Not for the faint of heart…!
While I don’t want to scare anyone off from experiencing this absolutely epic and beautiful bushwhack adventure, the subtitle I’ve selected should not be taken lightly. For example / at one extreme, just start reading Chapter 16, (beginning on page 226), of this book, while keeping mind that Lion Mountain is right by Ramanote Canyon, [and that the adventure described below involves entering/traversing a small part of Ramanote Canyon]. That said / at the other extreme is the input I received from a local acquaintance of mine who has lived in the area many years; he mentioned to me that he’s spent, “thousands of hours in Ramanote Canyon and the surrounding wilderness area and has NEVER had any problems or even come close to finding himself in a *bad situation” [*at least not in terms of encounters with other humans].
Hike [Note: there are often many options for off-trail hiking/peak bagging; described below is the route I took to this peak]: First and foremost: for multiple reasons, I do not recommend embarking on this adventure without the use of a GPS app/device like Route Scout!
You’ll start by hiking down FR 4193, which will lead you down into Ramanote Canyon. A couple of things to know about FR 4193: definitely have a GPS app/device to help you identify this “road”… and don’t plan on driving it either! If you do this adventure during the summer months when things are overgrown, you’ll probably walk right by it. After turning onto the “road,” it becomes easier to follow; and, [while there are a few places where the road is very obvious], most parts more or less resembles a faint route vs. an actual jeep road. Also, [if it hasn’t already sunk in], I don’t care if you have a Rubicon, a huge truck with the best off-road tires money can buy, or an ATV, you’re not going to make it down FR 4193, so don’t even attempt it! With small trees / shrubs growing right in the middle of the road in several places, along with extreme erosion and the likes, it requires lots of care to safely traverse on foot, let alone even consider taking a motor vehicle.
After you’ve reached the floor of Ramanote Canyon, head East in the canyon for just over 2/10ths of a mile. This portion of the adventure is an exceptionally pleasant and beautiful traverse! With excellent footing, minimal brush, and beautiful surroundings of rock, flowers, and flowing water [at certain times of year], it’s just spectacular.
You’ll want to exit the canyon by banking up toward the North after approximately 2/10ths of a mile. The exit point I used is located to the South and slightly West of the UN 4210, [which, from the vantage point of the canyon, looks more like a massive boulder/rock than a peak]. After exiting the canyon, you’ll contour the SW slope of UN 4210, and then angle for its NW ridgeline. Once you make it up on the ridgeline, it’s more or less a matter of making sure that you follow the correct ridgelines to Lion Mountain. The correct way to go is obvious in the beginning, [with the two options being down to the SE toward UN 4210 or up to the NW]; however, after heading up to the NW and then up to the North, things really open up and there are other ridgelines you could potentially end up on, [hence one of the reasons I highly recommend Route Scout or another GPS app].
For much of the ascent, you might be wondering if you’re going to cliff out. There are many craggy rocks in the area and many cliffs that are not apparent from the topo contours alone. Follow my route and you’ll be good! However, with that being said, if you find the approach/ascent at all challenging, then I highly recommend doing an out-and-back over the loop route that I executed, which I’ve detailed below. I’d describe the approach as, ‘suspenseful with many ‘hope this doesn’t cliff out’ type of moments,’ but the descent is a whole other ballgame, [with a good part of the way accurately described as ‘total cliff/crag with miraculous breaks/gaps at all the right moments, making this traverse possible without ropes and gear’].
As for Lion Mountain, it’s a very easy and straightforward ascent. Once you’ve descended to the saddle area located to the SW of the peak, it’s about 2/10ths of a mile to reach the summit. Thanks to the relatively gradual grade for an off-trail hike, along with excellent gripping footing and some sturdy rocks, it’s a fast and easy ascent. With many unique shaped peaks in the immediate vicinity, [along with canyons, cliffs, and rocks crags], as well as beautiful big mountains like the Santa Ritas in the distance, the summit views were absolutely sensational. There is a register by the highpoint, and it does not see much action, [usually about 1 visit per year or less from the Southern Arizona Hiking Club].
For the return, head North along the mountain’s Northern ridgeline, which eventually wraps around slightly toward the East, toward and including UN 4015. Once on UN 4015, I angled to the NE, [shifting course briefly to the SE and then to the South to avoid a cliff/craggy section], before once again heading NE down toward Ramanote Canyon. If you’ve had enough off-trail fun, then at this point simply head North out of the canyon and in about 1/10th of a mile you will connect with a very well-defined jeep road, FR 4198. For some added off-trail fun, follow my route, which stays in the canyon for just over 0.25 miles before banking out and heading up a very short slope of 0.05 miles, at which point you will connect with the jeep road [FR 4198].
The hard work is now behind you and you’ll have a nice stroll of about 2.60 miles back to your vehicle along excellent jeep roads: about 1.15 miles along FR 4198 followed by about 1.45 miles along FR 4191. NOTE: After about 1.15 miles along FR 4198, this jeep road joins and becomes FR 4191 near the corral that you passed on the right on your drive in, [although coming from FR 4198, the corral will now be on your left]. As you hike back along these jeep roads, the scenery will not disappoint; and best of all, [from a distance on the safety of the jeep roads], you can marvel at the seemingly impossible cliffs/rock crags that you managed to negotiate during your descent.
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.