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Sheep Mountain - Gila Mtns, AZ

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Guide 5 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Southwest > Ajo
4.7 of 5 by 3
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 786 feet
Elevation Gain 2,400 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,500 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.4
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Historic, Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2019-04-05 Jim_H
19  2011-12-11 sbkelley
13  2009-12-13 sbkelley
18  2009-12-13 desert_boonie
Author sbkelley
author avatar Guides 6
Routes 11
Photos 1,377
Trips 184 map ( 1,895 miles )
Age 35 Male Gender
Location Reno, NV
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Nov, Jan, Mar → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:22am - 6:41pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
leg-burning, solid rock fun and solitude
by sbkelley

If you're willing to put in a little up-front effort, this remote and ragged peak will repay your investment many times over. First and foremost, Sheep Mountain (the highpoint of the Gila Mountains), is on the Barry M Goldwater Range. Specifically, it's in the West Management area of the BMGR. Don't let that chase you off: permits are free and obtainable. The BLM office in downtown Phoenix was very helpful in going through the process. A link to detailed instructions is found lower on the page above directions. You must have a permit on you and one in your vehicle while on Sheep Mountain or anywhere on the BMGR or Cabeza Prieta NWR.

This hike is no easy stroll, but it's not technically difficult either. The rock is solid, the grade is manageable, and a good pair of lungs and a sense of adventure is all you need beyond your hiking gear. It is a full-body workout, but the spoils of the stunning views of the desert and total solitude far outweigh the costs. If you're ready for a moderate scramble, a great adventure, a new peak to climb, or something new to do around Yuma, this will satisfy.

Sheep Mountain is located in the extreme southwest part of the state, and would be unbearably hot in the summer months. No water and no facilities are available. Once you get your permits from the BLM office, you will be set for detailed maps, and they will be very helpful for navigation. We didn't see any unexploded munitions or bombs on this part of the Goldwater Range, but they could have been lurking - don't touch them if you see them.

When Road 4A meets a small side road at the foot of the Gilas, park your vehicle (see TH coordinates for parking spot). Look for the obvious drainage heading up just to the west of Sheep Mountain. This is your ticket to the top. Enter the drainage a quarter-mile from the TH and relax. The surprisingly solid boulder-hopping in the wash is enjoyable, and will test your workout regimen. Two-thirds of the elevation gain will be in this canyon, which begins to steepen and narrow as it gains elevation. No cairns exist but none are needed. Persist up the drainage. Along the way, you'll pass old water storage tanks at roughly 1700' as you rock-hop up the canyon. No major obstacles will block your way until a heinous-looking pour-off at about 2000'. A gentler side drainage appears just to the right of this, and allows you a safe alternative from a potentially adventuresome crack-climb. An easy scramble up this side drainage puts you onto gentler (relative term here) terrain. After this, the grade eases to a small saddle at 2350'. Rest here, because it will get steeper.

Look up to the east. This ridge looks daunting, but looks are deceiving. Stay on or near the ridgeline, depending on the easiest line, all the way to a small false summit at 3000'. Difficulty stays at or below Class 3 scrambling all the way to here. Along the way, look at the alcoves within the larger boulders along the ridgeline. A grown adult could easily hide in here comfortably (see picture set with desert-boonie demonstrating). Do a short downclimb off to the east (left) side of the false summit, and the ridge turns southeast for the true summit of Sheep. Again, the ridge looks dicey, but easy passage can be found with moderate route-finding. Smile - you've got Sheep all to yourself now...

If you find the summit register, which is about the size of a Post-It notepad, you'll note it was placed in 1982 and is nowhere near full. The Barry Goldwater Range and Cabeza Prieta NWR are below you, along with I-8 to the north. Castle Dome and Muggins Mountain are visible beyond that. Stay on top for awhile and soak in the views. Return the way you came. Expect your hands to be a little raw by the time you get down from the constant contact with the grainy granite.

Water Sources
There are the water tanks at 1700', but you'd have to break into them to get near their water.

Camping is allowed on the Goldwater Range, as long as you have your permit.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2009-12-15 sbkelley
    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
    Sheep Mountain - Gila Mtns
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Remote and Rugged, that's just the way it should be. Great mountain range to have some fun in. Weather was great, cloudy and cold in the morning, and sunny and warm in the afternoon when we got done. Once on the ridge the rock is sharp and some of it is loose so just make sure you are not exposed when you find the loose sediment. The views from the top are some of the best i've seen in this state. Couldn't have asked for a better day to do this one, and a beer at the top is a must.
    Sheep Mountain - Gila Mtns
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Short but steep! Came in* with Scott and Ken after a fun ascent of Castle Dome the day before. The gully up to the saddle was a blast to rock-hop in, and the rocky ridge up from the saddle to the main ridgeline made for some enjoyable scrambling. Aside from one tricky class 3 downclimb upon gaining the main ridge, nothing was really worse than class 2+. Vegetation was minimal throughout, probably owing to the blistering temperatures in this part of the state during the warmer months. Gloves would be helpful for scrambling on the more rugged rock, but certainly aren't necessary.

    We reached the summit just in time for the clouds to lift, revealing spectacular views of the jagged peaks of the Gila Mountains on all sides. The weather at times reminded me more of summer hiking on New Hampshire's high peaks than southwestern AZ! Descent was uneventful, and was followed by a delicious cactus+date shake in Dateland. :)

    *If coming via I-8 from Yuma, as we did, avoid the Ligurta exit--the road was closed due to a washed-out bridge. Approach from Wellton instead. I don't know when the bridge will be repaired...

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From Yuma, travel East on I-8 until you reach Exit 21 (Dome Valley Road). Take this road east until you reach Ave 25E. Turn right here. From Gila Bend, travel West on I-8 until you reach Wellton. Exit here, and travel north until you reach Los Angeles Road. Turn left (west) here, and take this road until you reach Ave 25E. Turn left here.

    From Ave 25E, drive south over a railroad track and under I-8. When you reach a canal, turn left, as the road crosses over. Keep following Ave 25E past a small house until it intersects 14th Ave, which runs along the boundary of the Goldwater Range. Turn right (west) here and follow the track less than a mile until you reach Road 4. Road 4 will be marked with a wooden post with a '4' etched into it. The roads to the point are passalbe to a 2WD car, but you'll need high-clearance from here. Follow Road 4 until it intersects road 4A, which turns left and heads straight for Sheep Mountain and the Gilas. Park at the hike's TH coordinates. Total distance along Roads 4 and 4A is ~4.5 miles. The roads are in surprisingly decent shape throughout, but you wouldn't want to take a city car in here.
    page created by sbkelley on Dec 15 2009 10:08 pm
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