Get ready for trail finding!
The Santa Teresa Mountains rise in a sort of triangle with the Pinalenos and the Galiuros. It is a rough and wild area, trails are minimal and mostly pack stock trails. The trail to Cottonwood Mountain, the high point of the Santa Teresas at a little over 7000 feet, is off an established stock route. However, as in most things, would it be so simple if the trail was not as badly deteriorated as this one.
You start out at Sand Tank, described in one guide book I have as a TH. There is no marked TH out here. The end of the road to Sand Tank, forest 677, is very steep and washed out, my Jeep with 33 inch tires and lots of articulation had to work a little here. There are several rather nice vehicle camp sites along the way if you don't have a vehicle to make it to the end of the road, and a couple have stellar views of the Pinalenos and Galiuros.
You will pass through three gates, please close them. I camped before the final gate, which shows use of a quad trail in a riparian area. You will follow the vehicle tracks in the wash, by a nice grove of Arizona Sycamores, by a huge lone cottonwood tree. Normally this is a dry wash, but a little water was flowing while I was here. At this point you better have a map with you and a compass, or GPS.
Looking up you will see the jagged rock teeth of Pinnacle Ridge, and the rounded humps of the mountains above, the highest gentle curve is Cottonwood mountain, it is not clear how you will broach the ascent. The trail I found was about 15% easily followed and the rest you have to look for it, pay close attention to any faint path, and use your map. I never found one area where the trail leaves cottonwood wash; I continued upcanyon and climbed out after it slotted up and no horse or cow could easily climb the rocky narrows. I intersected the trail on its climb north up the hill. Soon you come to switchbacks, and big views opening up. The switchbacks and part of the trail is cairned, but at times the trail behaves somewhat strangely and with all the brush from all the rains made it a real challenge to follow.
Persevere, you will climb laterally to a small pass located to the north. The slopes you have been on have been burned in the past, and show high desert flora. After you top out at the saddle some tall pines and grassy areas greet you. Fantastic views of the inner mountains are had near several rock outcroppings nearby, one rock shelf is incredibly level and would make a wonderful campsite. Amazing rock monoliths abound. Some voids in the rocks are small alcoves. There is a faint use trail to cottonwood mountain, and you can also continue along the ridgeline for a while.
When you retrace your route, pay again close attention to the trail, as it is still not clear in areas the right way to go, if you just get to the wash and follow that, then you will get to the road and your vehicle.
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.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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.