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!
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.