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Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella, AZ

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Guide 236 Triplogs  10 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix SW
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3.9 of 5 by 74
 
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,555 feet
Elevation Gain 2,550 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,494 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.67
Interest Peak
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5  2019-04-17 JuanJaimeiii
19  2019-04-16 FLYING_FLIVER
28  2019-02-09 Naferg323
11  2019-02-09 caragruey
10  2019-01-06 owenb
18  2018-12-27
Butterfly Peaks
kentlawrence67
6  2018-12-26 SibeMtnMomma
3  2018-11-04 caragruey
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 15
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:17am - 6:26pm
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Squaw Peak Double Dose
by joebartels

Quartz Peak Trail is your only legal non-permit ticket to a view on the Estrella ridge. It's a hardy continuous push to the white capped peak. Judging by the trail log entries, "bites" describes it best. The trail starts out as an old jeep route to a mine. In a short quarter mile the double tracks go away and the ascent begins. You'll be ascending a spur ridge (whatever that's called) up to the real ridge. The views are distant. Although I was only thirty miles from home, I couldn't name a mountain without a map.

I live on the opposite side of the Estrellas and never imagined it was so flat. The real surprise was driving to the trailhead. There's some huge neighborhoods on the west side of the Estrellas. No wonder Phoenix has grown three fold since I moved here in the mid '80s. Closer to the trailhead, you pass huge wells pumping tons of water for the crops blanketing this valley. It reminded me of being on the farm in Nebraska more than the Arizona desert. Rest assured, when you get within 4 miles of the trailhead the desert comes back in grand fashion.

I figured this trail to be a double dose of Squaw Peak. The terrain is very similar, excluding the crowds. The trail just keeps going up and up. Personally, I really liked this trail. I can see why most would hate it though. My buddy, cursed the whole way. We both agreed the closer you get to that damn white peak the further away it looks. It's like you push and push, come around a turn to a view, look up, and you swear it looks further.

The BLM says the final quarter mile is a scramble to the peak. I'd say it's more like the final half mile. It's nothing difficult to figure out, but it does slow your pace. The trail was well cairned on this outing. I enjoyed the upper sections where views can be seen going down both sides of the ridge. That's what I call hiking! The final ascent to the peak is steep. The white quartz boulders feel cool and are nice to relax on. Like I said, I like this trail. I like it for the workout and peacefulness. The views from the top... well, they kind of bite. You won't get a good look at Phoenix cause it's too far away. I could barely make out Awatukee aside South Mountain. The real shocker was how tiny South Mountain looked. Looking to the southwest you do pick up a great view of Seven Mile Mountain.

Hey, look on the bright side. If you can do this hike twice in a row, you can probably tackle the Grand Canyon to the river. Ew, there's encouragement. I probably won't be back because it's a long drive from home. On the other hand, it's worthy if you haven't done it in my opinion.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Note
This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2001-04-02 joebartels

BLM Division Details
GENERAL INFORMATION: Quartz Peak Trail, in the 14,400-acre Sierra Estrella Wilderness, leads visitors from the floor of Rainbow Valley (elevation 1,550 feet) to the summit ridge of the Sierra Estrella at Quartz Peak (elevation 4,052 feet) in just 3 miles. Along the way, visitors are treated to a variety of Sonoran Desert plants and wildlife, scenic vistas, and evidence of the area's volcanic history. The views from the summit are spectacular--to the west is a dramatic panorama of rugged mountain ranges and desert plains, and to the east metropolitan Phoenix unfolds over the valley of the lower Salt River.

Quartz Peak Trail is extremely steep and difficult to follow in places. This is a hike for experienced and well-conditioned hikers only! The trail begins at Quartz Peak Trailhead by following a closed four-wheel-drive track approximately 1/4 mile. Look to the left as you walk up the old road and see a narrow trail ascending the ridge to the north (see map below). The trail is poorly marked in places and does not extend to the summit--the final 1/4 mile to Quartz Peak is a scramble over boulder and talus slopes that requires careful footing. Quartz Peak is a point on the spine of the Sierra Estrella capped with an outcrop of white quartz.

ACCESS: Quartz Peak is accessed from Rainbow Valley and Riggs Roads in Rainbow Valley, approximately 25 miles southwest of Phoenix. See the map below for mileages and directions.

FACILITIES: There are no facilities at Quartz Peak Trailhead.

MAPS: Quartz Peak Trail is not mapped, but the route is covered by USGS 7.5-minute topographic map "Montezuma Peak, Ariz." The Sierra Estrella Wilderness is covered by the USGS 7.5-minute topographic maps "Mobile, NE Ariz." and Montezuma Peak, Ariz."

NOTES:

  • Quartz Peak Trail receives very little use and the terrain is extremely rugged and remote. Always tell a friend or relative where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Drinking water is not provided at Table Top Trailhead, so bring plenty.
  • The Sierra Estrella and surrounding area is prone to heavy rains and flash floods. Do not attempt to cross flooded washes.
  • You may encounter rattlesnakes or other poisonous creatures; watch for them and be careful where you put your hands and feet. Do not harass reptiles ? most bites result from people playing with, collecting or attempting to kill them.
  • Fires are not allowed in the Sierra Estrella Wilderness.
  • Due to the extremely rugged nature of the Sierra Estrella, horses and packstock are not allowed on Quartz Peak Trail.
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 30 deeper Triplog Reviews
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
My first hike up to Quartz Peak.
It's a great hike.

Since HAZ is full of 'Quartz' triplogs, there's not much I can add.

The only thing I did, out of the norm for a 'Quartz Hike' is, I casually looked for some benchmarks that were possibly near the trail. I found nothing. They aren't published anywhere - Just a TOPO map symbol. Possibly not even a disk, but just a carving in a boulder. Next time, I'll devote more time to search for them.

I did locate an Army War Dept disk (1949), with those four 25 foot long panels surrounding the disk.
The disk is in perfect shape, but the four panels are almost invisible now.
One of the panels is literally 3 or 4 feet from the road, adjacent to Sevenmile Mtn, when coming into Rainbow Valley from the south.

Great weather, with a nice breeze - An excellent workout, and a fun trail.
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Getting to this trail is not the easiest when coming from the south from Maricopa. Initially, we attempted to hike Quartz Peak on 23 March, but couldn't make it along the powerline road as it is too washed out to take a low clearance car (naturally, a Dodge Dart) and I started stinking up the clutch and almost tore a hole in the sidewall of my tires from the slick, sharp rocks trying to get back over the first hill on the entrance to the powerline road. Deciding to abandon Quartz Peak, we hiked Seven Mile Mtn. instead. Afterwards, we went back out to Hwy. 238, down to the landfill, and around the airport. We then found the Quartz Peak trailhead, but by then it was late afternoon.

Driving a manual made it easier for me to creep the car over some of the washed out areas and to keep her going through all the sand. But, the sand is the important part here. Coming around the airport, about 75% of the road is either in a sand wash or on very sandy ground. The first time we went (23 March), it had rained about 2 weeks prior, so there hadn’t yet been a great deal of traffic through the sandy parts. Fast forward to 13 April (3 week later), and the same road around the airport was a lot rougher. You see, everyone with 4wd and high clearance, takes the road quickly (because they can). As a result, the sand loses its compaction from the rain, and the bumps and dips get steeper and deeper. The second time around, I bumped the car bumper a couple times on some of the deeper dips, and the sand was a lot softer beneath my tires. Therefore, it is not impossible to reach the Quartz Peak trail with a low clearance 2wd car, but make sure you are experienced driving on sand, over rough terrain, and know how to dig a car out after it gets stuck; and carry a shovel, and a couple extra gallons of water.

As for the trail, for getting back into hiking after several years of not doing any, this trail was a great reminder of the ass-kicking that is what makes hiking so much fun. The Stats Box on this trail says that a round trip on average takes 3-4 hours. I can definitely see that that as being the case, but since it was our first time back on mountains, my wife and I took quite a bit longer. About 3 hours each way. There were lots of cairns along the trail, which was nice until the second half as we begun to scramble over rocks. The issue is that there are cairns everywhere to the point that there is no single trail up and over the rocks. Therefore, unfortunately, you are left "choosing your own adventure".

Since we were there the whole day, we encountered a total of 6 other pairs of hikers. Several people had brought their dogs on the trail. For that, I'd say make sure your pooch is conditioned for constant sun exposure and climbing over rocks. The hardest part of the trail is at the top, which is when the dogs are the most tired. We saw some people hoisting their dogs halfway up the rocks, hoping the dogs would climb the other half. The dogs attempted to, but you could see how exhausted they were. So again, to emphasize: only bring your dogs if they are not overweight, they are conditioned for the sun, their pads are hardened off to rough ground, and they have experience climbing and jumping over rocks and boulders.

Seating (that's comfortable) on the Quartz peak is limited, but it is certainly very cool to the touch. You get a great view of Seven Mile Mountain, South Mountain, and many others. We were even able to see Picacho Peak (~70 miles as the crow flies)!

Overall, it’s a terrific hike, but it can take a lot out of you if you aren’t conditioned, don’t cover up, and bring plenty of water. We will definitely be doing this trail again, many more times!
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
It's been a while since I posted & thought I would since I did not see anyone comment recently on the road conditions. Coming from the East side of Ahwatukee, it made sense to take the route through Maricopa - which, with no traffic, is at least 30 minutes shorter each way (& there is always traffic!). A 4WD was a must this time (it was not the last time I did this - just good clearance). With the washes being washed out and road eroded, there were 3 technical areas to maneuver -- which we did - yay :y: - Glad I was not alone!
So onto the hike - well it seemed longer than I remember and also prettier than I remember - this is my 4th time to the summit. Guess I am getting old. I think the last time I was here was in 2012 or 2013 -- maybe both years. I took my beloved Merlot one of those years and we went to the total summit together. This time, I left my current dog Snowy down below while I climbed the last bit. There didn't seem to be a way to get him up there - and I wanted him/us to be safe. Maybe I was younger and more brave last time :lol:
The trail is in EXCELLENT shape - much better than I remember. Even the cholla were mostly cleared and there were lots of little white flowers. Someone put a metal cross memorial tribute in the beginning part of the climb. The BLM left sheets and there is a sign in box at the start. We started very late and got back to Hwy 238 just as the sun set completely. Now - onto the good stuff -- Sushi!


Wildflowers
Several varieties of white and purple flowers, mallow, brittle bush.
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Quartz Butterfly
I randomly threw out Quartz as an option, and Joel hadn't been there before so it was decided. We took the southern access which was great. I'll never drive in from the north again!

The temperature was 68 as we started, and it was almost perfect. The afternoon sun on the west slopes can be a bit unrelenting, but there was a nice breeze from time to time. I definitely felt the results of my Malapais hike yesterday and the ascent was a bit slow.

Once on the summit, Joel got into photo mode. I decided to head over to Butterfly, where I hadn't been before. This is probably my favorite kind of hike! :y: It's easy scrambling, route-finding puzzles, outstanding views, and generally pleasant to traverse terrain without much prickly flora to fight through. I reached the summit 5 minutes past my turn around time :sweat: and quickly signed the register. Strangely, there were some names from as far back as 2004, but none of the HAZ folks I know have been and no names from the last decade. :-k I considered maybe there was another register, but I didn't find one. Huh.

I turned and headed back to Quartz, arriving on the summit about 5 minutes after sunset where I enjoyed a well-earned beer and tried some photography as darkness fell. The lights of the Phoenix valley from up here give such a great perspective on the impressive expanse of the metro area. You can see the glow of lights all the way from the White Tanks to the Superstitions.

The hike down was fantastic. This is a great headlamp trail! (If you're into hallucinogens you'll likely appreciate the nature rave from all the mica and quartz sparkling and reflecting all over the top of the mountain!) We slowly transitioned from wearing poofy coats, beanies and gloves on the summit back to shorts and short sleeved shirts as we descended, reaching the trailhead at 8:30 where it was a perfect 52 degrees.

It was just over an hour of driving to get back to Tempe. I might have to make this a more frequent night hike!

Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Entering from Riggs Road has a heavy sandy wash do not recommend for anything other than a 4x4. Yes I am a goofball and took my motorcycle into this place knowing that there was going to be sandy roads only got stuck once. Dirt roads in this area are very soft and can get stuck easy so plan for it even in a 4x4. There are further south entries that may be better entry points than this one. The weather was clear and great through the drive in and hiking up the trail had such an amazing breeze all the way to the top. Most of the trail is full sun but some parts are around smaller peaks that provide a little shade in the morning or afternoon. Majority of the trail is a little of a high grade but clear and easy to hike. Closing in on the top you will reach boulders and rocky parts of the trails that are not easy marked but fellow hikers have left markers easy to follow so look out for those. This hike shows great views of the mountains south of the Estrellas but when you reach the top you see phoenix in such a great view. I would love to hike this next time at sunset and to catch the south mountain lights along with the sunset. Once at the top also there is a little hidden box be kind and keep it going thank you to who ever started it was fun to find it.
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Great hike, cool peak, wonderful views. Camped at the trailhead Saturday night, got on the trail around 8 a.m., taking a leisurely pace on account of my old dog, but found the trail easy to follow. It's a steady uphill climb, yes, but it's a mountain! How else do you get to the top? The grading was good and a team from AZ Conservation Corps was out there rebuilding the eroded sections. They said they were going to finish the whole trail by 1/16. (Thanks for the hard work!)

There's a nice flat area big enough to camp on right before the final boulder-y stretch, so the dog napped there while my partner & I took turns summiting/lunching, which worked great although it added to our overall trip time, so it was getting warm (78 degrees in January! Thanks a lot, climate change) by the time we headed back down.

I thought the whole trail (even the yet-to-be repaired sections) was good, certainly better than I was expecting from the BLM writeup. The last stretch is easy to follow even without the line of cairns. You just follow the ridgeline to the visible peak, so most of the time there really is only one logical line of travel.

I loved the cool white quartz and the big views on top. Could see everything from Courthouse Rock in the west to Four Peaks in the east and down to Tabletop in the south. Wind was gusting pretty hard, so I didn't dare look through much of the stuff in the summit register because I was afraid it would blow away, but it's fun that so many people have left notes & drawings. Could use a new logbook, though, if anyone has room in their pack!

Only blooms were some scattered ocotillo blossoms. Heard coyotes and owls overnight; saw canyon wrens, vultures, hawks, and swifts along the trail and some jackrabbits & ground squirrels on the flats. Saw a lot of bobcat scat up near the top, but kitty didn't show.

Oh! Road conditions: We came in from the south, through Mobile, driving a stock Subaru Forester. On the way in we took the power line road the whole way. The southern 3-4 miles were washed out pretty badly in a few places (there was one point when the car was tipped 45 degrees and another where we had to get out & do a little road construction with rocks) but we were careful & slow & made it through okay. On the way back out we decided we could handle a little less excitement, though, and went around by the airport & landfill, which was a piece of cake. Definitely needed some clearance, but I don't think 4wd is necessary as long as you keep moving through the sand.

One thing: Met some guys on the trail who came from the north using Google Maps to navigate and they said it told them to park on the power line road some 2+ miles away from the actual trailhead, so they had an extra-long hike! (Maybe don't trust Google Maps as the final word, I think is the lesson there?)
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Quartz seemed like a good idea, since I wasn't going to the Algodones Dunes in California. Wind is forecast to be up out there tomorrow, anyway. It was nice here, and I did it shirtless, both ways. Wasn't cold, though.

Seems humid around, and there is a lot of low level haze. The solstice is tomorrow, and winter is here. It was rather quiet out here, with very little wildlife. Very dry, too.
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Oddly enough, Daniela had never hiked Quartz Peak with me. We drove in from the south--by the landfill and airstrip--much easier! and got to the trailhead around 7:00. We got to the summit around 9:00, had a snack break, then headed back down. On our way down, we passed a lot of people on their way up--too many, this will probably be a night hike only for me in the future.
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
It was a really nice day to hike this. Seemed like a perfect cool January day after a cold front, it was really a great way to get out of town for a hike fore the first time in a long time. With any luck this kicks off my spring season. I basically missed the winter season for getting out, but I can't say I really missed it, as the weather wasn't what I enjoy and the days are short either way.

Not much in flowers, but the flats were green on the way in.

The Salt River was flowing heavily where Estrella Parkway crosses over it. Almost like a real river.
Quartz Peak Trail - Sierra Estrella
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Quartz Butterfly & a Ridiculous Descent
As soon as I opened my garage door this morning, I was greeted with rain and a bright flash of lightning along with a simultaneous crash of thunder. Great. I don't mind hiking in rain, but I don't care to be outside with lightning nearby. I figured the weather would pass by the time we got started, and luckily I was right.

Whitney & I got to the Quartz Peak trailhead just before 8:30 and got started. It was still cloudy, but no rain or lightning. It was a pleasant hike uphill; cool & breezy, and by the time we reached the top, it was sunny. We took a nice lunch break, then headed over toward Butterfly. I had mentioned that the drainage to the east of Quartz had previously been discussed as a possible route down, so when we reached the saddle between Quartz & Butterfly, I headed south a little bit to take a look. I could see part of the way down, which all looked passable; but as the drainage turned to the east, the last I could see was a brown rock, with a dropoff behind it. Beyond that, my view was not clear, but I could tell the drainage continued to drop further as it met up with another one coming in from the left. I went back up and told Whitney what I saw and said that the ridge on the right could be a possible way down if the drainage was too steep for us. We continued on to Butterfly and said we'd make the decision based on the weather on our way back.

It was a quick stop at Butterfly (the lower one to the east-southeast) as there was some rain moving in and we didn't want to be on those rocks if they were wet, nor up on a peak in case of lightning. It was a short-lived concern though as the weather dissiapated quickly and the sun came back out. Along the way, I had said that the smart choice would be to skip the drainage today, and attempt it another time heading up from the trailhead. That way, if we reached a bad spot, it would be a lot easier to backtrack downhill vs. trying to find a way around something at the end of the day and potentially having to backtrack uphill.

Back at the saddle, we decided to ignore my own advice, and headed down the drainage anyway. It was very steep, and very slow going, but not too bad. There were some dropoffs we were able to get by on the left. After what seemed like forever, we reached the "brown rock" I had seen from above earlier and discovered it was an old dam. It was easy to get by, and just below it was an old water tank. Now we were in the area I was concerned about earlier. We got past the water tank, and came across the first major obstacle. I went back and forth across the rocks and decided that descending on the rocks to the right was the safer option even though it required going through a tree. We made it down that, came further around the bend, and were greeted with a huge dropoff with no way down. So we went up the ridge to the right, just as I had feared we'd have to do. It wasn't too bad, but it was steep with loose rock.

At this point, I was getting concerned about finishing before dark, so rather than find ways around brushy spots, I started going straight through trees and stuff and saved any detours for steep spots--of which there were plenty. After a while, as we'd pretty much leveled off at the bottom, the boulders in the wash were slowing us down more than I wanted so we went up the right bank of the wash and walked through desert back to the car. There were more cactus to navigate though that way, but it was faster. We got to the car at 6:00, which was good, because there was not much light left. I actually did really enjoy the descent, but wished we had another hour or two of daylight. I pretty much stopped taking pics about halfway down, and didn't get to enjoy the scenery as much as I would have liked. I'm not in any hurry to do it again, but next time, I'll get an earlier start.

Permit $$
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Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
High Clearance possible when dry

To Quartz Trailhead
North GPS Driving Directions
North & West Valley Access by @sarichter
To get to the Quartz Peak Trailhead drive west out of Phoenix on I-10 to the Pebble Creek Parkway/Estrella Parkway exit (#126). Take the Estrella Parkway south 8.3 miles to the intersection with Elliot Road. Turn right on Elliot and drive 2.6 miles to the left branching Rainbow Valley Road. Turn left and follow Rainbow Valley Road 9.3 miles to the signed junction with the dirt Riggs Road (about 1/2 mile past the Cotton Citrus Feed store). Turn left (east) onto Riggs and continue on Riggs 4 miles to a 4-way junction with an unsigned road (listed as Buzzard Rd on the BLM map). Continue straight at this junction (still on Riggs) following the phone lines on your right. After an additional 5.3 miles (along the way passing Rainbow Rancho - which has some airplanes, hangers, and a mortar launcher in the front yard, you will arrive at a 'T' junction with a road running parallel to some large high tension lines. Follow the small trail sign and turn right. Drive 1.9 miles further to a left branching road with another 'trail' sign and arrow (this left turn leads to the Quartz Peak Trailhead). Continue straight for another 1.2 miles and turn left. Follow this somewhat rougher dirt road 2.4 miles and turn left again. Follow an even rougher and rockier road about a mile and park.

Southern Access by @hikeaz
All mileages are taken from my trip-meter, and are approximate.
1) From I-10 & Maricopa Road, take Maricopa Road south approx 14 miles to the intersection with Hwy 238 (soon after mile marker 175)
2) Turn right (west) on Hwy 238 and drive approx 9 miles to mile marker 35. A cattle guard crosses the road exactly at mile marker 35, and immediately past the cattle guard on the right side of the road is an unsigned dirt road with a wire gate.
3) Turn right at this unsigned dirt road at mile-marker 35. (At this point you are at the far (south)end of the road that will take you to the Quartz Peak trailhead road about 9.1 miles away according to the tripmeter)
You may need to have a 4WD vehicle for the first 4 miles or so on this road to be safe . The road is mostly friendly to just about any vehicle, but there is one hill near the beginning and a few deep washes after that for which you should have good clearance and 4WD (in case).
4) So, you follow the high tension line towers for approx 9.1 miles from Hwy 238 (passing thru another wire gate after about 3.4 miles).
Note: There are many unsigned turnoffs along this road, including quite a few in the vicinity of the Quartz Peak trailhead turnoff, so it's important to note that the Quartz Peak turnoff will be almost directly underneath one of the high tension line towers (I think we actually had to pass under the guy wires of the tower at the turnoff), and there should be a small "trail" sign at the turnoff as well (although it may be facing north)
5) Turn right at the Quartz Peak trailhead road and follow it 1.9 miles to the trailhead.

Simplified Southern Access by @rwstorm
A better approach from the South versus the traditional turnoff from Highway 238 at mile marker 35, is to continue on for another mile or two on 238 and turn off at 91st Avenue and work your way around the Waste Management Landfill and Mobile Airport. Then continue north and intersect with the traditional drive in road, bypassing the steep hill, deep wash crossings, and wire gates. Much easier and only adds a few miles to the drive. Here is the gps drive route I put together in 2014 for this: South GPS Driving Directions

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 56.0 mi - about 1 hour 42 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 127 mi - about 2 hours 38 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 186 mi - about 3 hours 37 mins
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