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Picture Mountain, AZ

no permit
53 8 1
Guide 8 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson S
3.3 of 5 by 6
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,750 feet
Elevation Gain 700 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 7
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins & Peak
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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14  2016-10-15
Sierra Ancha Peak Trifecta
10  2016-03-05
Picture - Bear Head - Copper Mountain
8  2016-03-05
Picture - Bear Head - Copper Mountain
44  2016-02-27
Picture Mountain and Picture
17  2012-10-06 CannondaleKid
8  2009-11-24 PrestonSands
28  2007-02-10 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → Any
Seasons   Early Spring to Early Winter
Sun  6:13am - 6:20pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Picture perfect
by PrestonSands

Dominating the skyline east of Tonto Basin is 6451 foot Picture Mountain, so named for the rock slides on its face that resemble a horseback rider with weapon raised, riding towards some sort of animal. Picture Mountain forms the southern corner of a forested plateau in the northern Sierra Anchas where Pleasant Valley War participant Jake Lauffer, and later legendary cattleman George Cline once ran cattle. Evidence of the 2003 Picture Fire is minimal in this area, and is mostly manifested on the face of Picture Mountain, which is recovering nicely. Traveling the precipitous, rocky road up to where the trail starts is an adventure in itself! Usually the road is high clearance, bordering on 4x4. Please see my gps map.

Beginning at a large pull off area on the south side of forest road 609, start following an old unmarked jeep trail as it heads southeast into the forest. This is actually forest road 875, which is not really a road at all anymore. (seriously, don't try to drive this-you'll see why later!) At the 0.15 mile point, the old road forks. Turn right here, onto the west fork (gps coordinates: 33.94382 N 111.16332 W). The old road/trail turns south here, and continues its gentle climb up through the scrub oak and ponderosas. The trail soon begins a steep climb straight up the northern slope of Picture Mountain. As you ascend higher, the Sierra Anchas, Mazatzals, and the Mogollon Rim rise up behind you over the tree tops.

Soon you will reach the top of the ridge that forms the spine of Picture Mountain, and enter a low and open forest of pinyon, oak and juniper. This stretch is relatively level, and views to the north and east abound. In the distance is Pleasant Valley where Young is located, beneath the Naegelin Rim. After 1.1 miles, the jeep trail comes to a little rocky clearing, and starts to descend to the left. Leave the old jeep trail behind here (gps coordinates: 33.93180 N 111.16315 W), and keep heading uphill on the ridge. The ridge begins to narrow as it nears the top of the mountain, and magnificent views to the west open up over Picture Mountain's craggy western face. Fourteen hundred feet below is the twisting brown 609 road, with Tonto Basin and the rugged Mazatzals forming the backdrop. Just before the ridge starts to descend, you will come to the apex of Picture Mountain. If you look carefully, you will discover the metal survey and triangulation station caps set into the mountain top's orange Precambrian quartzite. If you continue south down the southern slope of the mountain for a few hundred feet, you will arrive at a rocky shelf: a perfect place to sit, rest, and take in the limitless panorama to the south. Return the way you came.

Back at the trailhead, a 0.75 mile round trip hike to the west down the 609 road will bring you to the ruins of a Salado or Anchan dwelling next to the south side of the road. The walls have collapsed into piles of rocks in this approximately 100 foot by 300 foot ruin, but it is still worth checking out before heading home. Enjoy!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2007-02-14 PrestonSands
    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
    Picture Mountain
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    After a long rainy night, Shauna and I left our campsite a couple of miles below Picture Mountain, near Juniper Spring, around mid morning. We drove up to the flats above Red Rock Spring on the Picture Mountain road, which was in the best condition I have ever seen it in. My 2wd truck had no problems. Under stormy skies we hiked up the 875 road, which is now marked with signposts, and were soon on the summit. Saw Joe, Bruce and Flying Fliver as recent entries in the summit log. Yay HAZ crew! Had lunch on the rocks with a view and then headed down, as gathering storms over the Mazatzals were heading our way. Being the "pottery magician", I found a random, colorful sherd on the way down. We examined the roadside ruin before making the brake-baking, first gear descent down the steep Picture Mountain road. Hundreds (seriously!) of off road vehicles hauling pumpkin on the Sierra Ancha roads this weekend.
    A great trip to one of the seven sacred summits of Preston country!
    Picture Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Picture - Bear Head - Copper Mountain
    A recent trip to Gun Creek combined with a nearby FLIVER triplog prompted me to suggest this area to Bruce. He threw it together and off we went. This route is primarily forest roads. Pines galore and the opportunity to see Malicious Gap was the appeal.

    Just under a 2 hour drive from Desert Ridge seemed reasonable for the tall pines and nice views. The drive in shakes your noggin. Doable in 2wd high clearance if the road is dry.

    The road heading up Picture Mountain is steep. Soon we found what Bruce calls FLIVER dust on the disc markers. The Mazzies north and south looked impressive. FR 875 fizzles out just heading up Bear Mountain 6610. Bear is nice but no reason to return. We skipped plans for 6650 since the off trail was more involved than anticipated. Dropped down an upper tributary of Bear Head Canyon to FR 609 ( she's real fine, 200 more in fact ). The creek was semi scenic for a stretch due to nice granite? or such.

    After 2 hours and 5 miles we jumped onto a trail that ascends Copper Mountain. There is no trail, just stretches of use-trail. Views off Copper Mountain are spectacular. This is a return destination in my opinion.

    The day was a hit by temps alone. Wispy clouds and a constant cool breeze. The off trail wasn't horrible, just had the hike registered as a road hike.

    1m 16s ... LT3s
    Picture Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Picture - Bear Head - Copper Mountain
    I had some concerns about crossing Tonto Creek east of Punkin center on Greenback Rd, not knowing how deep it was. Luckily a pickup crossed in the other direction, showing me the depth. It was fine with HC 2wd.

    Picture Mountain
    This is a walk up FR875 which is steep and loose. The views are the payoff here. We saw the Fliver disks, added our names to Peak register, and started for Bear Head Mountain.

    Bear Head Mountain

    The views change tremendously. We continued down FR875 looking towards the 2012 Mistake fire scarred Bear Head Mountain. When FR875 abruptly ends we continued up hill to the peakish area. Climbing up the west face, we had little trouble finding a path. In 5 years, that'll be a different story. The views up top are 360. We originally had plans to hit the other peak to the east. Unfortunately. the eastern side of Bear Head Mountain 6610' was too slow going through the mine field of downed trees. We headed down the drainage towards FR609.

    Copper Mountain
    We decided to attack this one attempting to follow the dashed "Trail" line to the top. There were hints of trail every now and then, but that was about it. It was thick and slow going through the Manzanita, but the payoff was worth it. One of the best lunch spots ever. It was hard to leave the views after lunch. On the return, we opted for a much shorter steep bushwhack down a ravine. After all, it couldn't be worse than what we came up.... It worked out.

    On the way down we stumbled on a plane wreck from 1970.

    It was a fun day exploring a new area.

    Video from the top of Bear Head Mountain and Copper Mountain :next: ... ImMs
    Picture Mountain
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    Tracey was wiped out from the round-trip hike to Bear Head Mountain so I left her with the Cherokee on Forest Road 875 and took the short stroll to the summit of Picture Mountain. I shot a number of photos, checked the summit log (saw Preston's entries November '09 & '11) and shot a 360-degree panoroma video before heading back.

    I posted photos on HAZ as well as my web site here:

    The 65-second summit video is here:
    Picture Mountain
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    After meeting John at Butcher Hook in Tonto Basin, we began our long anticipated drive over Forest Road 609 (Malicious Gap Road) to Young. First stop: Picture Mountain. This was John's first and my second trip to the summit. I went to place a register on the summit, but the Southern Arizona Hiking Club had beat me to it last year (they put one on the roof of my house, too). We had lunch on the viewpoint rocks on the south side of the summit, and called a friend in Phoenix to torment him with our beautiful location. Hiking down, we came across quite a few pottery sherds in a new location, which made me wonder if there was a second ruin buried in the brush above Red Rock Spring. It was great to return to ol' Picture Mountain!
    Picture Mountain
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Picture Mountain has always been fascinating to me. I remember as a little boy staring up at that mountain from my grandparents' home in Tonto Basin, studying it intensely through binoculars, and constantly asking my grandparents and uncles to tell me stories about their adventures up there. But during my 5 previous trips up there, I'd never thought it would be possible to hike up to the summit. Today however, seemed a good day to try!
    Having had to turn around 2 years ago near the top of the 609 road due to an extremely rough patch, I wasn't sure I'd get up there at all. To my surprise, the forest service had done some fine work on the road. I made it through a couple patches of snow and gooey mud in my 2wd truck, and parked in the first spot on top where I could turn around without getting stuck. I threw on my pack and headed off...
    I tried unsuccessfully to find the 875 road up to the summit, so I bushwhacked up through the snowy forest, making my way towards the top of Picture Mountain. After 45 minutes of slow going, I suddenly came across a very primitive old road heading uphill through the woods: forest road 875. I soon made it to the top of Picture Mountain, where euphoria took over. I found a nice rocky bench on the south side of the peak to sit back and enjoy the views from. Of course, I had to call my dad for a "wish you were here" moment. After taking some video and exploring a little, I reluctantly headed back down the mountain. I explored the ruin when I got back, to see if I'd missed anything interesting from the last time I was there.
    I considered camping out at my truck that night, but the thought of warmer weather sent me down off the mountain. What a perfect day! It's been 4 days, but I've still got summit fever! :D :D :D

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Preston's disclaimer: If Tonto Creek is in flood stage, you will not have access to the road up to the trailhead. For crossing info after periods of wet weather, call the Gila County Sherriff's Office at (928)474-2208.

    From Payson, head south about 15 miles to the AZ highway 188 junction, and turn left. Follow highway 188 for about 13.3 miles, then turn left (this is the Punkin Center Business District road; there is a green ADOT sign marking this junction). Follow the Punkin Center Business District road south for about 0.3 miles, then turn left onto Greenback Valley Road (just past the Punkin Center Bar). Follow Greenback Valley Road (forest road 71)for 6.1 miles to the junction with forest road 609. Turn left onto forest road 609 and follow it for 5.46 miles to the unmarked trailhead on the right. The trailhead's gps coordinates are: 33.94488 N 111.16533 W. This point is a couple of hundred feet before the 609 road makes a hairpin turn to cross a wash. Park in the clearing on the right (south) side of the road, and begin following the old jeep trail into the trees.
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