Atascosa Lookout does NOT sit on Atascosa Peak!
I hate to break it to you folks but, [just like Tucson’s Window Rock & Window Peak are NOT one and the same], neither are Atascosa Lookout & Atascosa Peak. It’s amazing how many experienced hikers think they’ve bagged Atascosa Peak; when in fact, they’ve only made it to the Lookout. I’m guilty of it too… I bagged the Lookout twice and just assumed I’d also bagged Atascosa Peak. I hadn’t. If you don’t read the description of the Atascosa Lookout hike carefully enough, [or aren’t already aware of it], then it’s very easy to miss the peak. After all, the Atascosa Lookout Tower does sit on a peak… just not Atascosa Peak.
I’ll spare the detail about the history of the Atascosa Lookout Tower since that hike is already written up. Bottom line: to reach Atascosa Peak, you must continue 1.5 miles North of Peak 6249, [which is the peak where the remains of the Atascosa Lookout Tower sit].
Despite the cliffy looking slopes of the many surrounding rock formations, the terrain is actually quite forgiving, offering many options for reaching Atascosa Peak. For this description, I will focus on the most obvious route, which is fairly well cairned and follows a sweet ridgeline from the remains of the Atascosa Lookout Tower to Atascosa Peak.
After reaching the Lookout Tower via the Atascosa Lookout Trail #100, simply head toward the Northeast side of the small summit, and a route should become visible. I don’t recall if there were cairns marking the route at this point; but you basically need to head downward toward the ridgeline that runs between Peak 6249/the Lookout Tower and Atascosa Peak, which is the big peak to the North that, [to me], kind of resembles a bell.
The ridgeline is tons of fun for those that enjoy bouldering hopping, and the scenery is spectacular. If you think the views from the Lookout Tower are awesome, then you’re in for a real treat; they just keep getting better as you approach Atascosa Peak. From a distance, the peak can look intimidating, and I thought I’d be in for a tiring climb after the ridgeline section. Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise to find that nearly the whole way from Atascosa Lookout to Atascosa Peak was almost exclusively boulder hopping fun – we’re talking very large, solid, excellent gripping rocks and almost no brush. The sensational views throughout were like icing on the cake!
There is a HUGE cairn on the highpoint, and the summit register is under some rocks toward the top of the cairn. While the views are awesome from the highpoint, I actually found them to be even better from a sweet viewpoint toward the Northern edge of the summit. To reach this beautiful viewpoint, simply continue past the highpoint, heading mostly north and a little to the East. There is a faint route initially, as well as some light brush, but just keep heading downward. About 2-5 minutes past the highpoint, you will arrive at the summit’s edge and be treated to exceptional views, unobstructed by brush, that overlook the beautiful Ramanote Canyon. There is a very large boulder at the edge, and it makes for a great resting spot while taking in the views. After enjoying the summit, return by the same route.
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.