Created in 1990, the 100,600 acre Eagletail Mountains Wilderness is only about an hour west of Phoenix, but offers both solitude and adventure to those inclined. Courthouse Rock and Eagletail Peak get most of the attention, but some of the coolest terrain can be found on a bag of Peak 2681'.
From the Eagletail Mountains Wilderness Trailhead 2681' and it's approach is pretty straightforward if you want to go up the easy way. Make a beeline for the saddle between you and the summit, which is the rounded prominence on the left. Reviewing the photosets from my trip should be helpful in familiarizing yourself with the route, in addition to GPS info.
You'll cross a few small washes, and upon reaching the saddle, you'll have some nice views of the wild geology that makes up the eastern half of this complex.
From there the next goal is another saddle, this one just to the left of the summit. This part is fairly steep and off camber, but only lasts a few hundred yards before you level out and the rock becomes cleaner. Just keep heading up and soon you'll be among a number of "high points", one of which will have a cairn with a summit register containing only 4 names. The views of Eagletail Peak are postcard perfect, and you'll get your first real view of "The Labyrinth", the wild hidden canyon to the north that cuts between the two halves of 2681'.
From here you can head down the way you came, or dial up the intensity a few notches and head down into the labyrinth. The first stretch is just moderately steep and loose, followed by the arrival of various drainages that for me ended in pour offs and dead ends. The cleaned up GPS route can guide you through this, but it gets both really steep and at times really brushy. Thorns are not too bad - but long pants, sleeves, gloves, hat, and eye protection really come in handy in plowing through the dense growth. This is definitely not a route for those new to off trail hiking. Soon it will begin to level out, and you'll reach the main drainage. This varies between brushy and boulders large enough to go under, making for some really enjoyable travel. Enjoy the views on your right of the massive walls of aphyric rhyolite breccia - I couldn't get "In the Court of the Crimson King" out of my head. Really majestic stuff.
Upon exiting the drainage, head clockwise and follow the level ground all the way around the peak back to the trailhead.
You could also choose to ascend via the canyon, or maybe throw in a visit to the amazing arches on the eastern side while you're at it. It's not very big mountain, but it's geology and wild hidden canyon make it every bit as cool as it's more famous neighbors.
This is a completely off trail hike over a peak that sees very little traffic. The north canyon, in particular, is quite rugged and isolated and should not be attempted if there is any chance of rain.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
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.
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