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Bristlecone Pines in Arizona?
Fire: This hike was severely impacted by the 2004 Willow Fire and the 2012 Sunflower Fire. Map. The description below was written in 2002.
There are not any real bristlecone pines of course, but the gnarled old alligator junipers sure bear a resemblance.
Mt. Peeley is the first major peak of the Mazatzals looking north from Hwy87 as it passes over eastward. The major peaks of the Mazatzals from south to north are Brown's Peak (on Four Peaks), Mt.Ord (Which you can drive up), Mt.Peeley, Mazatzal Peak, and North Peak. I'm not positive, but when it comes to driving time, Mt. Peeley may be just about the quickest way to get oneself above 7000 feet, at least for those in the mid to east valley locations.
The drive up FR201 from the exit on Hwy87 is very scenic with many old mine sites and such to explore. This area around the old "National Mine" is very popular with four-wheelers. This is where they once mined a reddish-brown ore called cinnabar and processed it on-site to make mercury.
Getting to the trailhead, we found it nicely shaded and we were the only ones there that afternoon during a Labor day weekend. From the only trail sign, follow the Mazatzal Divide Trail west. It shows 2mi to Mt.Peeley which will get you to the top of the saddle where the trail crosses below the summit. The trail starts out rather open on an extension of the forest road and it looks like the quad runners find it enjoyable. At just over .5mi you'll come to the Thicket Spring Trail (#95) intersection. This trail drops steeply down to the left and is actually shown as Cornucopia Trail (#86) on the latest Forest Service maps.
Stay on the Maz Divide Trail, which now becomes a footpath and begins a fairly constant, if not too difficult climb, through a series of switchbacks to the top. At about 1.25mi the trail begins to enter a nicely shaded area of predominately Ponderosa Pine, some as dense as I've ever seen. As you cross over the actual divide itself, glimpses of the peaks to the north will begin to catch your eye.
At the 2mi point and very near the top of the saddle look for a pile of stones laying on the left side of the trail. Here you must go off-trail and generally follow the rising terrain southward. I wouldn't really characterize it as much of a bushwhack since the forest floor is quite clear and easy to navigate. I couldn't find anything other than numerous game trails crisscrossing the slope that would even remotely qualify as a use-trail. No matter. Just continue to climb in the direction of higher ground and you'll be there soon.
The ponderosa's quickly give way to alligator junipers as you approach the summit which itself supports only bare rock and some grasses. The views are 360 degrees with the valley to the west, Four Peaks and the Superstitions to the south, Deer Creek Canyon descending to the east, and Mazatzal and various other unnamed peaks to the north.
Enjoy the pleasant area wandering around on top and when you are ready for your return, just reverse your route. We did this hike on a 110F day in the valley and it was really quite pleasant up there.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.