Waterman Peak, AZ | HikeArizona
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Waterman Peak, AZ

Guide 7 Triplogs  0 Topics
  3.4 of 5 
no permit
75 7 0
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,660 feet
Elevation Gain 1,223 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,240 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2-3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.3
 Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Historic & Peak
unreported if dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
9  2022-12-31 Jim_H
28  2022-11-26 Mike_W
16  2022-02-03 thirstylizard
15  2021-12-20 DixieFlyer
7  2019-10-21 Marana_hiker
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 1
Photos 19
Trips 4 map ( 27 miles )
Age Male Gender
Associated Areas
list map done
Tucson Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Sep, Oct, Nov, Jan
Sun  6:50am - 6:26pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

3 Hump Summit
by Marana_hiker

The trailhead begins on an old rocky road with a "No Motorized Vehicles" sign. This quickly turns into a very rocky 5-8' wide pathway with a moderate ascent. The "road" crosses a small gully and leads to a saddle at about 0.5 miles. There is a reasonably recognizable trail from the saddle generally heading up and WSW on a ridge. As you ascend, you will see a large outcropping. You can't see the peak until later in the climb. Pass right of the outcropping and continue upwards. At this point, I came across numerous faint trails, but these trails had few switchbacks, and one route was generally as good as another. There is little vegetation or slope variance so choosing a way up is not critical.

Without seeing the peak itself, I veered a bit more WNW as I wanted to visit the memorial to Loren Leonberger, a helicopter pilot who died attempting to land at a mining site in January 2011. Wherever you happen to ascend on the east side of Waterman Peak, you should see the white cross off to the north. There is a white cross, plaque, and a pair of boots hanging from the cross.

Waterman Peak was now visible, and I ascended it from the northern side since that is where I was coming from. The last 50' of elevation requires a bit of scrambling to reach the summit, but the footing is sound on stable rock, and it is not difficult. (When choosing a descent path, the eastern side looked shallower, but since I couldn't see the entire route, I elected to descend off the peak the way I came.)

The summit is narrow and consists of 3 humps, with a very inconveniently-placed palo verde growing between two of them. My GPS showed the middle hump to be 2' higher than the westernmost, but who knows. The GPS indicated 3834' but Gaia, Avenza, and Route Scout recorded an altitude of less than 3800'. The views of all the southern Arizona mountain ranges are great, as are views of the Silver Bell Mine to the north and the Waterman mine almost directly below the summit on the west side. (A quarry driver I stopped and talked to on Johnstone Rd said this mine, which he called Waterman, is a rock quarry which produces everything from pea gravel to large boulders.) I did not find a logbook at the summit.

My ascent took about 1h 25m, which included the stop at the memorial, and the descent took just about an hour. I was doing this with a mildly fractured big toe (not hiking related), so this trail shouldn't be particularly difficult for hikers who have any experience hiking off-trail or on non-NP/Forest Service trails. I didn't try to follow trails on the descent until reaching the old roadbed but found that my route was almost identical to the ascent except for the detour to the memorial.

Trail Conditions
Some rocks on the trail are extremely sharp. I do a lot of bushwhacking in the Tortolitas. Some of the granite on those peaks can shred clothing if you aren't careful (bushwhacking only, not on the established trails), but it is not nearly as sharp as some of the igneous rocks here. Most of the rocks are not sharp, but some are. I used leather gloves on the final ascent. The rocks here didn't appear to be as sharp, but I didn't want to find out. There is some scree along portions of the trail, but rocks are firmly in place to prevent this from becoming an issue in most places. I found my trekking pole useful but not necessary. Any path you choose will be open, and you will only have to dodge the ocotillos and occasional cactus.

I almost became very close friends with a rattlesnake coiled in a shadow on an animal trail on the descent, so always watch where you are stepping and placing your hands. I saw several deer near the trailhead but didn't spot any of the bighorn sheep.

Environmental Note
This route is fully exposed to the sun from sunrise until at least mid-afternoon. There are only a couple of outcroppings which could provide a small amount of shade. Water, sunblock, and early starts are highly recommended.

I see Waterman Peak on the horizon every day from my home, so I am glad to have made the ascent. The hike itself is open rock from the end of the old road to the summit, with not much variation. Nevertheless, this is an interesting hike with the Leonberger memorial and the great unobstructed views of the Southern Arizona mountain ranges and mines.

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2019-10-21 Marana_hiker
  • NPS PDF Map
    area related
    NPS PDF Map
  • sub-region related
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.

 Permit $$
no fees or permits reported

if incorrect tell us about it

High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
From I-10, take the Avra Valley Rd exit and head west. It's a pretty drive in the early morning with views of all the southern Arizona mountain ranges. At approximately 20 miles (20.3 on my odometer) turn left on the unmarked road which becomes Johnstone Mine Road. The road is paved but the first 50' or so may appear to be gravel due to the mining vehicles using the road. Shortly you will pass a "Titan 2 Interpretive Site" sign. You will pass a "drive through" loop parking lot on the left at about 1.3 miles from the turnoff but you want the second pull-in lot 1.5 miles from the Avra Valley Rd turnoff. The road is still paved to this point. If you hit gravel or dirt (there was a mine truck spraying water just past the turnoff) you probably have gone too far.
page created by SnakeWrangler on Jan 21 2010 1:10 am

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