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Mount Ballard, AZ

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Guide 12 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
3 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,026 feet
Elevation Gain 1,355 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,411 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2-3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.46
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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7  2018-05-28 DixieFlyer
9  2016-02-14 GrottoGirl
4  2014-10-02 BenTelly
11  2013-12-16 PrestonSands
2  2013-12-15 PrestonSands
7  2012-04-24 azdesertfather
12  2009-11-11 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, May → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:04am - 6:24pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Everyone likes getting kicked by the Mules
by PrestonSands

Mount Ballard, at 7370 feet, is the official highpoint of southern Arizona's Mule Mountains. Nearby Fissure Peak at approximately 7380 feet might be the true high point of the Mule Mountains, however it's on private property. Unless you are in or good friends with the Wollenberg Family Trust forget it. Obey the law, do NOT trespass.

This is a fairly simple ridgeline hike and the route described here runs southwest from Mule Pass near Bisbee to Mount Ballard's summit, following a social (unofficial) trail and a barbed wire fence.

Round trip hike from Mule Pass to Mount Ballard: 3.4 miles, 1355 feet of elevation gain, 1520 feet of accumulated elevation gain.

Beginning at the parking area at Mule Pass (directly above the highway tunnel), near a white obelisk historical marker, one immediately encounters a fence with a private property sign. Just to the right of the fence and obelisk is a social trail that heads uphill into the trees along a short, shallow drainage. This is the trail you will want to follow. (See map) Please be respectful of the private property in the area so that local landowners do not end up denying access to this route.

A tenth of a mile in from Mule Pass, the social trail arrives on top of the ridge, and crosses through a barbed wire fence (6200 feet, 31.45747 N, 109.94388 W). The social trail continues southwest up to Mount Ballard, now paralleling the barbed wire fence, and always staying at or near the crest of the ridge. Open spots among the oaks, junipers, and yuccas allow for some nice views of Bisbee to the east, and of the surrounding area. Along the ridge, a small burn area interrupts the otherwise dense, woody vegetation.

Nearing 7000 feet, the ridge turns steep, and the footing becomes challenging on loose, decayed rock. Small cairns begin to mark the route as it crests the ridge's sandstone cap and levels out. The social trail and fence line continue across the rocky northeastern arm of Mount Ballard, among tall cane cholla and junipers. Take note of your surroundings for the return hike, as the trail gets a bit vague in spots.

The final 200 feet of Mount Ballard now lie in front of you. The trail heads for the top, squeezing through dense thickets of cane cholla and brush. Close to the summit, there is a nice view to the south down Abrigo Canyon of the Naco area and Mexico, only seven miles distant.

At the wooded summit of Mount Ballard, a register is stashed in the bushes. From the top, one can enjoy a view to the west of Sierra Vista and the Huachuca Mountains. To the northwest along Escabrosa Ridge is the nearby, sharp summit of Fissure Peak, its namesake fissure visible as a seemingly out of place scar below the summit.

Return the way you came.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-11-15 PrestonSands
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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
Mount Ballard
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Short afternoon hike with my wife while visiting Bisbee for the day. Ventured up the ridge for a bit after hiking the old road in Banning Canyon. Was still fighting a nasty cold, so an easy hike was in order. The vegetation along Ballard’s Ridge is coming back nicely where it had burned a few years back. Always a fun hike on Ballard, even if you don’t make the summit.
Mount Ballard
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This was a nice push up to the high points of the Mules. Fairly easy to follow, only a couple of areas where the trail is not well defined. The highlights: the viewshed from Fissure Peak and the rare spotting of a Lewis's Woodpecker in the oak forest slopes near the trailhead.

As others have mentioned, perhaps the most difficult navigational aspect of this hike is finding the trail at the trailhead. There is an old two-track the heads west from the parking area at Mule Pass, west of the white obelisk marking the "continental divide" (incorrectly). Take this two-track not more than 15 feet and on the left (south) you'll see two sections of barbed wire fence coming together to form a corner. Just past this fence corner and past a small wash is a faint trail that leads up the hill to the south into the trees. It looks like people may have been jumping the fence and traveling up the wash but this is not necessary. The trail climbs up next to a wash with the boundary fence (private on the east side) on your left (east).

Apparently this is an unofficial or social trail but it is pretty straight forward. It climbs up to the ridge and then follows it southwest through a burn area then into thick scrub: oak, manzanita, juniper, piñon. It is a pretty good climb up to Escabrosa Ridge. The trail gets steeper through denser vegetation just before reaching the ridge and a few cairns can be seen through this area. The trail on the ridge follows the fence for a while - in fact the fence is never far away for the entire hike. The vegetation changes as you make your way toward a southern exposure, notably the abundance of cholla, making an interesting maze through the monsoon grass and 6 ft spiny arms. As you approach Ballard the trail kind of disappears into a network of game trails and social trails. It's clear where one needs to go, it's just a matter of preference at this point. The summit of Ballard is covered in oak so the views, while impressive, are a bit obscured. The register is tucked in a cairn near an oak to the north(ish) of the old fire ring and open area.

From Ballard, Fissure Peak beckons to the NW. It's hard to tell from this perspective if Fissure is any higher than Ballard but it looks interesting to explore with the deep cleft on the south side of the peak. A saddle divides the two peaks and a scramble down the rocky ridge of Ballard took a little time. It's a 250 ft decent over loose rhyolite and sections of heavy brush, then it's up Fissure. The trail here is better defined near the saddle and then fades as it climbs toward the peak. The fence is still there to the south, sometimes reduced to just a single strand of wire. The rhyolite outcropping becomes more prevalent and there's a little rock hopping available to avoid cholla and other brush. On the summit grand views of the Huachucas and the San Pedro river valley await. Nice views to the south into Mexico as well: Sierra San Jose (looking dwarfed at this elevation) and the Sierra Madre hazy on the southwest horizon. The register is in the summit cairn and a folded sheet of paper in the jar claims Fissure to be the true high point of the Mule Mountains. However, comparing the elevations on the HAZ tracks app shows Ballard at about 40 ft higher. Regardless, Fissure is definitely worth climbing for the views.

On the way back I thought I would be clever and traverse from the saddle between Ballard and Fissure, around the north side Ballard, and connect back up with the trail where Escabrosa meets the other ridge. It didn't save me any time or effort. In fact, with all the monsoon grasses covering the slope, it was straight-up difficult. It would have been better to stick to the way I came up.


Paintbrush, smooth bouvardia (?), and various sunflower species up high on Fissure Peak.
Mount Ballard
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After a night of camping on the edge of Juniper Flats Mountain, I awoke to a wonderful view of my day's goal, and drove down to Mule Pass to begin my second Mount Ballard hike of the weekend. Fissure Peak was my goal today, as I had run out of time to summit Fissure the night before, and had turned around at sunset on Ballard, not wanting to violate my self imposed long time rule of "no off trail hiking after dark". The hike up was chilly and a few tiny spots of snow and ice lingered on the trail. After my obligatory visit to Mount Ballard itself, I began searching for a route over to Fissure Peak. I soon located a narrow opening in the trees and brush that led me west to the rocky connector ridge, which I then descended to the saddle separating the two peaks. The route from the saddle to the summit of Fissure is pretty clear, just following the ridge a short distance to the top. The view from Fissure was incredible, with much of southeastern Arizona and northern Sonora visible. Fissure had been on my "to-do" list for four years, and it was nice to finally climb it. I wasted the rest of the day roaming Bisbee and Sierra Vista before going on a night time ghost tour at the Birdcage Saloon in Tombstone. It was an outstanding weekend. :y:
Mount Ballard
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I rolled into Bisbee with just enough time to visit an old favorite: Mount Ballard. Quite unexpectedly, there was another vehicle at the trailhead. Sweat came quickly despite the cold. Frozen soil and bits of snow crunched beneath my boots. Just below the summit I met the other hiker: Mark from Benson. Peaks near and far were discussed before we continued in opposite directions. A brilliant gold sunset greeted me at the top, where I signed the register, admired the amazing view, and decided against going for nearby Fissure Peak this evening. I retreated through the cane cholla and pinyon forest under the pale glow of a full moon. Mexican food in Bisbee was calling me...
Mount Ballard
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Nice little workout with views over Bisbee and into Mexico.

A little concerned before going that I might have trouble starting on the trail because of the hike description on HAZ describing the guy's private property and bushwhacking around it, but no worries. There is a fairly well-worn trail now that starts just outside the private property gate. It splits into a couple of trails, but they both end up where you want to go. Beyond that you follow a ridge with a pretty defined trail and a few ducks/mini cairns along the way. Along the trail there are a few places where the brush and some of the cactus squeezes the trail a little bit, but it is still quite passable, no bushwhacking but watch the ground in those area for fallen cactus pieces :D

Once you get on the top of Ballard the trail becomes a maze of trails and may appear a bit confusing; I just picked one heading up and it made it there. My guess is they all end up there. Forgot to look for the register hidden in the bushes while I was there...if you go up, sign in for me ;)
Mount Ballard
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Having never hiked in the Mule Mountains (and not knowing of any trails at all in those mountains, for that matter) I was anxious to explore. After working in Bowie, Willcox, and Sierra Vista (love that town!) earlier in the day, I arrived in Bisbee late on a cloudy Veteran's Day afternoon. Once the ordeal of finding a gas station in Bisbee was over, I went to Mule Pass, with map in hand and the hope of summiting Mount Ballard, despite it already being 4:20 pm. Greeted by a private property sign, I was discouraged at first, but I skirted the private land through a short 'n' nasty bushwhack, and ended up right where I needed to be on the ridge to Ballard. To my surprise, there was a decent path making a beeline for the summit. There was ample evidence of previous hikers, both legal and illegal, on the way up. The hike was a bit easier than I would have guessed, and I reached the summit at sunset. I took a few photos in the fading light, sent a "wish you were here" text to a friend, signed the register, then quickly headed off of the mountain. I actually broke out the flashlight half way down, and made it back to Mule Pass at 6:20 pm. I recommend starting earlier than I did, though. Afterwards, I made a detour to do some night photos in Bisbee, then made the long drive home through Tombstone. A very fun day it was! :D

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Tucson, drive east on I-10 to Benson. Take exit 303 (business loop) to US Highway 80. From I-10, it is approximately a 48 mile drive east on US Highway 80 to "Old Divide Road" on the left, at milepost 338.7 (located 0.3 miles before the Mule Pass highway tunnel, and about a mile west of Bisbee). Turn left onto Old Divide Road (paved), and follow it for 0.5 miles to a parking pulloff on the right, at Mule Pass, where there is a white obelisk historical marker. The trail described begins behind a private property sign near the obelisk, and near a dirt road barricaded by rocks, where there is a yellow "No County Maintenance" road sign. (see hike description)
page created by PrestonSands on Nov 15 2009 2:25 pm
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