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Pass Mountain Ridgeline, AZ

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Guide 77 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Mesa NE
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,030 feet
Elevation Gain 1,282 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,422 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 - 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.31
Interest Peak
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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15  2019-05-05 Pickles
4  2019-05-05 adilling
8  2018-11-26 hikerdw
13  2018-05-20 DarthStiller
20  2018-05-20 adilling
5  2018-04-17 DennisWilliams
5  2018-01-25 syoung
19  2017-08-05 adilling
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author ck_1
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 0
Photos 120
Trips 117 map ( 396 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:30pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Hidden Gem
by ck_1

Pass Mountain is one of two mountains accessed in the Usery Mountain Recreation Area. Heading north on Ellsworth you enter the recreation area and see Usery Mountain to your left (west) and Pass Mountain to the right (east).

At one time, this area was home to an Indian village as well as Hohokam canals. For a period of time homesteads occupied the area, and today trails are named after those homesteaders (McGill and Coleman). The most famous or perhaps infamous name associated with the area is its namesake, Usery. King Usery was a cattleman who occupied the area in the late 1800s. He apparently wasn't an exceptionally skillful cattleman. In 1891 he and Bill Blevins held up a stagecoach near Globe. They earned themselves 2 silver bullion bars, as well as 7 years in the prison at Yuma. Later, Usery would be arrested for horse stealing. For their part in creating the history of the area, the mountain and park were named after Usery, while a trail was named after Blevins.

Pass Mountain is most notable for two features, the Wind Cave and it's off-color stripe. The stripe, called a "tuff layer" is actually solidified volcanic ash, which turns a shade of green after periods of heavy rain.

Usery Mountain is most notable as the mountain with the "<=PHOENIX" sign. It is also home to a shooting range. Nothing enhances a wilderness experience like the sound of semi-automatic gunfire.

The Pass Mountain Ridgeline hike is a non-maintained trail. In fact, there is not much of a trail at all for most of the hike. Route finding is necessary, as is a basic understanding of the area. One should be familiar with both the Pass Mountain Trail as well as the Wind Cave Trail before attempting this hike. ( Both of which may be found in TrailDEX )

The hike follows the ridgeline of the mountain. Literally. Once you reach the ridgeline, the trail all but disappears and you climb your way along the ridge. The views are stunning on this thrilling hike. The effort required is significant. Keep in mind this is not a high traffic trail. Help is not nearby. Know your limits.

From the Wind Cave Trailhead, follow the Wind Cave trail for the first 1.6 miles of this hike. The Wind Cave trail is well established and easy to navigate. The trail heads to the base of the cliff face and then works east toward the "cave". When you reach the signage for the cave, don't turn left, rather, continue up past the second sign, indicating that the trail is not maintained beyond that point. It took me 38 minutes to reach this point (I hike here often, so that time may be fast). There is still a recognizable trail at this point. Follow the trail. It continues east toward the southeastern slope of the mountain. The trail then climbs turning west. This section of trail has a few spur trails branching off, watch to ensure that you stay on course. Your goal is to reach the ridgeline, high above the Wind Cave. The exposure along this section is pronounced at points. At a few crucial points a white spray paint blaze marks the route. About 10 minutes after passing the signage I achieved the ridgeline. The views are spectacular. Looking east you can see the route to the southeastern summit of Pass Mountain. If you are a purest, follow the route to access the summit, then backtrack to this point. I'd been up there many times before, so I opted to head west following the ridgeline.

There is no trail or trail markings along this section of the hike. Route finding skills are necessary to pick your way along the ridge. The ridge consists of loose boulders and rocks. While the hiking is hard, the views are stunning. To the north you see the saddle of the Pass Mountain trail, the Goldfield Mtns, the Salt River valley, and Four Peaks way off in the distance. To the East you see the Sups. Soon you will pass a wind hole and encounter a rather large slot followed by your first true climb. While only approx. 20 feet in length, it is climbing (I'd rate it 5.5 for those of you who climb). A fall would cause some serious damage. After ascending this little bugger, you get to descend on the other side. As this is the ridge, there isn't really a safe way around it. This is true for several sections of this hike.

The ridgeline continues west heading up a rather tough looking section. Pick your way up this boulder field to one of several highpoints of this hike. Once on top, you will be on an amazing flat area compared to what you just climbed. This mesa-like area is dotted with cacti and other vegetation. The views are inspiring. Looking east you can see the southeastern summit. Looking west you see where you are heading. There is a scant trail periodically along this section. Enjoy the views as you continue westward. You will descend again, entering a basin-like area sloping toward the northeast. Soon, however, you will find yourself climbing the ridgeline to another highpoint, which will have stunning views, landmines and colorful ground cover. You will also discover an oddly placed cairn.

As you continue west, you approach another section to be climbed. Head toward the highest point of this rock outcropping. You are climbing to the summit of Pass Mountain. Reaching an elevation of 3312 feet, this is the highpoint of the hike. The southeastern summit is 3127 feet. Sign in at the register. Use the HikeArizona.COM pen! Reading the register I discovered that no one had signed in since my last summit in April. Look around, the views rock!

This is about the halfway point of the hike. From here you pick your way north for a few yards. You eventually cliff out, and need to work your way left (southeast) to descend to the lower level. This gets kind of tricky and requires you to pick your route well. There are few options and mistakes can put you in a bad spot. This section is actually pretty cool. There is a trail for a bit, the views are stunning, and the geology is impressive. I didn't get to enjoy it much this trip as an annoyingly aggressive bee harassed me. The dam thing wouldn't leave me alone. I ended up jogging down the trail a few hundred yards before the thing stung me in the ear. The ridge continues and descends again and then gives you a final climb. After climbing up and over this section, the descent is steep on loose gravel. You can almost make out the wave-like path you will need to follow. Keep in mind that you are following the ridgeline, head where the ridgeline runs. Start thinking about the Pass Mountain trail. You're aiming to connect with this trail as it runs parallel with Ellsworth/Usery Pass Road. It's way down there, and will take you some time to reach. Follow the trail that appears again, this is your route. As long as you are heading west and descending, you're doing all right. You will eventually reach a section with about 5 drops. Each drop is less than 10 feet, but requires you to down climb or do a sit and scoot. You will pick up the trail again and continue descending along the ridge's western foothills. Remember, you should be heading perpendicular to Pass Mtn. Trail/Usery Pass Road. You can see the road, so you shouldn't get lost. Follow the path/game trail/water run-off until you reach a small saddle. You will see signs of human visitors. Descend to the right (northwest) and enter a small wash. Follow the small wash west for a few hundred yards to where it crosses Pass Mtn. Trail. There is a small cairn present. Here is a shot of what you just descended. You can see the wash as well as the rolling foothills on the left.

From here, the hike is cake. Follow the Pass Mtn. Trail back to the Wind Cave Trailhead. You'll pass through the National Forest fence about 10 minutes after hitting the trail. At this point you are 1.55 miles from the trailhead.

My best estimate as for trail length is approx. 5.5 miles. The only definite distances I have are the 1.6 miles of the Wind Cave trail and the 1.55 miles of the Pass Mtn. Trail. My Suunto watch recorded an elevation gain of 1620 feet. The hike took me 3 hours and 32 minutes when I did it on June 3, 2002. In April the hike took about 4 hours.

Enjoy the hike, remember The Journey is the Destination, and as always - Be Safe!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2002-06-04 ck_1
    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 of 26 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Met with my friend, Brian and drove to Wind Cave TH. Completed this hike with bonus obstacles. Just as we arrived at the Wind Cave sign right of the cave, a small coiled rattlesnake on the edge of the trail gave a little warning. Continued on towards the ridge line. The trail follows a gap between some large boulders. The early morning light was still a bit dim. Right in the center of the gap was a mass of bees. Don't know if it was a hive or a temporary hang out. By the time I realized it was a mass of bees, I already had the upward and forward momentum to just keep moving. As I passed, I could hear the swarm starting to hum. How close did I come? I could have reached forward and touched them. As the swarm came alive, Brian decided on a different route. Good idea. I had to deal with one rogue bee who continued to harass my progress up the mountain. I continued moving further up and soon it left me alone. We both made it to the top unstung.

    Next we started our way across the ridge line which is annoyingly covered with white direction markers. If you can't figure out where the ridge line is without markers, then you probably should stay at home on your couch. You don't belong in the wilderness.

    The thing about following someone else's white paint spots is that you don't exactly know where it will lead you. Follow these ones for too long and you will likely end up short of completing the ridge line hike. At one point, I noticed the white paint spots leading down and to the left. We did not follow them. I can only assume that someone has created another way down around mid way? So, I guess if you are into doing 1/2 a hike, while telling people you did the whole thing, then perhaps this is the route for you.

    Anyway, we continued past the ugly white paint and got back to the little bit of route-finding that actually makes this hike fun. We took a route that drops off the ridge line to the left. The ridge line led down to a wash that took us to the busy Pass Mtn Loop which we followed back to the trailhead.
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    The Pass Mountain Ridgeline is always a favorite of mine. The hike offers a little bit of everything - groomed trail, NO trail, rock scrambling, great views, awesome sunrise/sunset, route finding - it's all here on this one.

    We wanted to do a sunrise hike, so we hit the Wind Cave T/H in the dark. Made it up the Wind Cave Trail, and past the "Danger, I wouldn't go any further, if I was you" sign and up to the first saddle. We made it in time for an excellent sunrise. The colors were concentrated right on the Goldfields.

    With the light show over, we started moving along the ridgeline. What stood out right away was all the fresh spray paint dots and arrows. And, the fact that there now appears to be an actual trail for most of the ridgeline now. The dots and arrows were literally every 10-15 yards. Even when the path was clear to see, dots and dots, for almost 1/2 of the trail heading towards the summit. Mike commented that he felt time humming the PacMan theme song as we passed one dot after another.

    After the rocky section in the middle, the spray paint guy must have run out of paint as they stopped. But, his brother, the monster cairn builder took over from there. So, lots and lots of very large cairns marked the way across. Someone or someones have spent some time up here working on this trail. The trail is getting more defined.

    We made it to the true summit and signed in. There was some kind of freaky fly bloom going on at the summit, so we opted to get out of there. We bypassed the eastern summit and started across the ridgeline again.

    The official route has you taking a hard right and heading down a seam to exit from the northeast side of the mountain to pick up the Pass Mountain Loop Trail. We just kept following the trail. It took us past the last yellow ridge and we had to decide if we wanted to go left or right. Mike and I decided to go right and follow a ridgeline down. The path was not always clear, but we made our way down without any problems. I think this is the way I will exit this trail in the future. It put us out on the northwest side of the mountain. We pick up the Pass Mtn Loop trail and cruised on back to the T/H.

    A nice and easy stroll across the ridgeline this morning. I took a bunch of pictures and the route finding slowed us down a little too. Not my fastest time across this little mountain, but it was a good day for hiking.
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Finally cleared this off our Bucket List, took long enough ( 22 yrs ) :o Wind Cave was packed, glad to get up around the corner. Amazes me that a lot of people trail blaze the easiest and shortest way up and down to the southern summit. We watched a family with 2 kids bushwhack down the steepest western part, and really, heard how concerned they were !!! Got up to the saddle and turned left and made our way across the spine. As we got to the doorway we spotted painted dots and arrows showing the best way up and over, we're not a big fan of these, but thanks to who ever lead the way and placed all the huge cairns and dots. Also a trail was started, I think maybe using a game trail. Made it a lot simpler. Also when the cairns ran out, they placed a X on a rock, near the edge of the cliff, but it looked like it lead back down West and connected with Wind Cave Trl ??.... We kept going up to right on the land bridge and worked our way over to the Summit, signed in and headed back down to Pass Mtn Loop Trl ( Very slippery, be careful ) and back to the TH Great Day, Happy to have done this :y: :D
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This is an awesome, very underrated in my opinion, Valley area hike. It has pretty much everything that you can wring out of a hike to a 3312 foot summit. The Wind Cave wouldn't be worth it but doing the entire Ridgeline with both summits is awesome. There are a couple slightly exposed spots but nothing super sketchy. This was one of my favorite all time hikes.
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Hiked this one using the official HikeArizona track, counter-clockwise direction. This was my first ridge line / off-trail hike and it was great. There was definitely more backtracking here than on a trail hike but the GPS track kept me relatively on-course, although there were times when I felt I was more zig-zagging across the general vicinity of the track rather than necessarily "on" the right track. As the description states, any semblance of an actual trail quickly disappears after passing the 'hike-at-your-own-risk" sign just past Wind Cave. BTW, while not my primary destination, I found Wind Cave to be a huge letdown.. it wasn't windy and it wasn't a cave. The real fun starts past Wind Cave and this is where the solitude starts, as well. I started at the trailhead at 6:00 a.m. sharp and there were already hikers ahead of me and a few behind me. Once I exited the main trail, I didn't see another hiker until I rejoined the Pass Mountain trail beyond the north end of the ridge line.

    Some prickly pears blooming at the north end as well as palo verde trees with yellow flowers.
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
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    Wind Cave Pass Mtn Ridgeline
    When I got home from my hike with Rhonda at Lost Dutchman this morning, I had a strong urge to head back out. My legs were still hungry and I felt guilty about the biscuits and gravy I had at Cobb's Diner. It had to be close, so I opted for a trip to Usery Park and a trek along the Pass Mountain ridgeline.

    I've been around the mountain a dozen times, but this was my first trip along the ridge. I enjoyed the hike, the views, the beautiful cholla and prickly pair cacti that were in full bloom just about everywhere, and my first encounter with a black tailed rattler :o . I did not care for the fox tails covering the hillside on the trip down from the ridge. By the time I reached the Pass Mountain loop trail, I was covered in the stuff. I stopped and spent 20 minutes pulling the fox tails out of my socks and boots.

    It was a hazy day out, with a nice breeze throughout the hike, keeping the temps mild. Fun hike.
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
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    Pass Wind Ridgeline
    We got started hiking at the crack of dawn from the free TH at the top of Usury Pass. It's just under a mile until the use trail connects with the Pass Mountain Loop Trail. After 2.7 miles, we began the ascent up to Wind Cave and the ridgeline.

    We hit the peak on the south end of the ridgeline then started north. Instead of exiting to the north like JJ and I did a couple years ago, we dropped down off the mountain to the east. Going down the backside made Denny very happy!

    Lil D has important business to take care of today so we hightailed it back to the car to get him home on time. Fun hike. Thanks guys. :)
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Pass Wind Ridgeline
    A fun little in town hike with the Turtle boys and LP. I'd been to the Wind Cave a long time ago, but that was it for this area for me.

    Denny decided on the hike and it got revised as we went.
    Lil-D (Congrats!) always loves hiking with me and now JohnLP has made his list.

    We started at the no pay TH on Usery Pass Rd a little after 6:30 and went CCW on the Pass Mountain Loop Trail to the Wind Cave Trail. We passed a couple of groups.

    We saw a few more groups on our way up the Wind Cave Trail and headed past the Wind cave for Peak 3126. Next we had the Ridgeline to ourselves. The spot we dropped down, looked thick and brushy from above, but it was relatively easy to select a path. Going down the Backside, was Denny's favorite part of he hike.

    We hit the Pass Mountain Loop trail again and it was clear sailing back to the car.

    Lots of people out enjoying the day. There was plenty of poppin' poppies, Brittlebush, Lupine, and a bit of Desert Chicory were also blooming.

    Congrats Denny on a 4th DOTY Award!

    Poppys, Brittlebush, Lupine, Desert Chicory, Fairy Duster
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Fun day to choose the ridgeline hike. I set out initially for a run up Flatiron, but Pass was covered in clouds and I was drawn to the opportunity to hike in the clouds. As it turns out, Flatiron and the rest of the Superstition Mountain ended up covered in clouds also.

    Cloud cover was thick just above Wind Cave. Once I reached the top, any views were non-existent. I could hear planes flying over head, but couldn't see them. The low visibility made route finding a little challenging. There were times were I would stand still and just wait for a small break in the fog to give me a clue. I managed to stay on route.

    Once I crossed the ridgeline, I began my way down the north side. This is where I screwed up. Ran down a wash and missed the Pass Mountain Trail intersection. Knew something wasn't right since I was getting too far away from the mountain. Continued on for 1/2 mile, then turned back. Oh well, so I tacked on an extra mile of fun.
    Pass Mountain Ridgeline
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    I had to stay close to home today so chose something different yet familiar. While I've done dozens of hikes to Pass Mountain 3127 summit and two full Pass Mountain ridge-line hikes, I wanted to try a faster and more direct route to the true summit at 3312 feet in elevation.

    I began from the Meridian TH and followed Pass Mountain Loop Trail #282 until just before it started the switchbacks on the way up to the saddle, where I left the trail. From there I followed a number of game trails winding my way up a hundred yards or so west of the saddle. At that point I noticed a large group of hikers taking a break at the saddle. (I would see them still there for over an hour... too long a break for me!)

    From there I turned north for a while until I located a nice narrow bare-rock dry runoff which I followed most of the way up. Eventually I had to wind my way through huge boulder fields to reach the flat area up top.

    On the last climb I spotted a deer a few hundred yards across the next canyon but was unable to get a photo... I wasn't frame it in a shot because of the sun reflecting on the screen.
    I took some shots but when I got home, none had the deer in the photo... so I did a very rare deletion of the photos.
    Once I reached the summit I did the usual thing with pan photos and video then headed toward the other side of the canyon where I had spotted the deer. Unfortunately the only approach I had was upwind of where I last saw the deer so I really didn't expect to sneak up on it. As it turned out even after adding a wide loop around the area, alas, no deer was to be found.
    I continued on down until reaching the loop trail and headed back toward the saddle. After passing the saddle I skipped the long winding route with the switchbacks and took the alternate route straight south, following a number of game trails most of the way back until connecting with an existing trail. It turned out to be a nice route so I'll have to drag Tracey back out for another trip to the summit.

    One video:
    Pass Mountain 3312 summit panorama

    Permit $$
    Maricopa Regional Parks - Fees more info

    $7 per vehicle,$85 annual or trade your first born for the life pass

    $2 walk, bike or horse ride into park

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Usery Wind Cave Trailhead
    Directions to Usery Park: From the west on the 202 (Red Mountain Freeway) continue on PAST the FIRST McKellips exit ~10 mi, past Power Rd and take the SECOND McKellips exit. At the top continue on to your left around the round-about over the 202 and continue east on McKellips Rd. About 3 miles east of the 202 you come to Ellsworth Rd. Turn LEFT on Ellsworth and go north about 2 miles, turning right into Usery Mountain Regional Park just past the sign.
    From the south on the 202, take the McKellips exit and head east, continuing to Ellsworth as above.

    From the west on US 60 take the Ellsworth exit and head north on Ellsworth which eventually becomes Usery Pass Road north of McKellips. Continue past McKellips about 2 miles, turning right into Usery Mountain Regional Park just past the sign.

    Directions to the Wind Cave trail head: Once in the park, continue on past the new (Spring 2010) Nature Center building to the information/entrance building where you either purchase a one-day pass or purchase an annual pass (good in all Maricopa Parks except Lake Pleasant) for seniors. If it's your first visit, be sure to ask for a map including information of the all 29 miles of trails in the park. After setting your pass receipt on your dash, continue on the road as it curves around toward the east. Continue past the four-way intersection until Wind Cave Drive on your left. Turn up the drive and follow it until you find a suitable parking place. If it's busy just continue on around the one-way loop until you find an empty spot along the road. The trail head itself is immediately to your right when looking at the Wind Cave facilities building.

    Alternate Longer Access: For $2 per-person access turn right (east) off Ellsworth Road at McKellips road and drive about a mile until it ends at Crismon Rd. There is a parking on the SW corner. Entrance to the park is on the NE corner, there are maps and a payment box. The trail that heads north is loose and hard to walk, go east 1/2 mile to trail then head north 1 mile to horse staging area. Starting from this point adds about 5 miles to your round-trip hike to the Wind Cave Trailhead. Also about 150 feet in gain.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 34.8 mi - about 43 mins (up to 1 hour 10 mins in traffic)
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 128 mi - about 2 hours 0 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 173 mi - about 2 hours 45 mins
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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