannot even say we will get up them)and he was in, and then invited Scott to come along. Well a few last minute things prevented Scott from making it out with us but Rob and I set the goal of getting out there and making it up Peaks 2112' and 2710' while traversing the ridge between the two of them.

We started to the south of the ridge at the intersection of the CAP and Burnt Mt. and did a nice desert floor traverse crossing under a few barbwire fences and avoiding the small cholla fields the desert had to offer. We picked our route up 2112' which was pretty direct, getting on the southern ridge and topping out. She offered a nice section to scramble and a nice rock opening in which Big Horns make for a nice sheltered home at times. We went through the hole and out the other side and topped out on this smaller peak. From there we kept looking over at 2710' and laughing because we both knew it was going to be a pretty fun time getting up her. As we set forward along our ridge traverse, the down climb from 2112' provided a bit of excitement when Rob who was above me jarred a rock loose that he almost pulled right on top of him but he was able to side step away from it which sent it my way. It was probably as big as my torso and pretty scary coming right at me, I moved left and it seemed to move left along with me, luckily I was still three feet in the clear of it and it went down to its new resting place aside a barrel cactus. Rob and I both took a deep breath and continued on hoping that was our mishap for the day. (It would be) We made good time on the ridge and bypassed a section of it so we didn't have to go up to come back down. Once we reached the main saddle my eyes lit up and I whispered to Rob "Sheep, Sheep" there was a nice plump half horned big horn sheep standing right on the saddle. Once I spoke though he turned around and was gone before I could get my camera out. Rob saw the tail end of him and we heard him making his way down the gully. We both thought that was our good luck sign of the day and looked back up to the top of the peak and again laughed at what we were getting into. From the saddle the fun part begins, sharp loose rock which soon becomes exposed of heights around 50'. I picked a route with what I thought were the best holds and Rob followed, we were seemingly right below the peak where we had to make a move on a foot wide ledge exposed pretty bad but with solid holds. We got up this section and I could see we were golden to get to the top. We made our way up and on the jagged knife ridge summit and were both stoked as much as we could be. WOW! What a summit. The views right in the middle of the Big Horn range do not get any better than this. We took a good 20 minute break on top, ate some food and enjoyed the clear skies all around. We picked our route for getting back as we didn't want to go the same way we came and off we went with some slow down climbing and a safe trek back to the Jeep. I knew this area would be good, but how good she actually was cannot be described. Scott I wish you were with me buddy, I know you would have loved it.
Big Horn Mtns Ridgeline
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Big Horn Mtns. Ridgeline (02/13/2009)

I did this hike as a last minute trip after stumbling onto the area just one-week prior while researching something else. I have really wanted to do a hike in the west central part of the state for some time now. I wanted to do something different and that is just what this hike was. The desert was like nothing I have ever seen. The rugged volcanic mountains were stunning. Around every corner were amazing rock formations, small caves, and large overhanging rock outcroppings. Although technical and demanding at times, this was a very cool hike. Even the return route heading down through the lower valley was rewarding. What really made this trip was the spring like ground cover and green grass. Without all of the greenery, this area would be very stark. Doing this trip in February, March, or April is really a must for this reason. Having our deserts be so green in February is really unusual. I was amazed to see many yellow poppies growing along the sand wash that I used to get back to the trailhead. To be very honest with you guys, this hike kicked my butt. I am really too old for this kind of stuff. My knees are not what they used to be. Do I regret doing this hike? Not a chance!


Permit $$

Map Drive
High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From Phoenix take I10 west beyond the city of Buckeye to Exit 94 (Tonopah). Go south from I10 and turn west on Indian School Road, which is just beyond a gas station. The first part of Indian School is paved, yet eventually turns to gravel. Drive west on Indian School Road 5.0 miles to an unmarked ( desert-boonie writes: FT3W and just after mile marker 2 ) non-maintained road that is suitable for high clearance two-wheel drive vehicles. Before arriving at this turn, Indian School bends northwest to go around a small mountain. Once on this unmarked road you will drive 1.1 miles to the northwest and drive under the freeway through a narrow one-lane underpass. Immediately beyond the eastbound underpass you will turn left at a fork. Drive 0.2 miles paralleling the freeway and turn right.

Almost immediately beyond this turn you will turn left. You are now on the road that accesses the wilderness. After approximately 2.7 miles you will reach the Central Arizona Project canal. Along this 2.7 mile section there will be a couple of right turns that you will want to avoid. Just beyond the canal you will go through a wire gate. From the wire gate you will be driving northwest approximately 4.0 miles to the trailhead. Use care to stay on the main route. There are a few side turns along the last four miles to throw you off.
page created by ssk44 on Feb 18 2009 8:22 am
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