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Silver Peak Trail #280, AZ

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Guide 18 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Douglas
4.7 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,960 feet
Elevation Gain 3,084 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,124 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.25
Kokopelli Seeds 24.42
Interest Peak
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22  2019-07-20 RedRoxx44
6  2016-11-26 Booneman
22  2016-02-13 Pivo
15  2015-04-17 mwiles
22  2013-11-17 GrottoGirl
13  2013-05-26 southpawaz
12  2013-05-26 cindyl
9  2010-07-23 airic
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Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,746 map ( 18,187 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, May
Seasons   Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:04am - 6:15pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
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Exploding views
by fricknaley

The mighty Chiricahuas rise out of southeastern Arizona and dominate the corner of the state. National park-worthy in their beauty, rugged and isolated they are some of the best hiking in the state, in my opinion and I love to go there. Silver Peak (roughly 8000 feet) is a good introduction, gets you out of the heat, and knocks your socks off with one of the best summit views I have ever seen. This hike is in the Eastern part of the range, out of the Portal/Cave Creek Canyon area. The trail is a little overgrown in places, but always easy to follow. Not much cover on the lowerhalf so make sure to cover up and bring plenty of water.

The hike starts through a hiker's gate just off the little pull out on portal road. A small wooden sign announces Silver Peak. Hang right here and follow the trail up and along the road briefly. Sign then points to your left, while a footpath continues onward to some small cottages.

Now the trail starts to cross-country scramble west. The huge mountain ahead is Silver Peak, though I don't believe the actual summit is visible from here. The trail actually starts climbing right away as you start to climb towards the base of the mountain. There are some of the largest agave and yucca I have ever seen here. After around 3/4 mile or so you pass through a hikers gate and the trail breaks left and climbs more earnestly to the base of the mountain. Awesome views of the east face of Cave Creek Canyon follow you along. As you reach the mountain base the trail swings back right and you soon pass through another hikers gate. The trail actually skirts northwest back around the front peak to ascend the mountain from behind.

As you wind along the trail, you always are climbing and the valley below continues to fall away. You can almost always see your progress with respect to altitude gain on this hike. A couple of switchbacks here keep you honest but not too many... yet.

As you round the mountain the trail begins to switchback more often and there are more stands of vegetation and shade. Great views along the way help too. You can finally see the Silver Peak summit and where you are heading. As you gain more altitude the pine forest kicks in and so do the switchbacks for your final ascent. Lots of shade and fragrant pine now. Huff and puff those last few switchbacks and you stumble upon a old little shed. This is the site of an old lookout that apparently burned down in 1992. Hang a right here and pick up a narrow, small old rock staircase that leads up to the foundation of the old lookout... and be ready. Spectacular panoramic views of the eastern chiricahuas and the cave creek canyon system explode upon you. This summit is one of the best secrets I know to share with you all.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2005-06-06 fricknaley
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Coronado FS Details
The Silver Peak Trail offers excellent views as soon as you pass the trailhead sign. This desert pathway is located in magnificent Cave Creek Canyon and provides one of the best opportunities for getting a broad view of the canyon that has been called the Yosemite of the Southwest. This trail is located just a short distance up-canyon from the Cave Creek Visitor Information Center. If you don't want to take a long hike or ride here, at least take a short one, especially if you're just arriving at Cave Creek. The views you'll find along lower stretches of the trail provide an excellent introduction to this beautiful and dramatic area. They may even convince you to take a longer trip, perhaps all the way to Silver Peak's 7,975 foot summit. It's a 3,000 foot climb and anything but easy, however the panorama is unforgettable. The climb starts among desert grassland vegetation, such as sotol and agave, and climbs to the Douglas-fir forests of the Canadian Zone. From higher reaches of the trail, you can see much of the eastern slopes of the Chiricahuas including the canyons that Cave Creek, the South Fork of Cave Creek, and East Turkey Creek have cut into the mountain range. To the east, the extensive grasslands of the San Simon Valley stretch to the Peloncillos and into New Mexico. At the summit, along with the panoramic views, you will see the remains of the Silver Peak Lookout which burned down in an October, 1992, thunder and snow storm.
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
Silver Peak Trail #280
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For those inclined to study the night sky with telescopes (as I am)...Portal, AZ is known as one of the finest possible destinations to do so. A group of us were camped north of Portal off of Foothills Road for the weekend and we took on the task of hiking Silver Peak for a daytime activity. Holy cow!!

As fricknaley notes in the hike description, this is one of the unknown gems and definitely should be hiked more often. The trailhead is easy to find, with good parking. The trail itself is narrowish and a little loose in spots but overall is great for walking upon. It's a steady but relentless climb to the peak from the time you cross through the hiker's gate. Rewarded with view after view after view all the way up to the peak - but it all pales in comparison to the 360º views from the peak itself.

Now I have the dilemma on my next visit of deciding to hike something different in the Chiricahua's or tackling Silver Peak again. I suspect the decision will be some form of "both". Do yourself a favor - get to this trailhead and start walking. Your eyes will thank you.
Silver Peak Trail #280
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I've been wanting to do this hike for a while and when friends posted a campout event in the Chiricahuas for the holiday weekend, we decided to head down and then picked out this hike as our main event.

After our warmup hike (mostly) through a burn area the day before, we were glad to crest over Onion Saddle and drive down into the less fire-touched east side of the mountains. Before hitting the trail, we stopped in at the Visitors Center to say hi and see the snakes, in hopes that they would be the only ones we would see. The Mohave and Diamondback Rattlers were particularly riled up today, both buzzing as soon as we stepped into their corner.

With that out of the way (it worked - no snakes on the trail), we drove back over to the trailhead, geared up and set off. We were a bit late getting out and for the lower section it was a little hot but as we made our way steadily up, the temperature started dropping and by the time we started the final set of switchbacks the temperature was pretty pleasant.

We passed by the intact storage shed and outhouse, only to come around the last corner and find stairs (!?!). I guess it was necessary, with the Lookout Tower having been built up on the rocky crag, so we climbed on up, dropped our packs and relaxed. The views from here are stunning, all the way around, and with its grasses still green, Rustler Park looked, well, parkish.

It was a bit windy up on top and the breeze felt good, but after a break and a snack it was time to head down. The afternoon sun put a nice face on some of the cliffs that hadn't seemed so interesting in the morning, and we made our way back around The Fingers out to the exposed area of the trail in good time. Hot again, but we were going downhill, and it wasn't too long before we were back at the truck enjoying ice cold drinks.

The drive back over to Pinery Canyon gave us a chance to stop and enjoy a view of our conquest in the full afternoon sun, and we were soon back at camp for dinner and a very nice evening friends around the (gas) campfire.
Silver Peak Trail #280
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rocks beneath my feet like hot coals. hot coals melting my soles, melting my soul.

i always go through this when it's too hot for a hike this late in the day. put this hike another 2,000 feet up, i'd be all over it.

btw: did you ever wonder where those mystical crows are when you need them? it's only a half mile "as the crow flies." if only those crows would come and pick me up by my backpack and make it ACTUALLY a half mile. dagnabbit.

finally, we reach the stairs. stairs on my hike. seriously? stairs? up top at the former lookout, the views to kill. yes, it was worth it.

on the way down, the slate beneath my boots as broken plates makes this noise: chink! chink! and not the good kind, like the sound of a quarter bouncing off a glass (your turn to drink), or the bottle caps flung across the room. no, this is broken plates beneath my boots and trekking poles.

and then again, different rocks like hot coals burning my soles until finally we reach the truck and an ice cold soda. yes, soda. something is definitely wrong with this story.

(ps: all was made better when we reached our campsite in pinery canyon.)
Silver Peak Trail #280
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Well I made it down to the Chiricahua's for the first time. WOW!!!! I wish I lived closer because this is probably my favorite area i've hiked in AZ. Went up Silver Peak which is an awesome hike. You are pretty much going up the entire time, but it is moderately going up and it is not kicking your butt the whole time, or at leat that's what it felt like to me. Started out sunny, then half way up clouds rolled in. Got to the summit with cloud cover and then they rolled out and let me enjoy the view. Again, WOW!!!! Snow on the peaks to the south and just an amazing site I will never forget. Great area. At the trailhead there is a beehive in a tree right above you as you start, pretty much where they have a sign posted that Africanized bees may be in the area. Just wanted to let you know. But great hike. I'm glad I made the trip down there.
Silver Peak Trail #280
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Introduced my dad to an old friend today. There's just something about this hike that kills me every time and brings me back every couple of years...oh yeah, the outstanding summit view! But there's more too. Great tough climb for the distance and a real sky island-type of peakbag.

Up in the sun. Great clouds on the summit and cloudy, thundering skies on the way down. Even got sprinkled on a little. What a wonderful hike on a wonderful day.

As always, I'll be back again.

Permit $$

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Tucson, take I-10 east 139 miles to US 80 (you will cross the New Mexico border to get to this intersection). Turn right (south)on US 80 and drive about 28 miles, then turn right (west) on the road to Portal (which has a brown sign for Cave Creek Area). Drive west for 9 miles to trailhead, which is on your right just past a couple of small cottages/ranger station. There is a small pullout here. All roads are paved and suitable for passenger vehicles.
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